Students enrolled in the MPHSAP are not required to take standardized tests (Iowa Assessments). However, if the parents wish to test, it is provided to students at no cost. These tests are offered each year in October and advance September registration is required. The results are given only to the parents.
What is a Standardized Test? A standardized test such as Iowa Assessments (formerly ITBS) is an assessment of learning development in the areas of reading comprehension, spelling, language mechanics and usage, vocabulary, sources of information, mathematics, social studies, science, and usage of maps and diagrams. In the development of the test, students nationwide took the same test at the same time of year. An average score from this sample testing group determined the “standard” or “average” score for children at that particular grade and time of year. Students in the same grade who take the test thereafter are assessed according to the average of that sample group – called a “norm reference”. If the test is taken in the fall, the sample group also took the test in the fall. If it is taken in the spring, this sample group also took the test in the spring.
Why should I test my child? Some parents choose to use standardized testing in order to get a picture of how their student is doing in each academic area compared to other students in their grade throughout the nation. Results can show parents the strengths and weaknesses in their children’s academic learning. It can help with goal setting for learning emphasis during their academic year.
What to be careful about in evaluating testing: Standardized tests were developed for public schools, where a standardized curriculum is taught in a specific grade. Testing is an efficient way to find out what a large group of students knows. Tests are scored by comparing them to what the average children of the same age and grade scored when the test was created. A 79%ile ranking does NOT mean that the child answered 79% of the questions correctly, but rather that they did as well or better than 79% of the other children taking the test. A grade ranking is also given for that percentile score. (For example, a 3rd grader may have gotten a 99%ile score in mathematics. He or she would receive a national grade equivalency of 6th grade-fifth month.) That does not mean that he/she knows as much as a 6th grader. It simply means that he/she answered as many questions correctly on the test taken as a 6th grader would have – taking the same test.
Standardized tests cannot measure creativity, one’s accomplishments, or knowledge learned not addressed in the tests. A low score may not mean your child is “behind”. The child may have been taught a different way than the test, or could have been learning different things. High scores do not indicate whether the child can apply the knowledge. Standardized tests do not take into account learning styles, other than visual. Scores can be hindered by time restrictions that limit the number of questions a child may have time to answer; not all children work at the same pace. (However, the norm group used for the scoring, also faced those same issues.)
How can I prepare my child for the testing experience? Parents and children alike can feel anxious about testing. Consider the following in preparing for tests:
1. Use preparatory material (i.e. “Scoring High”). However, teaching to the test can become a distracted goal and is not a true picture of learning.
2. Practice timed reading, math, etc., at home.
3. Be sure your child is well-rested and has had a nutritious breakfast.
4. Provide a high protein snack for break time.
5. Discuss test-taking strategies with your children; as well as any concerns they may have.
6. Let your children become familiar with the building and room they will test in ahead of time.
Are there other forms of assessment available? Both informal and standardized individual testing is available to parents for their students. Talk with your supervising teacher about your concerns and what it is you wish to evaluate. They can help you to determine the best way to gather the information you are wishing to obtain through assessment.