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Background on the Oregon Statewide Assessment Program


Student with Laptop The purposes of the Oregon Statewide Assessment Program are (1) to provide information on individual student achievement on performance standards set by the State Board of Education at grade and benchmark levels; (2) to provide information for federal ESEA requirements and for policy decisions by the legislature, the governor, the State Board of Education, and local school districts; (3) to support instructional program improvement efforts; and (4) to inform the public about student achievement in Oregon schools.

Additionally, beginning with the class of 2012, components of the state assessment system will be one means of demonstrating proficiency on Essential Skills required for receiving an Oregon diploma. Reading is the first Essential Skill to be implemented (Class of 2012), with writing (2013) and mathematics (2014) to follow.

The Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) is different from national, norm-referenced tests used in many districts and states. OAKS is a criterion-referenced assessment based on the Oregon Content Standards. As a result, the types of scores produced from OAKS Assessments are somewhat different from those produced by national, norm-referenced tests.

For reading/literature, mathematics, science and social sciences, scores produced from the Oregon Statewide Assessment are based on an achievement scale widely used in the Northwest. The scale, with numbers ranging from about 150 to 300, is similar to other scales such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scale or other "growth" scales. Each point on the scale is at an equal distance from the previous point on the scale, so changes up or down can be charted and viewed as comparable from year to year.

The major advantage of the assessment scale is its connection to the Oregon Content and Achievement Standards. Achievement Standards were set by panels of teachers, curriculum specialists and community members who reviewed test items anchored to the achievement scale and determined the score a student would have to receive as evidence of having met challenging academic standards. Assessment scores are reported in specific skill areas, enabling educators to identify aspects of the curriculum needing improvement.

State Writing assessments rely on a model, which trains expert "judges," typically classroom teachers, to match student work to criteria for performance on a predetermined scale as outlined on an official state scoring guide. Writing is analyzed by two different raters on six elements or traits of good writing, and each trait is rated on a scale of 1 - 6 (low to high).

Associated Topics
  • Academic Content Standards
    Academic Content Standards identify what Oregon students are expected to know and be able to do in the content areas of English language arts, mathematics, health, physical education, science, second language, social sciences, and the arts.
  • Achievement/Performance Standards
    These standards define how well students must perform on state assessments leading to the high school diploma.


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