WACS

1.WACS Introduction #

The Waterford Assessment Core of Skills (WACS) is a browser-based standardized test. Its purpose is to test student literacy skills so teachers can adjust their instruction as needed.

WACS is administered nationwide twice a year in September/October and April/May. It is also taken year-round in classrooms throughout the country.

Most standardized tests for children are adapted from adult test formats. WACS is unique in that it is designed specifically for young children. It features developmentally-appropriate audio instruction and support, full color graphics, and easy navigation.

1.1.WACS Initial Testing and Comparison to Other Tests #

WACS was initially tested on 8,800 students from 26 schools of varying socioeconomic levels. Students answered randomly-generated questions from the program without pre-selecting for difficulty. The test resulted in a total of 2,680 items with over 200 data points.

Student performance on WACS is comparable to the following standardized tests:

  • Dynamic Indicator of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS)
  • Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)
  • Idaho Reading Inventory (IRI)
  • Texas Primary Reading Inventory (TPRI)
  • Stanford Achievement Test 10 (SAT 10)

1.2.Literary Skills Tested on WACS #

WACS tests students on the following literacy skills:

  • Phonological Awareness
      • Initial Sound
      • Blending
      • Segmenting
  • Vocabulary
  • Listening Comprehension
  • Phonics
      • Letter Recognition
      • Letter Sounds
      • Sight Words
      • Real Words
      • Non-words
  • Reading Comprehension

Note: Depending on the student’s reading level, WACS may not test them on every subject. Most students are tested on between five to ten skill sets.

1.3.WACS vs Waterford Early Learning #

WACS and Waterford Early Learning are separate products. Waterford Early Learning is a learning software designed to teach Reading or Math & Science to K-2 students. WACS is a literacy skills assessment.

Note: You can buy WACS or Waterford Early Learning as separate products and do not need one to operate the other.

WACS and Waterford Early Learning do, however, share the same database to keep rostering consistent in the two programs. This means that any database change in one applies to the other. It also means that if your student already has a Waterford Early Learning account, it will connect with their WACS profile.

 

2.WACS Homepage #

You can access four main tabs from the homepage:

  • Staff, Students, Reports, and Benchmark

At the top of the homepage, you also can see a basic data rollup on the following four categories in your district: schools, classes, teachers, and students.

Note: Your specific homepage or tab abilities will vary based on whether you are a teacher or administrator.

2.1.WACS Login Portal #

Enter your username and password into the login page (wacsportal.waterford.org). This will take you to the WACS homepage.

Note: If you do not know your account information, contact your school/district administrator.

2.2.Staff Tab #

By clicking on the Staff tab, you can perform the following actions:

  • View the staff and student breakdown for a specific district
  • Add, delete, or transfer staff members
  • Import staff information by file

2.2.1.Add, Delete, or Transfer Staff Members #

To add a staff member:

  1. Visit the Staff tab and select your desired school and classroom.
  2. Click +New.
  3. Fill out the needed  staff information: name, email, and phone number.
  4. Choose a username, password, and security question for the new account.
  5. Select whether this is an administrator or teacher account from the Role dropdown.
  6. Click Save to confirm your new staff member and create their account.

To delete a staff member:

  1. Visit the Staff tab and select your desired school and classroom.
  2. Check the staff member(s) you want to remove and click Delete.
  3. Select Yes when the Please Confirm window appears to permanently delete your staff member(s).

To transfer a staff member:

  1. Visit the Staff tab and select your desired school and classroom.
  2. Check the staff member(s) you want to transfer and click Move.
  3. Choose the school and classroom you’re transferring the staff member(s) to from the dropdown bars.
  4. Select Yes when the Please Confirm window appears to transfer your staff member(s).

2.2.2.Import Staff Information by File #

Instead of adding one staff member at a time, you can import multiple staff members by classroom. To import staff information into the WACS system:

  1. Visit the Staff tab and select your desired school and classroom.
  2. Select Import.
  3. Download the File Template and fill it out with your staff members’ information.
  4. Click Choose File and select your staff file.
  5. Click Show File Preparation Instructions.
  6. Follow the import instructions in the Waterford Manager.

