Introduction to the Waterford Assessment of Core Skills (WACS)

The Waterford Assessment of Core 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.

WACS Initial Testing and Comparison to Other Tests

WACS was initially tested on 8,700 students from 26 schools of varying socioeconomic levels. Students answered randomly generated questions from the program. 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)

WACS Testing Format

WACS is hosted by Wyatt, an anthropomorphic cowboy-themed marmot who tests student on literacy skills so they can “earn” a sheriff’s deputy badge.

Wyatt is encouraging and does not tell the students their test score or whether they get an answer wrong.

Each student is tested on three to ten skill sets, based on grade level.

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.

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 until WACS determines their literacy level. The student's next test section will be determined based on their performance on the previous section.

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

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
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.

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