1. What does secure assessment mean?
The Nova Scotia Assessments are secure forms. No part of the assessment, including student work, is to be copied or shared. Every copy of the assessment sent to the school must be returned to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (the department). Only students enrolled in the grade level of a particular assessment will write that assessment. Students with an Individual Program Plan (IPP) in English language arts or Mathematics/Mathématiques may or may not write that subject area’s assessment based on their Program Planning Team’s decision. Alternate arrangements are required for students who are not eligible to write an assessment during the administration of the assessment (e.g., students in combined classes, students on IPPs not writing the assessment). Copies of assessments will not be provided for the teacher’s use; however, one English assessment booklet will be provided to French immersion teachers for use during the mathématiques assessment.
2. Why must Nova Scotia Assessments remain secure?
Measures are taken to ensure that Nova Scotia Assessments are reliable, valid, and fair to students. In addition to new assessment items, selected items from one year’s assessment will be embedded in the following year’s assessment. This enables the department to make a genuine comparison of student performance on those common items, independent of the overall difficulty of the assessments. Making the assessment secure allows the department to use these common items to equate forms year-over-year, and it allows the department to perform longitudinal studies of student performance.
3. Do French immersion students participate in Nova Scotia Assessments? Would they be at a disadvantage?
French immersion students participate in all Nova Scotia Assessments except for Literacy in Grade 3 because early French immersion students begin formal English language arts instruction at the beginning of grade 3. French immersion students are not at a disadvantage; they have just as much opportunity to succeed in an English language arts assessment as do their counterparts in the English program. For mathematics, all students write the same assessment in the language of their mathematics instruction, either English or French. An English assessment booklet is provided to French immersion teachers during the assessment in case a student has difficulty reading a question. The teacher can then show the English booklet to the student so they can read it in English.
4. Do international students participate in Nova Scotia Assessments?
Yes. International students are expected to participate in the assessments.
5. Do Students Learning English as an Additional Language (EAL) participate in Nova Scotia Assessments?
Students Learning English as an Additional Language are expected to participate in the Nova Scotia Assessment (NSA) in Literacy/Reading and Writing, and Mathematics/Mathématiques. However, principals, in consultation with parents and guardians and the student, may exempt a student if the student has been learning English for one year or less, or if completing the assessment would be deemed inappropriate given the student’s current English language skills. Students Learning English as an Additional Language can use the full range of adaptations that are available to all students as long as they are documented in TIENET. In addition, they can use an electronic translator and/or a bilingual dictionary (paper or electronic) during the NSA. Internet access can be provided for students using an electronic translator and/or bilingual dictionary. An electronic translator or dictionary must be used on a computer monitor large enough to be visible by the teacher. Students Learning English as an Additional Language can be given extra time to write the NSA as long as each section is written in one sitting. The use of an electronic translator or extra time does not need to be a documented adaptation in TIENET for Students Learning English as an Additional Language.
6. Do students who were retained in a grade participate in an assessment a second time?
Yes. Taking an assessment a second time provides updated results for students and teachers. This information can be used in combination with classroom assessment information to inform instruction that will support the student’s learning in the areas of reading, writing, and/or mathematics/mathématiques.
7. Do students who are home-schooled participate in Nova Scotia Assessments?
Students who have been formally withdrawn from the Public School Program, and are home-schooled are not eligible to participate in the assessment. Many students considered to be “home-schooled” are, in fact, participating in the Public School Program—even if only for a subject or two. Such students may be registered at their local school, and, as such, should be offered the opportunity to participate in the assessment.
8. Do students who participate in the Public School Program in an alternate location participate in Nova Scotia Assessments?
Students enrolled in the Public School Program in an alternate location (e.g., hospital, long-term care facility) may or may not be eligible to write an assessment. Contact Student Assessment and Evaluation (902-424-7746) regarding eligibility.
9. Do students who are suspended participate in Nova Scotia Assessments?
Students who are suspended are expected to participate in the assessments, whether they are serving an in-school suspension or out-of-school suspension. It is best if arrangements can be made for students who are suspended to participate in the assessment at the same time as the other students.
