Making Sense of the New ND State Assessment Scores

Making Sense of the New ND State Assessment Scores

With the roll out of the Smarter Balanced assessment last year, there may be some confusion as to how to assess your student’s scores. Posted here is a letter to everyone from Kirsten Baesler, Superintendent of Public Instruction to shed light on how to read the new scores.

Linked at the end are some resources to help understand the changes. If there are any questions, please contact Mr. Larson, Mr. Engelstad, or Mrs. Pederson, Thank you.

Dear Parent/Guardian,

This spring, your child participated in a new North Dakota State Assessment in English and math through Smarter Balanced. These online tests were designed to replace the previous state assessment and to match the content and skills your child learned, as outlined in the North Dakota State Standards.

These new tests move away from fill-in-the-bubble exams and ask questions that require students to demonstrate their skills in reasoning and understanding. Results from this test, along with your child’s performance in the classroom, give you a more accurate picture of your child’s progress, making sure they are prepared to be successful in the next grade level with an eye toward graduating them from high school fully prepared for college or their chosen career.

Don’t be alarmed if scores appear lower this year. These new tests measure more complex, real-world skills such as critical thinking, writing, and problem solving. This year’s scores cannot be compared to previous test scores. The expectations and achievement scores have been increased. This year’s scores are setting a new, more accurate and more honest baseline from which progress can be measured going forward.

This annual academic assessment is like taking our children to the doctor for their checkups when they are young. Pediatricians use the information to learn how a child is growing, and together with parents use the information to make changes to their exercise habits, diet, and the standard of care they receive. So, too, as educators, together with parents, we are able to use this information to make changes in curriculum, strategies, and instruction to shape their next checkup.

Your child’s results from last year’s test and this year’s score are apples and oranges — you can’t compare. It is like students attempting to qualify for the state high jump at a track meet. We have more students who are jumping at a height of 4’11” instead of 4’9”, but the bar has been raised to the state qualifying height of 5’2” The scores may project our students are not achieving, when in reality they have achieved new heights.

I hope you find that the attached report provides you with a clear understanding about your child’s learning. Each subject is broken down into certain skills and content that identify where a student has mastered the material, might be excelling and needs to be challenged to go deeper into the subject matter, or might be falling a bit behind and need additional support.

Your child’s teacher also receives these test results. We encourage you to talk to them about how your child is performing. There are many excellent resources to help you reinforce your child’s learning, and links to some of them are listed at the bottom of this letter. Your school is dedicated to supporting you and your child.

I appreciate your support as we transition to this next generation of assessments. Parents are an essential partner in our students’ education. I am confident that with your help our students will achieve the new height of the new bar and achieve their fullest potential.

Thank you for all that you do.


Kirsten Baesler

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Parent Letter

State Assessment Key Points

Assessment Talking Points