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Welcome to an Educational Adventure
The New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge, or NJ ASK, is a special milestone, as it represents the first time that New Jersey’s public school students are presented with a state-mandated standardized test. Indeed, the ASK is the Garden State’s answer to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires that states use standards-based testing to ensure that students are picking up the skills and knowledge necessary for academic success.
We at REA believe that a friendly, hands-on introduction and preparation for the test are keys to creating a successful testing experience. REA’s NJ ASK books offer these key features:
* Clearly identified book activities
* Contextual illustrations
* Easy-to-follow lessons
* Step-by-step examples
* Tips for solving problems tailored for the proper grade level
* Exercises to sharpen skills
* Real practice
Below is helpful information for students, parents, and teachers concerning the NJ ASK and test taking in general. Organized practice is itself a prime skill for young students to master, because it will help set the tone for success long into the future as their educational adventure continues. It is REA’s sincere hope that this bookby providing relevant, standards-based practicecan become an integral part of that adventure.
What is the NJ ASK?
The New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge is a standards-based assessment used in New Jersey’s public schools. Performance on the NJ ASK test equates not with the grades students receives for teacher-assigned work but rather with proficiency measures pegged to how well students are acquiring the knowledge and skills outlined in the state’s Core Curriculum Content Standards. Those proficiency measures fall into three broad categories, or bands: “partially proficient,” “proficient,” and “advanced proficient.”
When is the NJ ASK given?
The test is administered in early spring. Grade 3 students take the NJ ASK on three mornings, the first two in Language Arts Literacy, the final morning in Mathematics. Grade 4 students take the test on five mornings, the first two in Language Arts Literacy, the next two mornings in Mathematics, and the last in Science. Each morning’s test spans 60 to 100 minutes, not including time to distribute materials, read directions, and take breaks.
What is the format of the NJ ASK?
The NJ ASK has two types of questions: multiple choice and open ended. With multiple choice, students are asked to choose the correct answer out of four. With open-ended questions, children answer with written responses in their own words. Each test section is timed, and students may not proceed to the next section until time for the current section has expired. If students have not finished a section when time runs out, they must stop and put down their pencils. There are clear directions throughout the test.
Understanding the NJ ASK and This Book
This book was specially written and designed to make test practice easy and fruitful for students. Our practice tests are very much like the actual NJ ASK tests, and our review is filled with illustrations, drills, exercises, and practice questions to help students become familiar with the testing environment and to retain information about key topics.
The NJ ASK and other state assessment tests are designed to give the school information about how well children are achieving in the areas required by New Jersey’s Core Curriculum Content Standards, which describe what students should know at the end of certain grades. This book helps children review and prepare effectively and positively for the NJ ASK in Language Arts Literacy.
Teachers introduce students to the test-taking environment and the demands of the NJ ASK tests. Teachers can use our authoritative book in the classroom for planned, guided instruction and practice testing. Effective preparation means better test scores!
Where can I obtain more information about the NJ ASK?
The New Jersey Department of Education offers four sources of information about the NJ ASK as follows:
Office of Evaluation and Assessment
New Jersey Department of Education
PO Box 500
Trenton, NJ 08625-0500
Test Accommodations and Special Situations
Every effort is made to provide a level playing field for students with disabilities who are taking the NJ ASK. Most students with educational disabilities and most students whose English language skills are limited take the standard NJ ASK. Students with disabilities will be working toward achieving the standards at whatever level is appropriate for them. Supports such as large-print type are available for students who have a current individualized Education Program (IEP) or who have plans required under Section 504 or who use these supports and accommodations during other classroom testing.
If the IEP team decides that a student will not take the NJ ASK in Language Arts
Literacy, Mathematics, and/or Science, the child will take the Alternate Proficiency Assessment (APA).
Tips for Test Taking
Do your homework. From the first assignment of the year, organize the day so there is always time to study and keep up with homework.
Communicate. If there are any questions, doubts, or concerns about anything relating to school, study, or tests, speak up. This goes for teachers and parents, as well as students.
Get some rest. Getting a good night’s sleep the night before the test is essential to waking up sharp and focused.
