Student on computer

For the last couple of weeks, parents may have heard their children talking about NWEA testing. NWEA stands for Northwest Evaluation Association and it is an assessment program that helps students set learning goals and guides educators on the best way to help them meet those goals.

Salem Community Schools Assistant Superintendent Jill Mires explained that NWEA is a progress monitoring formative assessment. Formative means it is given multiple times throughout the year to gauge student learning and how teachers help them build on their skills.  This test is different from the summative assessments like the state tests ILEARN and IREAD, as well as high school finals. 

“There is a goal-setting piece to this,” explained Mires. “We take the assessment, set benchmarks, and look at where kids are excelling and where there is a deficit.”

She said the information helps school staff choose intervention strategies that best fit each child. The information gathered from the tests allows teachers to adjust their lessons based on how students are learning. 

“These assessments allow for reteaching moments for a whole class as well as mini lessons for small groups and individual students,” said Mires.

The test is also computer adaptive, meaning that if a student is struggling with a question, then questions are adjusted to be easier. If they are answering all the questions right, the adjustment is made to make them more challenging. 

“There is also a skills component where each student gets individual results,” said Mires. Students take a test in the fall, another in December and then the final one in the spring. They are given a target to try to hit with each test. “If they hit the target, they have met their goal. We are going to celebrate that accomplishment!”

NWEA is given in math and English. Mires said gauging how students do on these tests gives an indicator report of how they may do on state testing in the spring. 

“The test  can be predictive as well as informative,” she said, adding that this information is so important for both teachers and families.” 

The test is paid for through a Formative Assessment Grant by the state. Mires explained that there is a big push by the state to have 95% of students passing the IRead by 2027.

“It’s so important for kids to learn how to read,” she said, adding that research shows that students who are proficient readers by third grade are more successful. 

SCS is hoping to use the results from NWEA to help students meet their learning goals and in turn, improve their state testing scores.

“We hope to improve their state testing growth, as well as proficiency,” said Mires.

Copies of students’ results will be sent home for parents to review.