No Child Left Behind: A Toolkit for Teachers
Archived Information

Student Assessment

On which subjects are students tested? When are they tested?

No Child Left Behind requires that, by the 2005-06 school year, each state measure every child's progress in reading and math in each of grades 3 through 8 and at least once during grades 10 through 12. In the meantime, each state must administer assessments in reading and math at three grade spans (3-5, 6-9 and 10-12). By school year 2007-08, states must also have in place science assessments to be administered at least once during grades 3-5, grades 6-9 and grades 10-12. Further, states must ensure that districts administer tests of English language proficiency--measuring oral language, listening, reading comprehension, reading and writing skills in English--to all English language learners, as of the 2002-03 school year.

Students may still undergo state assessments in other subject areas (e.g., history, geography and writing skills), if and when the state requires it. However, NCLB requires assessments only in the areas of reading or language arts and math, and soon in science.

How do annual assessments support teaching and learning?

It is important to measure a student's progress over time in the subjects taught so that teachers, school leaders and parents understand how well that student is achieving. Annual assessments allow teachers to compare student progress across time. They allow teachers to determine areas of strength and weakness in student understanding and in their own teaching. They also help teachers and administrators in evaluating curriculum choices. Annual assessments help identify problem areas for students and give teachers an idea of which students need extra help. A recent Education Trust report entitled The Real Value of Teachers affirms the importance of regular student assessment as a means of providing teachers with data to inform them not only about a student's progress, but also about their own teaching.11 Using data from state assessments gives schools a powerful tool to determine the needs of students, so teachers and administrators can work together to develop the appropriate professional development for teachers.

How are assessments handled for students with disabilities?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 requires that all students with disabilities participate in regular assessments to determine whether or not they are meeting the achievement goals set for them under their Individual Education Plans (IEP), as determined by their IEP teams. Alternate assessments are only appropriate when students cannot be assessed through the regular state assessments, even with appropriate accommodations.

Students With Disabilities

Under the direction of the state, schools have the following options for testing students with disabilities:

  • Regular state assessment.
  • Regular state assessment with accommodations, such as changes in presentation, response, setting and timing. (For more information about accommodations,visit
  • Alternate assessment aligned to grade level achievement standards.
  • Alternate assessment aligned to alternate achievement standards.

How are assessments handled for English language learners?

No Child Left Behind requires that all children be assessed. In order to make AYP, schools must test at least 95 percent of the various subgroups of children, including English language learners. For English language learners who take the regular assessments, states must provide reasonable accommodations. Accommodations may include native-language versions of the assessments. However, in the area of reading and language arts, students who have been in U.S. schools for three consecutive years must be assessed in English, with an additional two years as needed, on a case-by-case basis.

Recognizing that there are small groups of students who are unable to take the reading/language arts assessment because of language barriers, the secretary of education provides the following flexibility in determining who is tested: English language learners in their first year of enrollment in U.S. schools have the option of not taking the reading and language arts assessment. These students would take the math assessment, with accommodations as appropriate, and the English language proficiency (ELP) assessment.

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Last Modified: 08/13/2009