Eat right. Having a good breakfastnothing very heavythe morning of the test is what the body and mind need. Comfortable clothes, plenty of time to get to school, and the confidence of having prepared properly are all any student needs.
Test smart. Read the questions carefully. Make sure answers are written correctly in the proper place on the answer sheet. Don’t rush, and don’t go too slow. If there is time, go back and check questions that you weren’t sure about.
Format of the NJ ASK Language Arts Literacy Test
The reading portion of the test contains two passages with seven questions each. The writing portion requires students to write two essays: one in response to a picture prompt and the other in response to a poem. The table below outlines the type of passage, type of question, type of writing task, and amount of time students have to answer the questions on the reading portion.
Passage Type Grade 3 Questions Time
1. Writing: speculate (picture prompt) Story 25 minutes
2. Reading: narrative 6 MC,* 1 OE* 50 minutes
3. Writing: explain (poem-linked prompt) Composition 25 minutes
4. Reading: everyday text 6 MC, 1 OE 25 minutes
*MC = “multiple choice”; OE = “open-ended.”
For the NJ ASK, narrative text is defined as literature written primarily to tell a story. These passages have a conflict and address common aspects of human nature. For Grade 3, narrative passages are selected from previously published literature of between 900 and 1,300 words. Narrative passages chosen for the NJ ASK contain the following elements:
Significant themes that are age appropriate and grade-level appropriate
A clearly identifiable problem/conflict and resolution
A well-organized plot with clearly developed and meaningful events
Settings integral to the plot
Literary elements, such as imagery and foreshadowing
A range of vocabulary for which adequate context is provided
On the NJ ASK, everyday text is defined as text that people encounter in their everyday lives. It is written and designed to convey information about a topic and/or to show how to do something. Everyday texts of varying formats are selected and/or adapted from previously published sources, such as magazines, newspapers, how-to books, and hands-on activity kits and workbooks. Everyday texts for Grade 3 range in length from 700 to 1,000 words. The text has a strong central idea or purpose and contains the following elements:
Engaging topics that are age appropriate and grade-level appropriate
A clear, positive focus
A clearly developed explanation of ideas, activities, or action
A clearly developed sequence of ideas, activities, or actions
Performable activities or actions
Vivid and clear illustrations
A range of vocabulary for which adequate context is provided
The writing prompts present topics that allow students to draw on material in the assessment, as well as from their own prior knowledge, to establish a context for their writing. In one task, students view a picture and use their understanding of the picture to develop a story. In a second task, students listen to a poem and then respond to a written prompt that extends an idea introduced by the poem. Each writing task provides space for students to plan their ideas. Students are encouraged to use that space to organize their ideas using a prewriting strategy (e.g., making a web, a list, or some other sort of graphic organizer) of their own choosing. The instructions direct students to write their own story or composition on the lined pages provided. This version of their writing is considered a first draft.
Each type of writing task is administered in a consistent format and in a constant time segment of 25 minutes. Students are instructed to use the first few minutes to develop ideas for their writing and to use the last few minutes to review and revise what they have written.
Scoring the Tests
On the reading portion of the Grade 3 NJ ASK, each multiple-choice question is worth 1 point. Open-ended questions are scored holistically on a 0- to 4-point scale. The highest score a student can achieve on the reading portion of the test is 20 points.
Rubric for Scoring Open-Ended Questions
Criteria: A 4-point response clearly demonstrates understanding of the task, fulfills all requirements, and provides a clear and focused explanation/opinion that links to or extends aspects of the text.
Criteria: A 3-point response demonstrates an understanding of the task, addresses all requirements, and provides some explanation/ opinion using situations or ideas from the text as support.
Criteria: A 2-point response may address all of the requirements, but it demonstrates a partial understanding of the task and uses text incorrectly or with limited success, resulting in an inconsistent or fl awed explanation.
Criteria: A 1-point response demonstrates minimal understanding of the task, does not address part of the requirements, and provides only a vague reference to or no use of the text.
Criteria: A 0-point response is irrelevant or off-topic.
