Board Approves Proposal to Adopt NWEA District-wide 

CPS Moves Away From ISAT as Only District-Wide Measurement of Student Achievement


February 22, 2012


The Chicago Board of Education today approved adopting the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) as a new district-wide measurement of student growth in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The NWEA assessment will allow the District to move away from the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT), which is considered a less adequate tool in measuring student growth and true college and career readiness. Using NWEA in elementary schools district-wide will allow CPS to break away from an outdated system of measuring student achievement, and provide school leaders and teachers with access to student growth data that can better inform them of their students’ academic needs. The Board’s action came today at its monthly meeting.


“It is critical that teachers have access to a package of assessment tools that can help them deliver the kind of  instruction needed to address the unique academic needs of their own students,” said Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard. “Adopting NWEA as the norm in measuring student growth will also bring more accountability to our system in driving student achievement and ensuring every child is on a path to college readiness.”


Administering NWEA at all schools will make it easier to identify the strengths and weaknesses trends among students and schools across the district.  This will enable the district to provide targeted support, such as instructional training and advanced intervention tools, to schools with struggling students.


Currently, CPS elementary schools administer either one of two adaptive growth assessments – NWEA or Scantron. This prevents the district from having a common data-driven conversation about both instruction and accountability in driving student achievement.  Using NWEA district-wide will help to improve instruction and boost achievement in each classroom by providing school leaders and teachers with robust instructional and reporting tools to better address learning deficiencies and build on academic strengths of each student. 



As an adaptive assessment, NWEA allows for each student to be tested at their current performance level.  Today, the ISAT is the only test administered district-wide.  Compared to an assessment that measures student achievement against an average baseline like the ISAT, NWEA can more accurately measure growth regardless of whether students fall below or above grade level on the spectrum of achievement. 


Beginning next Fall, NWEA will be taken by approximately 270,000 students across 477 schools beginning in School Year 2012-2013.


NWEA was selected through an RFP process in which vendors submitted both written and oral proposals.  Those proposals were then evaluated by a 10-member committee whose members were drawn from areas of instruction, literacy, math, accountability, assessment, talent, special education, and language and culture. In addition, two representatives of the Chicago Teachers Union and representatives of three different charter school organizations participated in the oral presentations and final review discussions as non-voting advisory members. NWEA was chosen because its proposal scored the highest based on the following criteria:


  • Common Core Alignment
  • Existing Capacity
  • Research Base
  • Technical Specs
  • Reporting Tools
  • Instructional Usefulness
  • Cost 


The RFP process revealed that NWEA is superior in its content, instructional utility and ability to measure student growth and therefore the best option for a district-wide assessment.  Further, NWEA was the assessment most closely aligned to the content and rigor of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which CPS will begin implementing district-wide next fall.  CCSS more accurately reflects the knowledge and skills our students need in order to succeed in college and career.  NWEA assessments are currently used in 134 CPS schools, and is considered extremely popular among teachers. Given all schools are currently administering a computer-based assessment (either NWEA or Scantron), the district is confident that all schools have the technological capacity to smoothly implement NWEA next fall. 


“The combination of providing teachers with the data produced by NWEA and the implementation of the Common Core will have a significant impact on driving instructional improvement and boosting student achievement throughout the district,” said CEO Brizard.


About CPS

Chicago Public Schools serves 405,000 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.


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