NJ ASK Test Updates for the Transition to Core Curriculum Standards

The season for the NJ ASK standardized testing will soon be upon us– as will a few differences within the NJ ASK test.

New Jersey plans to fully align its assessments to the Core Curriculum Standards by 2015, and in the mean time, the NJ ASK is bridging the gap between the old and new standards with a hybrid test. Accordingly, the ELA section was altered last year for all grades, but for middle school students, in 2014 there are still changes to come to the content of the math section.

Standardized Testing

While the majority of schools have adjusted their instruction to prepare students for these changes and while many of the changes to the test will go without much notice and in fact, have had very little impact on the percentage of proficiency compared to previous years, there are a few modifications that makes the tests from last year and this year different than all previous NJ ASK tests.

Read on to learn about some of the most substantial changes you and your child can expect:

1. 50% of NJ ASK’s Reading Passages Will Now Be Informational

The types of reading passages featured in the Reading Comprehension passages is one of the most noticeable and drastic changes. The Core Curriculum Standards emphasize information-rich texts such as biographies, autobiographies, technical  and subject-specific texts such as history, science, and procedural texts as opposed to the fiction that dominated the curriculum and test content in the past. This reflects one of the major shifts in the curriculum toward the “building of knowledge through content-rich informational text.” Not only does this mean the text genres will be different, but this also means more questions will test the understanding of the informational content of texts rather than the somewhat more interpretative questions for fictional texts– such as those relating to theme or requiring the use of prior knowledge to interpret characterization. For students who have most exposure to fictional texts, this change may come as a bit of a challenge.

2. Greater Emphasis on Direct Evidence from Text

The new standards also emphasize skills relating to the gathering and use of evidence from text. This means that both multiple choice questions and written responses will measure students’ ability to answer questions grounded in specific textual evidence. A greater number of multiple choice questions will ask students to recall and make sense of specific information from the text, asking students to identify main ideas and supporting details, infer the meaning of words within texts, interpret the purpose of sentences, and describe texts’ organization.

The assessments of students’ written responses are designed to measure how well students refer to and incorporate specific information from the prompts’ accompanying texts as well. Previously, prompts asked students to draw more heavily on their prior knowledge and experiences in order to address the prompt, however now prompts will require students to interpret information and utilize specific evidence as a means of supporting their arguments. This requires a slightly different set of skills than the ones students have been practicing for most of their academic careers, so a discussion about this expectation and practice answering questions in this manner could significantly help your child’s score.

3.  Changes to Content of Math

Last year tests for grades 3-5 reflected the new Core Curriculum Standards, which altered some of the content covered within each grade level, however this year ratios and relationships will be tested in grades 6 and 7, and mathematical functions will determine more of the score for grade 8. This reflects the Core Curriculum Standards for each grade level and should have been thoroughly covered in your child’s class.

By and large, New Jersey’s old curriculum isn’t radically different from the Core Curriculum Standards; it has always been among the more rigorous in the States. The primary differences lie within what items are most prominently featured. For example, while informational texts have always been part of New Jersey’s curriculum, the degree to which the new standards emphasize it is much greater. With that in mind, it is important to consider what your children have been exposed to in school, what habits and strategies they have developed for test taking, and how they should change to adapt to the new standards.


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About Caroline

Caroline graduated magna cum laude from The College of New Jersey with a degree in English and Secondary Education. She taught 8th grade language arts and has enjoyed tutoring in a number of different contexts, including through volunteer opportunities, tutoring centers, and one-on-one tutoring. In her free time she enjoys applying literary theories to non-literary topics, faking athleticism fairly well, and pondering philosophical, political, and sociological quandaries. Since she lives to help others, she is looking forward to utilizing her education and experiences in order to help PT continue to make a difference in students’ lives.

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