2.3.Students Tab #

By clicking on the Students tab, you can perform the following actions:

  • View all WACS students in a school or district, organized by class
  • Add, delete, or transfer students
  • Import student information by file
  • Assign students to a benchmark
  • Initialize students
  • Adjust a student’s time limit

2.3.1.Add, Delete, or Transfer Students #

To add a student:

  1. Visit the Students tab and click +New.
  2. Fill out the new student’s identifying information.
  3. Click Save to upload the new student profile.

To delete a student:

  1. Visit the Students tab and select the  student(s) you want to delete.
  2. Click the Delete button.
  3. Select Yes when the Please Confirm window appears to permanently delete your student.

To transfer a student:

  1. Visit the Students tab and select the student(s) you want to transfer.
  2. Click Move.
  3. Select the school and class you’re transferring your student(s) to from the dropdown bars.

Click Save to finish transferring your student(s).

2.3.2.Import Student Information by File #

Instead of adding one student at a time, you can import multiple students by classroom. To import staff information into the WACS system:

  1. Visit the Students tab and select your desired school and classroom.
  2. Select Import.
  3. Download the File Template and fill it out with your students’ information.
  4. Click Choose File and select your student file.
  5. Click Show File Preparation Instructions.
  6. Follow the import instructions in the Waterford Manager.

2.3.3.Assign Students to a Benchmark #

Assigning student(s) to a benchmark indicates when they will take the WACS test. To assign a student to a benchmark:

  1. Click the Students tab and select your classroom.
  2. Check the student(s) you want to assign, then click Assign to Benchmark.
  3. Select a benchmark from the options in the Benchmark Dropdown.
  4. Click Save to confirm your benchmark choice.

Note: You can change your benchmark selection for a student later, but they can only be assigned to one benchmark at a time.

 

2.3.4.Initialize Students #

Before students can begin WACS, teachers must confirm that their student is allowed to start the test. The WACS system refers to this process as “initializing” students. To initialize a student:

  1. Click Students tab and check the student(s) who are ready to take the test.
  2. Click the green Start Test button.

Those students can now start their WACS test.

 

2.3.5.Adjust a Student’s Time Limit #

The default time limit for a WACS assessment is 20 minutes, but it can be raised or lowered between 12-30 minutes. You can adjust the time limit for individual students or assign a default time to your entire class.

The number in the far right-hand column on the Students tab is their time limit (in minutes) to take an assessment. To individually change a student’s time limit:

  1. Click on the student’s time limit square.
  2. Replace the default time limit to any number between 12-30 minutes.
  3. Press enter to save the new time limit.

Note: Kindergarteners work best with a limit between 15-20 minutes.

 

2.4.Reports Tab #

By clicking on the Reports tab, you can view student reports by school, class, and benchmark start/end date.

2.4.1.Select Report #

To select a WACS report:

  1. Select your School and Class from the dropdown lists.
  2. Select a benchmark start and end date.

Click Open Reports.

2.4.2.Current Report #

WACS currently provides one student report. It organizes students by test date then alphabetically, and it displays the following information by class:

  • Test Date
    • May display In Progress or Not Yet Taken instead, depending on when a student took their test
  • Score key for teacher to determine where student places in each literacy skill
    • Between 1000-6000 (PreK through 4th grade) for each skill set

Note: A dash means that the student was not tested on that skill set.

2.4.3.Upcoming Reports #

WACS will release new student reports in early 2019. These new reports will include the following features:

New Classroom Report

  • Added keys to clarify score meanings
  • Includes highest and lowest possible score, expected score based on grade level and averages (district, school, class)
  • Student box will be an orange-red color if they are below their expected score in a certain area

Streamlined Version of New Classroom Report

  • Shows same information as other chart but is more organized for easy reading
    • Design based on teacher feedback
  • Shows one skill at a time via a dropdown list
  • User can choose which skills, averages, and expected scores to view

Reading Level Report

  • Shows the number of students in each reading level for every test category
    • PreK Beginning to 4th Advanced
  • Can hover over numbers and see individual student names

Comparative Report

  • Shows student progress between benchmarks on a bell curve chart by percentile
  • Displays chart below graph in numeric format
  • Can see all years students have used WACS or just current year
  • Can compare student to class, school, or district level
    • Can also see specific student demographics (e.g. socioeconomic status, ethnicity, etc)

 

2.5.Benchmark Tab #

Benchmarks are set time periods when students can take the WACS test. Waterford provides three default benchmarks:

  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Spring

These defaults were chosen because they reflect the periods when student skills often change and because teachers usually test their students at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year. You can also create up to twelve custom benchmarks for your classroom.

