Assessments and testing
Willmar Public Schools uses a variety of tools to measure and determine a student’s academic growth and proficiency of grade-level standards. These tools range from informal assessments observed during classroom activities to formal, mandated assessments such as the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA), college entrance exams, and more. Educators can use these assessments to identify the needs of the students and adjust instructional strategies to meet the needs of their students and encourage individualized academic growth.
ACCESS for ELLs: The ACCESS for ELLs test is an English language proficiency assessment given annually to students in kindergarten through 12th grade who have been identified as English language learners (ELLs). The test helps the school district monitor the English language development of students. It measures students’ abilities to understand and produce English used in school settings. The four sections of the test are listening, reading, speaking, and writing. The approximate test administration time for reading is 70 minutes, listening is 60 minutes, speaking is 45 minutes and writing is 40-80 minutes. Student results are mailed to families by September 30 each year.
American College Testing (ACT): The ACT is a college admissions test, measuring what students learn in high school to determine their academic readiness for college. ACT is a content-based test that includes English, math, reading, science, and writing. The approximate administration time is three hours. Results are sent directly to families from ACT.
Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT): Each spring, all second graders are screened using the CogAT to determine potential eligibility for gifted and talented programming. The assessment measures a student’s verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal reasoning skills. Students who are newly enrolled in grades three through five at Willmar Public Schools or who are referred by a teacher or parent may also take the CogAT screener. The approximate administration time is 30-45 minutes.
Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA): As required by law, Minnesota assesses student progress toward meeting state academic standards in reading, math, and science using standardized tests. Public schools administer the MCA reading and math tests in grades three through eight and once in high school, and the science test in grades five and eight and once in high school. The approximate test administration time for math and reading is one to two-and-a-half hours each, and science is 30 minutes to one-and-a-half hours. Individual Student Reports are mailed to families or shared with families at conferences.
Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS): Most students take the MCAs, but students who receive special education services and meet eligibility requirements may take this alternate assessment. The approximate test administration time for reading is 45-90 minutes, math is 30-60 minutes, and science is 30-60 minutes.
Pre-American College Test (PreACT): The PreACT provides 10th-grade students with a practice experience for taking the ACT test. PreACT results give students, parents, and educators valuable insights into students’ predicted performance on the ACT as they plan for a future that aligns with their interests. Also, the PreACT includes the ACT Interest Inventory to help begin thinking about careers and post-secondary education. The PreACT includes multiple-choice questions in English, math, reading, and science. The approximate administration time is two hours.
Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT): The PSAT is a practice test for the SAT, and is also used by the National Merit Scholarship Program to award scholarships to high-performing students. Results are sent by the College Board to the students and families.
Star Assessments: The Star Assessments are computer-adaptive tests that measure students’ reading and math achievement. Star Reading and Star Math are given three times a year (Fall, Winter, Spring) to measure growth. Data from these assessments assist teachers in differentiating instruction as well as planning intervention and enrichment activities to foster growth in the academic areas. The approximate administration time is one hour. Teachers share student results with families.
Alternative, specialty programming:
- The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has a document that provides basic information to help parents/guardians make informed decisions about statewide standardized testing. The document also includes a parent/guardian statewide testing refusal form.
Useful information and fact sheets
- Toolkit for Families: Understanding Statewide Assessment Results
- Test preparation suggestions for parents/guardians and teachers.
- Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) fact sheet.
- Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS) for special education fact sheet.
- ACCESS for ELLs for multilingual learners fact sheet.