10. Are students allowed to use dictionaries and thesauri when they write Nova Scotia Assessments?
Students are allowed to use a paper (not electronic) dictionary and thesaurus during only the literacy/reading and writing assessments. Dictionaries and thesauri are not permitted during mathematics/mathématiques assessments.
11. What about combined classes? Should non-grade level students participate in the assessment?
No. Those students will have to be otherwise accommodated during the assessment.
12. What about multiple English language arts or mathematics classes—but just one English language arts or mathematics/mathématiques teacher? Who should administer the assessment to the other classes?
All students should write the assessment at the same time. Some schools may require other teachers to administer the assessment. The Administration Guide includes scripts that all teachers administering the assessment must follow. These procedures ensure consistency and uniformity across classes and schools.
13. Can all the students write the assessment together in the gymnasium or cafeteria?
No. Gymnasiums, auditoriums, cafeterias, etc. are not appropriate venues for the administration of the assessment. The assessment should be seen as just another part of the students' day, and students should participate in the assessment in a familiar environment where they can be comfortable and relaxed. Students should write the assessment in the classroom where they would normally take English language arts or mathematics/mathématiques; if this is not possible, then they may write the assessment in their home room or another classroom.
14. What happens if a student is absent for one day of the assessment?
Upon return, the student will write the same part of the assessment as the rest of the class. The previous day(s) missed can be made up during a make-up session(s). It is recommended that teachers consult with the school’s administration in order to find a convenient time and place for the student to write the assessment. Students may write only one day’s tasks on any single day. All days of the assessment are to be completed. The school's assessment booklets must be returned to the department on or before the deadline.
15. What happens if a student is absent during the school’s administration dates?
If a student is absent during the school’s administration dates, the student is expected to write the assessment before the deadline. It is recommended that teachers consult with the school’s administration in order to find a convenient time and place for the student to write the assessment. Students may write only one day’s tasks on any single day. All days of the assessment are to be completed. The school's assessment booklets must be returned to the department on or before the deadline.
16. What happens if the teacher is absent during the assessment?
Although substitute teachers who are familiar with the assessment information guide, administration procedures, and scripts can administer an assessment, it may be more effective to have a teacher who is familiar to the students administer the assessment. In this case the substitute would cover that teacher’s class for the administration of the assessment. Regardless of who administers the assessment, it is critical that the teacher is familiar with the purpose of the assessment, the information guide, administration procedures, and scripts prior to the administration.
17. How can students prepare for the assessment?
Students should be informed of upcoming provincial assessments in reading, writing, and/or mathematics/mathématiques. Students may feel more relaxed once they know what to anticipate. Students will become familiar with the format and types of questions on the assessment through sample questions provided by the department prior to the assessment. Teachers’ positive comments about the assessment will encourage students to do their best.
18. May teachers help students during the assessment? What instructions may teachers give to their students?
In order to ensure an accurate picture of students’ independent reading, writing, and mathematics/mathématiques skills, it is important that teachers do not help students other than by directing them to the appropriate pages on which to work. Teachers can, and should, encourage their students to try their best, to read the instructions carefully, to take their time, and to check their work.
19. May teachers define terms to their students?
No. Students are allowed to use a dictionary to look up unfamiliar words and use a thesaurus to look up synonyms and antonyms of words during only Literacy/Reading and Writing assessments. Dictionaries and thesauri are not permitted during Mathematics/Mathématiques assessments.
20. May teachers explain or clarify questions on the assessment?
No. Teachers may not explain or clarify questions on the assessment. If students have difficulty reading a word or question during an assessment of Mathematics/Mathématiques, teachers may quietly read an individual word or question verbatim that students request (no elaboration or explanations). Teachers may quietly read an individual word, but they may not read whole texts or questions during an assessment of Literacy/Reading and Writing unless the student has a documented adaptation for verbatim reading.
