The ins and outs of NWEA item development
At NWEA, it takes a lot of time and effort for a test item to “graduate” to production status and count toward a student’s final score. And that’s ok with us. Because we know educators, students, and parents rely on our items to provide valid, useful information that helps teachers maximize every student’s learning. And we understand that by asking the right questions, our assessments create better test experiences for students—and more accurate results for educators.
NWEA test content specialists see creating a high-quality test item as a fun but incredibly challenging puzzle: fun because there’s a creative component to it, challenging because so many pieces need to fit together just so. Before they can earn production status, items go through a rigorous calibration process and pass content-integrity, sound-construction, and cognitive-rigor criteria.
Good items give educators great data for helping students excel
NWEA assessments provide real-time information that helps teachers teach, students learn, and administrators lead. To adhere to best practices and do our by educators, for educators heritage proud, each test item must do all of the tasks below.
Test Item 101
Measure what it claims to measure (aligns to a standard)
Make sense to students
Eliminate barriers and be accessible to all students—regardless of socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity, special needs, English language development levels, and more
Mirror the classroom experience as closely as possible
Meet all industry standardsiIndustry standards say that a dichotomously scored item (test question): has only one right answer; uses clear, concise wording; contains grammatically parallel options; lacks outlier options; and meets any other subject—and standard-specific—requirements.
How We Build Tests
When building tests, we put students first
Step 1. Determine purpose
Before our development team starts building an assessment, they ask: what questions will the assessment data answer and what decisions will it help educators make? How can we ensure students and educators receive a reliable, valid test?
Step 2. Design data and reporting
Our developers then consider the type of data and reporting that enables the intended decision making.
Step 3. Clarify learning targets
Next, they make sure they can clearly state the knowledge, skills, and performances the assessment-to-be will evaluate aka the learning targets.
Step 4. Identify assessment techniques matched to learning targets
From there our test developers begin creating test items directly aligned to each of the relevant learning targets. This lets students demonstrate proficiency on the selected targets.s
Step 5. Field test and calibrate items
Before general release, we field test items and calibrate them to a measurement scale to ensure accuracy.
Step 6. Develop test design
A test design serves as the fingerprint of the test: it includes all the content, technical, and psychometric iThe branch of psychology that deals with the design, administration, and interpretation of quantitative tests. information as well as the parameters necessary for test building.
Step 7. Build test
After the above steps are completed, the test is built and ready for use!
Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), our cross-grade interim assessment, has 34,000 items in its item banks. We base our grade 2 – 12 MAP tests on pools of items that span RIT (for Rasch Unit) score ranges and goal areas; all MAP test items have a single associated RIT value that align to specific content standards. Thanks to our deep item banks, students experience zero item repetition on assessments taken within a 14-month period.
All content in Children’s Progress Academic Assessment™ (CPAA™) aligns with Common Core State Standards as well as the rigorous standards set forth by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Additionally, each state’s version of the assessment has been aligned to that state’s specific learning.