Definitions of Common Assessment Terms


Academic Distress

This term is used to describe a district that has, for a sustained period of time, demonstrated a lack of student achievement on the state-mandated, norm-referenced, or criterion-referenced tests.


Accountability concerns the obligation of comprehensive school improvement planning, reporting, explaining, or justifying standards, making these components responsible, explicable and answerable.


The Arkansas Consolidated School Improvement Planning (ACSIP) model is designed to ensure academic improvement for all students. ACSIP documents are submitted electronically to the Arkansas Department of Education, annually, by each Arkansas public school. Approved school improvement plans focus on priority areas selected for gains within a set time frame. Through the ACSIP plan, a school organization will direct its efforts, resources, and human energy toward focused goals. School improvement plans must be based on scientific research.

Alternate Assessment on Alternate Achievement Standards (AA-AAS)

The AA-AAS is a computer-based assessment in mathematics and English/language arts (ELA) for grades 3-8 and 11 for those students with disabilities for whom the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment is not appropriate.  

Arkansas Comprehensive Testing, Assessment and Accountability Program (ACTAAP)  

The Arkansas Comprehensive Testing, Assessment and Accountability Program (ACTAAP) is a comprehensive system that includes high academic standards, professional development, student assessment, and accountability for schools.


This term refers to any test instrument or other student achievement evaluation method used to measure student learning and performance.


This term refers to data collected following the initial administration of an assessment instrument, and is designed to establish an agreed upon point from which to measure future student progress.


This is a term used to describe the standard for judging a performance. Teachers and students can use benchmarks to determine the quality of a student's work. Benchmarks can be used to tell what students should know by a particular stage of their schooling; for example, "By the end of the sixth grade, a student should be able to locate major cities and other geographical features on each of the continents."

Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

The Common Core State Standards is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and ELA/literacy. These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.

Criterion-Referenced Test (CRT)  

A CRT is an assessment instrument focused on the achievement of measurable standards. In Arkansas, mathematics and ELA test items are based on the academic standards in the CCSS and measured using the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment. The PARCC assessment focuses on achievement of learning that will gauge a student’s readiness for college and career. Science test items are given with the ACTAAP science exam in grades 5 and 7 and the EOC Biology exam in high school.

End-of-Course Exams

The End-of-Course Exams are CRTs taken at the completion of a course of study to determine whether a student demonstrates mastery of that subject. End-of-Course Exams are required in Algebra I, Geometry, and Biology. The Algebra II EOC is currently administered at the discretion of the local district.

Frameworks (Science)

K-8 Arkansas Science Frameworks and the Arkansas Biology Curriculum Frameworks outline the broad goals and standards of science education, while giving the local school district the autonomy to develop a specific program to address the frameworks.

Longitudinal Study

This type of study refers to the examination of data over a period of years or decades to determine patterns and trends.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

NAEP, also known as The Nation's Report Card, is a federally funded program that provides a nationwide and state-by-state analysis of student achievement. NAEP tests a representative sample of students in Grades 4, 8, and 12 each year and reports the results to the public.

National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) 

The National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) is a project led by five educational organizations and 24 states, which includes Arkansas, to build the Alternate Assessment on Alternate Achievement Standards (AA-AAS) for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The goal of the NCSC project is to ensure that these students achieve increasingly higher academic outcomes and leave high school ready for post-secondary options.

Norm-Referenced Test (NRT)

A Norm-Referenced Test (NRT) is an assessment in which test items are built around a set of curricular objectives. The test provides information that compares the performance of students against the performance of a sample of students from across the country. The Iowa Test of Basic Skills® is currently given to Arkansas students in Grades 1 and 2.

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a group of states working together to develop assessments that measure student academic success. Assessment data for mathematics and ELA provide information on student progress and assists teachers in customizing instruction to meet student needs.

Performance Assessments

A performance assessment requires students to use knowledge and skills in a way that demonstrates accomplishment and expertise. This assessment differs from a conventional paper-and-pencil test in a similar way that a road test for a driver’s license assesses driving “performance” while the written test assesses knowledge of driving facts and rules. 

Performance Levels

This term is used to refer to the four levels of student achievement on the state’s criterion-referenced exams in science and biology. The four levels are advanced, proficient (grade level), basic and below basic. A description of each level is as follows:
  • Advanced: Advanced students demonstrate superior performance well beyond proficient grade-level performance. They can apply established skills to solve complex problems and complete demanding tasks on their own. They can make insightful connections between abstract and concrete ideas and provide well-supported explanations and arguments.
  • Proficient: Proficient students demonstrate solid academic performance for the grade tested and are well prepared for the next level of schooling. They can use established skills and knowledge to solve problems and complete tasks on their own. Students can tie ideas together and explain the ways their ideas are connected.
  • Basic: Basic students demonstrate partial knowledge and lack skills necessary for the proficient level.
  • Below Basic: Below basic students fail to show sufficient skills to attain the basic level.

Professional Development  

Professional development is a set of planned learning activities for teachers and administrators which are standards-based and continuous. Professional development should result in individual, school-wide, and system-wide improvement. Approved professional development activities are linked to the school's improvement plan and demonstrate research-based best practice.


A standard is a statement that tells what students are expected to know and be able to do within a content strand.


A strand is a general category of learning standards in a content area.

Student Academic Improvement Plan

This is a plan developed for a student not performing at the proficient level on any portion of the criterion-referenced tests. The plan contains a detailed description of interventions used to remediate. (See Director's Memo SI-00-055, December 21, 1999.)

Student Learning Expectation

A student specific learning objective to be introduced, taught, and mastered.
Effective Date: September 1, 2014
Revised Date: September 19, 2014

For more information, please contact:

Hope Allen, Director of Student Assessment
Arkansas Department of Education
Division of Learning Services
Four Capitol Mall, Room 305-B
Little Rock, AR 72201
Phone: 501-682-4558

Alphabetical List of Topics

Common Core