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.

Academic Student Improvement Plan

This is a plan that will be developed for each student not performing at the proficient level on every portion of the criterion-referenced tests. The plan will contain a detailed description of supplemental and/or intervention and remedial instruction used in addressing the student's areas of deficiency. (See Director's Memo SI-00-055, December 21, 1999)


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


The Arkansas Consolidated School Improvement Planning (ACSIP) model is designed to insure academic improvement of 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 particular length of time. Through the plan (ACSIP), a school organization will direct its efforts, resources, and human energy toward focused goals. School improvement plans include a consideration of curriculum and policy alignment, technology inclusion, Special Education, parental engagement, professional development, equity, and collaboration of stakeholders. Each plan must be based on scientific research.


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 or lack thereof.


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."

Benchmark Exams

This term refers to the six criterion-referenced tests that are administered to students in Grades 3-8.

Criterion-Referenced Test (CRT) 

A criterion-referenced test (CRT) is an assessment instrument customized around the Arkansas Curriculum Frameworks. The Benchmark Exams are CRTs. In Arkansas, the test items are based on the academic standards in the Arkansas Curriculum Frameworks and are developed by committees of Arkansas teachers, with support from the Department of Education and the testing contractor. CRTs are administered in Grades 3-8, End-of-Course Exams in Algebra I and Geometry, and a Literacy Exam at Grade 11.

End-of-Course Exams

The End-of-Course Exams are criterion-referenced tests taken at the completion of a course of study to determine whether a student demonstrates attainment of the knowledge and skills necessary for mastery of that subject. End-of-Course Exams will be given in Algebra I, Geometry and in the 11th grade in Literacy.


These documents outline the broad goals and standards of an entire system of education, while giving the local school district the freedom to develop a specific program to address the frameworks.

Longitudinal Study

This type of study refers to the examination of data over a substantial amount of time to determine patterns and trends.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

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

Norm-Referenced Test (NRT)

A norm-referenced test (NRT) is a test where the test items are built around a vendor's 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 Tests are currently given to Arkansas students in Grades K-9.

Performance Assessments

A performance assessment requires the students to use knowledge and skills to act directly in a way that reveals the student's level of accomplishment and expertise. This type of assessment differs from a conventional paper-and-pencil test in the same way that a driving test for one's license differs from the written test. In the former case, the test is meant to realistically simulate driving "performance" - to replicate some typical "tests" that arise in daily driving. In the latter case, the learner is tested for knowledge of driving facts and rules, not whether the student knows how to employ them in performing the act of driving.

Performance Levels

This term is used to refer to the four levels of student achievement on the state’s criterion-referenced exams. 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 reading, writing and mathematics 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 reading, writing and mathematics 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 show substantial skills in reading, writing and mathematics; however, they only partially demonstrate the abilities to apply these skills.
  • Below Basic: Below basic students fail to show sufficient mastering of skills in reading, writing and mathematics to attain the basic level.

Professional Development 

This term refers to a coordinated set of planned learning activities for teachers and administrators which are standards-based and continuous. Ideally, quality professional development will result in individual, school-wide, and system-wide improvement. Approved professional development activities will be linked to the school's improvement plan, demonstrate research-based best practice, and be subject-specific and site-specific as often as possible.


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


A general category of learning standards in a content area.

Student Learning Expectation

A specific learning objective to be introduced, taught, and mastered within a content standard.

Alphabetical List of Topics

Common Core