Writing tasks are scored through use of a holistic scoring rubric developed specifically to focus on essential features of good writing and to assess students’ performance in composing written language. Each writing sample is scored on a 1- to 5-point scale, which is a modified version of New Jersey’s Registered Holistic Scoring Rubric.
NJ ASK Language Arts Literacy Standards
W1 Recognition of a Central Idea or Theme A central idea or theme is a statement that is broad enough to cover the entire scope of the reading passage. The central idea or theme may be stated or implied, but clues to it are found in the ideas that tend to recur in the text. Examples of a central idea or theme statement include the following:
Imagination helps us to solve problems.
Ordinary objects can be used to create unusual art.
W2 Recognition of Supporting Details These questions focus on meaningful details that contribute to the development of a character or the plot or that develop ideas and information that are essential to the central idea of a text.
W3 Extrapolation of Information These questions focus on ideas and information that are implied by, but are not explicit in, the text. For example, students may be asked to draw from cues provided in the text in order to identify how a character feels.
W4 Paraphrasing, Vocabulary These questions focus on the meaning of words used in the text and elicit students’ use of effective reading strategies to determine the meaning of the words. Targeted vocabulary always occurs within a semantic and syntactic context that students should draw on to respond to the question.
W5 Recognition of Text Organization Text organization encompasses the patterns of organization that characterize the respective genres. For the narratives, questions focus on setting, character, and plot, as well as on any distinctive pattern, such as repetition, within the story. For everyday texts, questions address structural features, such as section topics, charts, and illustrations, in addition to patterns of organization within the text (such as sequence, comparison-contrast, or cause and effect).
W6 Recognition of a Purpose for Reading These questions, which focus on the reader’s purpose, address reasons for reading a particular text. A story, for example, may convey specific information about a species of animal or a culture, although that may not be the primary purpose of the text.
A1 Questioning, Clarifying, Predicting These questions draw on students’ use of reading strategies to construct meaning. The questions introduce a focus and a context for responding (e.g., asking a question of the author or a character) and ask students to select and analyze ideas and information from the text to develop a response. Given the nature of this task, these questions are almost always open-ended items.
A2 Prediction of Tentative Meaning These questions focus on statements within the text that introduce some ambiguity: either the ideas are not fully explained or the statement uses language that can be read in two or more ways. For these questions, students use their knowledge of language and of the context within the reading passage to analyze the meaning of a particular statement.
A3 Forming of Opinions These questions elicit students’ responses to aspects of the text. The questions introduce a focus (e.g., whether the main character would make a good friend) and ask students to select and analyze ideas and information from the text to develop a response. Given the nature of this task, these questions are always open-ended items.
A4 Making Judgments, Drawing Conclusions These questions ask students to draw conclusions based on knowledge they have garnered from the ideas and information within the text. For example, students might be asked to analyze how the setting (e.g., the season of the year) affects the sequence of events within a story or to analyze the effect of skipping a step in a certain procedure.
A5 Literary Elements and Textual Conventions These questions focus on devices used by the author. Students might be asked to analyze what a specific metaphor conveys about a character in the story, or why an author uses italics for certain words.
NJ ASK Language Arts Literacy Standards*
W1 Recognition of a Central Idea or Theme page 3
W2 Recognition of Supporting Details page 3
W3 Extrapolation of Information page 31
W4 Paraphrasing, Vocabulary page 19
W5 Recognition of Text Organization pages 31, 47, 79
W6 Recognition of a Purpose for Reading page 47
A1 Questioning, Clarifying, Predicting page 47
A2 Prediction of Tentative Meaning page 47
A3 Forming of Opinions page 63
A4 Making Judgments, Drawing Conclusions page 63
A5 Literary Elements and Textual Conventions page 79
*The standards presented in this book were created by the New Jersey State Department of Education. For more information, visit the department’s website at www.state.nj.us/njded/ccss. Standards with W (for “working with text”) focus on ideas and information that are presenting in the text and available either literally or by extrapolation. Standards with an A (for “analyzing/critiquing text”) focus on students’ analysis of what they have read.