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No one really likes a test. So why do we have to take so many? Most of us would admit that one of the most effective ways to get feedback on what we have learned is to test it. Often the test is to demonstrate whether we can do a task or a job. In schools, the most common form of assessment is done with paper, pencils and lots of questions.

When the Core Curriculum Content Standards (CCCS) were adopted in 1996, the state needed a uniform system to determine whether all students are making satisfactory progress toward learning the required knowledge and skills defined in the CCCS. If assessments are not done often enough, students can lag far behind without anyone being aware of it. If assessments are not done early enough, it will be too late to remedy educational deficiencies by the time students reach high school.

The state currently administers tests at grades three, four, five, six, seven, eight and 11. Scores on state tests are used to determine whether a school has made adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Each school is required to meet a minimum proficiency level to avoid being classified as a school “in need of improvement.” In grade 11, students take the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), which tests language arts literacy and mathematics. Students have three chances to pass all sections of the HSPA to qualify for a high school diploma.

State assessments are intended to give students and parents individual feedback on the students’ progress in achieving state standards. Another valuable use of the test scores is to enable school administrators to determine strengths and weaknesses of programs they have designed to enable children to reach the standards. When scores from every district are reported in the annual state assessment summary, the Department of Education has a picture of the state’s progress toward meeting the goals of achieving the standards. Scores for every test in each school are included in the NJ School Report Card, enabling the public to assess the academic performance of local schools. Performance on state assessments is not intended to determine whether a student is promoted or retained in school, nor should it have an impact on a student's report card grades.

More information on state assessments, including testing dates, is available at: Assessment, NCLB and Title I.