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Assessment Overview

MSAD is mandated by the Minnesota Department of Education to participate in state-wide and district-wide assessments and to share annual reports through World’s Best Workforce.  MSAD wants to recognize the importance of validity and reliability in assessments. The validity and reliability of the assessments can be affected by language deprivation, socioeconomic status, or social emotional learning.  Factors like those should be taken into account when looking at student progress.  Both validity and reliability of each student’s assessment results should be considered to make informed decisions to ensure academic growth.  To review the annual report from World’s Best Workforce, please click here.

2020-2021 Testing Calendar


March 7th - May 6th:
Reading MCA (Grades 3-8 and 10)
Mathematics MCA (Grades 3-8 and 11)
MTAS Reading, Mathematics, and Science

March 7th - May 13th
Science MCA (Grades 5 and 8-12)


April 5th 
ACT Testing (Grade 11)


State-Wide Assessment

Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) and Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS)

The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) and alternate assessment Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS) are the state tests that help districts measure student progress toward Minnesota’s academic standards and also meet federal and state legislative requirements. Students take one test in each subject. Most students take the MCA, but students who receive special education services and meet eligibility requirements determined by the student's IEP team may take the alternate assessment MTAS instead.

The list below shows tests by subject and the grades they are given: 

  • Reading: MCA or MTAS (grades 3-8, 10)
  • Mathematics: MCA or MTAS (grades 3-8, 11)
  • Science: MCA or MTAS (grades 5, 8, and once in high school)

Timeline for disseminating MCA/MTAS results: Students results released to district in mid-August from Minnesota State Department of Education.  Student results will be mailed in mid-September to late-September upon receipt of results from the Minnesota Department of Education.   While the Minnesota Department of Education stives to ensure this testing schedule remains unaltered, it is subject to change based on assessment decisions made by the Minnesota Legislature or U.S. Congress.


District-Wide Assessments

Hawaii Early Learning Profile (HELP)

Hawaii Early Learning Profile (HELP) is a comprehensive, on-going, family centered curriculum based assessment process for infants and toddlers (ages 0-3) and their families. It is used when creating goals and tailoring developmentally-appropriate interventions to meet the specific needs of children. HELP is a flexible curriculum-based assessment tool that identifies needs, monitors growth and development, and establishes a plan to address assessment results. The test examines six specific skill categories that are observed through play: cognitive, communication, gross motor, fine motor, social-emotional, and adaptive/self-help.

Visual Communication and Sign Language Checklist (VCSL)

The Visual Communication and Sign Language Checklist (VCSL) documents the developmental milestones of children from birth to age 5 who are visual learners and are acquiring sign language regardless of level of hearing. It is an observational tool used to document language in natural environments, which allows us to monitor the child’s developmental progress.  It is presented in a user-friendly format that is accessible to parents and teachers, as well as specialists and experts.

Test of Early Reading Ability (TERA)

TERA-4's General Reading Index represents overall performance on the Alphabet, Conventions, and Meaning subtests for students aged 4-9.  It is often the best single predictor of future reading ability and school abilities influenced by reading ability because it reflects the basic constructs built into the test.  The TERA-4 has three subtests, Alphabet, Conventions, and Meaning. These subtests measure aspects of reading abilities that are acquired incidentally as a result of environmental experience or directly as the result of instruction at home or school.

  • The Alphabet subtest measures children's knowledge of letters. The items assess the ability to distinguish between letters and nonletters, to match letters, to recognize letters when they appear in different fonts, to associate letters with particular speech sounds, to identify initial and final letters in printed words, to count the letters in printed words, and to "read" pseudo words aloud.
  • The Conventions subtest measures children's familiarity with common orthographic rules governing the English writing system, including book handling skills (e.g. knowing the correct orientation of a book, knowing where to begin reading, knowing where the top and bottom of a page is). Items also measure knowledge of common pictographs, logograms, numerals, abbreviations, special symbols, and punctuation marks, as well as spelling.
  • The Meaning subtest measures children's ability to name the letters of the alphabet, master essential sight words, and comprehend the meaning of printed words, sentences, and paragraphs. Items also measure relational vocabulary, sentence construction, and paraphrasing.

NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP)

NWEA’s assessments are called Measures of Academic Progress (MAP).  When taking these computerized adaptive tests, the difficulty of each question is based on how well a student answers all the previous questions.  As the student answers correctly, the 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.

American Sign Language Assessment Instrument (ASLAI)

American Sign Language Assessment Instrument (ASLAI) is the assessment that focuses on rating each student’s receptive ASL skills in different tasks.    The assessment was given on the computer with a program that had a person signing a question, word, statement, or description, and the students were required to choose the best answer out of four choices.  Students were evaluated in the following nine different areas:

  • Simple Vocabulary and Difficult Vocabulary subtests measure ASL vocabulary knowledge
  • Vocabulary in Sentences subtest measures knowledge of idiomatic and infrequent ASL vocabulary and the ability to contextualize ASL words
  • Synonyms and Antonyms subtests measure the depth of vocabulary knowledge and metalinguistic judgment skills
  • Simple Syntax subtest measures knowledge of verbs related to motion and location, plurals, negation, and pronominal structures
  • Difficult Syntax subtest measures knowledge of ASL conditionals, topicalization, complement, relative clause, negation, rhetorical question, wh- question, simple sentences (subject-verb-object (plain), and sentential agreement 
  • Analogies subtest measures knowledge of analogical reasoning in ASL: causal, antonyms, whole to part and part to whole, purpose, ASL phonology, and noun-verb derivational pairs
  • Declarative Sentences and Plurals subtest measures knowledge of the function of classifiers in the verb of location and verbs of motion as well as singular and plural objects.


Standards Based Assessment

Standards Based Assessment, such as benchmarking assessment,  is when a student's academic achievement will be assessed using modified academic achievement standards or alternate academic achievement standards.  The student’s academic proficiency must always be based on the academic content standards for his or her grade level.  The student will be waived from other district-wide assessments. This will be determined by the student’s IEP team.


Career and College Readiness Assessment

PreACT (Freshmen and Sophomores)

PreACT, targeted to grades 9-10, gives students practice with the ACT.  PreACT gives students an estimated ACT test score and can be used as an indicator of college and career readiness. PreACT provides students with a structured testing environment similar to what they will experience when taking the ACT, ACT test-quality questions, and predictive scores on the familiar 1–36 scale. This helps students get comfortable with the test and understand how they’re doing in core subjects. It also helps parents and educators identify areas where additional support might be necessary.

ACT Testing (Juniors and Seniors)

The ACT is a standardized test used for college admissions in the United States. This test covers four academic skill areas: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science Reasoning. It also offers an optional essay writing test. MSAD students in their junior and senior years are encouraged to take the ACT if they are considering college. MSAD offers students in their junior year to take the ACT test for free. To register for the test, the students should register with MSAD’s Teaching and Learning Coordinator. 


If you want to opt out your child(ren) from state-wide testing, please complete this form and return it to me.  If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, do not hesitate to contact me.

Ryan Johnson 
Teaching and Learning Coordinator
507-412-5176 (VP/VRS)