21. Can I rewrite or edit a student’s handwriting if it is difficult to read or decipher?
No. Teachers may not rewrite or edit a student’s writing on the assessment. With the exception of verbatim scribing and the back cover, there should be no teacher marks in a student booklet.
22. May teachers give students more time than the allotted time per day, if needed?
Yes. Each day teachers may give students an additional 15 minutes, per day. (This 15 minutes of extra time is not considered an adaptation, and it does not need to be documented.) It is important that all students across the province have the same opportunity for an additional 15 minutes to complete the assessment, if needed.
23. May students go back and complete sections that they may not have completed on previous days?
No. In order to maintain assessment validity and to ensure an accurate picture of students’ independent reading, writing, and mathematics/mathématiques skills, it is important that students are given only the time allotted each day and do not return to a previous day’s work.
24. Should the results of the Nova Scotia Assessments be used as part of students’ class marks or report card grade?
No. Students’ class marks and report card grades are determined by their classroom teacher, and they are based upon each student’s achievement in relation to a wide range of curriculum outcomes over time.
25. Can students use worked examples or cognitive credit cards/cue cards during Nova Scotia Assessments?
No. Worked examples or cognitive credit cards/cue cards compromise the validity of the assessment. Therefore, they are not considered appropriate adaptations and are not permitted during the assessment.
26. Can students use privacy screens/personal offices during Nova Scotia Assessments?
Students are permitted to use privacy screens/personal offices during assessments of Literacy/Reading and Writing of provincial assessments. If students use them during assessments of Mathematics, they must not compromise the validity of the student’s assessment results; for example, privacy screens/personal offices must not include mathematics strategies, definitions of mathematical terms, hundred charts, metric unit conversions, etc.
27. What if another class is scheduled during the morning of the assessment (e.g., physical education or music with specialist teachers)?
The assessment must be completed in the mornings of the school’s administration dates within the administration period as outlined on the Student Assessment and Evaluation website at plans.ednet.ns.ca. Each assessment session must be completed according to the assessment’s administration guide. Specialist classes may need to be rescheduled in order to accommodate assessment administrations.
28. Which documented adaptations should students use during provincial assessments?
Students are eligible to use their adaptations documented in TIENET as long as they are used on a regular basis for classroom assessment and follow the criteria outlined in the Adaptations section of the Information Guide. If students are not familiar with a particular adaptation, it may not be in the student’s best interest to use it for the first time during a provincial assessment. However, as an example, if students usually use the documented adaptation of assistive technology for writing for classroom-based assessments, they should have access to this technology during provincial writing assessments.
29. How should assessment sessions be scheduled to accommodate stretch breaks?
Assessment sessions may be scheduled any time during the morning that is most convenient for schools. For example, students could complete the first section of the assessment before recess, participate in their recess time or morning break, and complete the remainder of the assessment after recess. The day’s schedule may need to be adjusted, as needed, to accommodate the stretch breaks.
30. Do students who use the verbatim reading adaptation receive a student report for reading?
Yes. Although decoding is an integral part of the reading process, decoding is not the focus of provincial reading assessments; decoding is best assessed through individual conferences and reading records by the classroom teacher. Provincial assessments provide important information around students’ understanding of different aspects of text comprehension (literal, non-literal, and analytical understanding) across four different genres (information, narrative, visual, and poetry/song texts). Students will receive information about these elements as well as an overall reading comprehension performance level on their individual student report for reading.
31. What happens with provincial assessments when changes to curriculum are either piloted or fully implemented?
Provincial assessments are based on selected curriculum outcomes in English language arts and mathematics/mathématiques. Provincial assessments are responsive to changes in curriculum and reflect new outcomes when new curriculum is fully implemented. During times of transition between curricula, such as during curriculum pilots or gradual implementation phases, provincial assessments include outcomes that are common to both the current and the new curriculum.
32. What do I do if I have a question that is not answered above?
If you have a question that is not answered above or on the Student Assessment and Evaluation website at plans.ednet.ns.ca, please contact Student Assessment and Evaluation at 902-424-7746 for assistance.