Note: You are limited to twelve custom benchmarks because students shouldn’t be tested more than once a month.

By clicking on the Benchmark tab, you can perform the following actions:

  • View all existing benchmarks
  • Add/delete non-default benchmarks
  • Enable or disable benchmarks

You can also view the benchmark’s current status:

  • Pending: the benchmark’s time period has not yet occurred
  • In Progress: students are currently testing during this benchmark
  • Expired: the benchmark’s time period has elapsed

 

2.5.1.Add or Delete Benchmarks #

If you do not want to use the default benchmarks, you may create your own instead. To add a benchmark:

  1. Visit the Benchmark tab, and click on +New.
  2. Fill in the new benchmark’s name and start/end dates.
  3. Click Save to confirm the new benchmark.

To delete a custom benchmark:

  1. Visit the Benchmark tab and select the benchmark(s) you want to delete.
  2. Click the Delete button.
  3. Select Yes when the Please Confirm window appears to permanently delete your benchmark.

Note: While you can delete your own benchmarks, you cannot delete the defaults.

 

2.5.2.Enable or Disable Benchmarks #

Enabling a benchmark allows you to assign students to that test period. To enable a benchmark:

  1. Visit the Benchmark tab.
  2. Check the Enable button to the right of the benchmark’s name.

To disable existing benchmarks, click the Enable button again to remove the check. While you can disable Pending benchmarks, you cannot disable In Progress or Expired ones.

3.Taking a WACS Test #

Once your students are ready to take their WACS assessment, use this section to guide them through the process.

3.1.Set Up a WACS Test #

Once you’ve assigned your students to a benchmark and initialized their accounts, they can begin the WACS test. To set up a WACS test for your student:

  1. Visit Students tab and click Drag to Desktop. This will open up to a student walk-up page similar to Waterford Early Learning, with rows of student picture or initials (if no picture is available).
  2. Click on the student’s picture or initials. A window will open that asks, “Is this you?”
  3. Choose Yes to confirm the student’s identity – this will automatically start WACS.

Note: Students must be initialized before they can take the test. If not, after confirming, the test will redirect them back until they have been initialized.

 

3.2.WACS Test Format #

WACS is hosted by Wyatt, an anthropomorphic marmot who tests student on literacy skills so they can “earn” a sheriff’s deputy badge. The test graphics have an overall Western theme.

Note: Wyatt is encouraging and does not tell the students their test score or whether they get an answer wrong. The only feedback he gives is positive encouragement.

Each student is tested on five to ten skill sets, based on grade level. Depending on their skill level, however, the student may see fewer sets.

Wyatt walks each student through a tutorial at the beginning of the test and before each assessment. After each tutorial, Wyatt allows the student to complete the section, then explains the next section.

At the end of the assessment, Wyatt “awards” student a deputy badge for completing the test, then the program shuts down. WACS records the student’s test score and assigns them to one of the following proficiency levels (low to high):

  • Deficient
  • Developing
  • Proficient
  • Advanced

Teachers can then view their students’ test scores and proficiency levels through the WACS Reports tab.

3.2.1.Test Adaptation Algorithm #

WACS adapts to each student’s needs by giving easier or harder questions, depending on whether the student answers the previous question correctly.

If the student gets a question wrong, the question lowers in difficulty until it is answered correctly. Once the student submits a correct answer, they are given a harder question or test section until WACS determines their literacy level.

Some pros of the WACS testing algorithm include:

  • Tests all students equally
  • Diagnoses literacy skills quickly
  • Provides precise data for high/low-scoring students
  • Reduces student frustration

3.3.Test Breaks #

If a student does not finish their test by the time limit, Wyatt tells them to take a break and the program temporarily shuts down. The student can access the program later  to finish the test, but they must complete it within 14 days.

If a student does not complete a test by day 14, it expires and their teacher cannot view their score. The student must be reassessed at a later benchmark.

Note: WACS only gives students 14 days to finish their tests because after that time, a student may have learned new literacy skills or seen external sources, so the test won’t be an accurate assignment.

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