Johnny Key

Commissioner of Education

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Definitions of Common Assessment Terms

Academic Distress

This term is used to describe a district that has, for a sustained period of time, demonstrated a lack of student achievement on the state-mandated, norm-referenced, or criterion-referenced tests.


Accountability concerns the obligation of comprehensive school improvement planning, reporting, explaining, or justifying standards, making these components responsible, explicable and answerable.

The Arkansas Consolidated School Improvement Planning (ACSIP)

A model that is designed to ensure academic improvement for all students. ACSIP documents are submitted electronically to the Arkansas Department of Education, annually, by each Arkansas public school. Approved school improvement plans focus on priority areas selected for gains within a set time frame. Through the ACSIP plan, a school organization will direct its efforts, resources, and human energy toward focused goals. School improvement plans must be based on scientific research.


This term refers to any test instrument or other student achievement evaluation method used to measure student learning and performance.


This term refers to data collected following the initial administration of an assessment instrument, and is designed to establish an agreed upon point from which to measure future student progress.


This is a term used to describe the standard for judging a performance. Teachers and students can use benchmarks to determine the quality of a student's work. Benchmarks can be used to tell what students should know by a particular stage of their schooling; for example, "By the end of the sixth grade, a student should be able to locate major cities and other geographical features on each of the continents."

Criterion-Referenced Test (CRT)  

A CRT is an assessment instrument focused on the achievement of measurable standards. In Arkansas, mathematics and ELA test items are based on the academic standards in the CCSS and measured using the ACT Aspire assessment. The ACT Aspire assessment focuses on achievement of learning that will gauge a student’s readiness for college and career. 

Longitudinal Study

This type of study refers to the examination of data over a period of years or decades to determine patterns and trends.

Multi-State Alternate Assessment (MSAA)

The MSAA is a computer-based assessment in mathematics and English/language arts (ELA) for grades 3-8 and 11 for those students with disabilities for whom the ACT Aspire assessment is not appropriate.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

NAEP, also known as The Nation's Report Card, is a federally funded program that provides a nationwide and state-by-state analysis of student achievement. NAEP tests a representative sample of students in Grades 4, 8, and 12 each year and reports the results to the public.

Norm-Referenced Test (NRT)

A Norm-Referenced Test (NRT) is an assessment in which test items are built around a set of curricular objectives. The test provides information that compares the performance of students against the performance of a sample of students from across the country.

Performance Assessments

A performance assessment requires students to use knowledge and skills in a way that demonstrates accomplishment and expertise. This assessment differs from a conventional paper-and-pencil test in a similar way that a road test for a driver’s license assesses driving “performance” while the written test assesses knowledge of driving facts and rules. 

Professional Development  

Professional development is a set of planned learning activities for teachers and administrators which are standards-based and continuous. Professional development should result in individual, school-wide, and system-wide improvement. Approved professional development activities are linked to the school's improvement plan and demonstrate research-based best practice.


A standard is a statement that tells what students are expected to know and be able to do within a content strand.


A strand is a general category of learning standards in a content area.

Student Learning Expectation

A student specific learning objective to be introduced, taught, and mastered.
Effective Date: September 1, 2014
Revised Date: August 22, 2017

For more information, please contact:

Hope Allen, Director of Student Assessment
Arkansas Department of Education
Division of Learning Services
Four Capitol Mall, Room 305-B
Little Rock, AR 72201
Phone: 501-682-4558

State Standards

Learn more about the standards that define the knowledge and skills Arkansas students should have in order to be ready for college and careers.

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Licensure & Certification

Find critical information about renewing Arkansas educator licenses, adding areas of licensure, licensing by reciprocity from other states, background checks and more.

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ESEA Flexibility

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