NWEA Testing Info

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NWEA Testing Info 2016-11-16T11:49:00+00:00

NWEA Testing Information

About Northwest Evaluation Association™ (NWEA™)


NWEA™ is a global not-for-profit educational services organization with over 30 years experience developing adaptive assessments, professional development, and educational research. Using our mission of Partnering to help all kids learn™ as a guide, we advocate for a kid-centric education policy based on highly accurate, reliable data.

This Parent Toolkit was created by NWEA as a resource and guide for parents. It includes Frequently Asked Questions, The Lexile Framework® for Reading, Tips for Parents, Web Sites for Kids and Parents, and Commonly Used Terms. NWEA hopes you find this toolkit helpful and invites you to have conversations with your school district personnel about NWEA’s assessment tools.

Frequently Asked Questions


What are the different NWEA™ assessments?

The NWEA assessments are:

Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®) – These computerized tests are adaptive and offered in Reading, Language Usage, and Mathematics. When taking a MAP® test, the difficulty of each question is based on how well a student answers all the previous questions. As the student answers correctly, questions become more difficult. If the student answers incorrectly, the questions become easier. In an optimal test, a student answers approximately half the items correctly and half incorrectly. The final score is an estimate of the student’s achievement level.

As an alternative to MAP® tests, NWEA offers paper-pencil tests called Achievement Level Tests (ALT). These tests are created using the Level Test Design, which allows for individualized testing and reporting of growth scores.

MAP® for Science – This computerized adaptive test provides useful information about where a student is learning in two areas of science: General Science and Concepts & Processes.

MAP® for Primary Grades – These computerized tests include Screening (diagnostic) tests, Skills Checklist (diagnostic) tests, and Survey w/ Goals (adaptive) tests in Reading and Mathematics. These assessments:

  • Provide teachers with an efficient way to assess achievement levels of early learners so they can spend more time teaching and less time administering individual diagnostic tests.
  • Provide information to guide instruction during the early stages of a student’s academic career. Early learners enter school with a wide variety of educational experiences. Early identification of achievement levels is foundational for teachers establishing an environment for early academic success.
  • Identify the needs of all primary grades students, from struggling to advanced learners.
  • Utilize engaging test items that encourage student participation for more accurate results.

How long does it take to complete a test?

Although the tests are not timed, it usually takes students about one hour to complete each MAP® test. MAP® for Primary Grades tests take from about 15 to 30 minutes to complete.

When will my child be tested and how often?

Districts typically test students at the beginning of the school year in fall and at the end of the school year in spring. Some districts may also choose to test students in winter and summer.

Do all students in the same grade take the same test?

No. MAP® assessments are designed to target a student’s academic performance in mathematics, reading, language usage, and science. These tests are tailored to an individual’s current achievement level. This gives each student a fair opportunity to show what he or she knows and can do. If a school uses MAP® assessments, the computer adjusts the difficulty of the questions so that each student takes a unique test. If a school uses ALT, there may be four or five different levels of tests given in a single classroom.

What are NWEA assessments used for?

MAP® assessments are used to measure your student’s progress or growth in school. You may have a chart in your home on which you mark your child’s height at certain times, such as on his or her birthday. This is a growth chart. It shows how much he or she has grown from one year to the next. MAP® assessments do the same sort of thing, except they measure your child’s growth in mathematics, reading, language usage, and science skills. The scale used to measure your child’s progress is called the RIT scale (Rasch unIT). The RIT scale is an equal-interval scale much like feet and inches on a yardstick. It is used to chart your child’s academic growth from year to year.

How do teachers use the test scores?

MAP® tests are important to teachers because they keep track of progress and growth in basic skills. They let teachers know where a student’s strengths are and if help is needed in any specific areas. Teachers use this information to help them guide instruction in the classroom.

Can parents discuss assessment data directly with NWEA?

Unfortunately, due to privacy laws regarding student information (specifically stemming from the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, FERPA), we are unable to discuss any student information, test results, or district assessment programs directly with parents.

In addition, each district implementation of MAP® assessments is unique based on decisions made by the district, such as which tests to administer, when students will be tested, and so on. Because each district’s implementation is unique, parents will need to direct specific questions and concerns to their local school district resources.

The Lexile Framework® for Reading


NWEA has partnered with MetaMetrics®, Inc., the developer of The Lexile Framework® for Reading. A Lexile range is a score (displayed as a 150-point range) resulting from a correlation between NWEA’s RIT score and the Lexile scale that helps identify reading material that is at an appropriate difficulty level for an individual student. The 150-point Lexile range is included on NWEA’s Individual Student Progress Reports. It allows educators and parents to find books, periodicals, and other reading material that should stimulate a student to new learning while rewarding their current reading abilities.

A Lexile measures syntactic complexity–the number of words per sentence. We know that longer sentences are more complex and require more short-term memory to process. A Lexile also measures semantic difficulty–a measure of vocabulary. This measure looks at the frequency of words in a text compared to a body of over 400 million words. This is the largest repository of text in the world and is quickly approaching 500 million words.

It is very important for parents to keep in mind that Lexile does not evaluate genre, theme, content, or interest. Even though a student might be able to read books at a certain Lexile, the content or theme of the text may not be appropriate for that particular student because of his or her age or developmental level. Also, a student may be able to read more difficult content if it is an area of interest for that child since he or she may already be familiar with some of the vocabulary necessary to comprehend the text.

Parent Toolkit (NWEA)


This PDF, provided by NWEA, explains the overall MAP test philosophy and mechanics.  Click here to open (PDF Document)

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