As it is that time of year again,
I thought it would be helpful to
repost this item on Standardized Tests.
‘A test only measures what the test asks’
A parent generally shouldn’t be overly concerned about test results
unless the teacher is.
The teacher looks at the result in conjunction
with how the child has succeeded at their schoolwork
over a full year
and decide if it reflects reality or not.
Parents can do this too.
Looking back over completed workbooks and copybooks
may show that your child can be inconsistent.
Some days they may do excellent work and present their work beautifully
and on another they may not.
This is not unusual.
Children after all are children!
We wouldn’t have them any other way.
Some background information on standardized tests.
How do teachers prepare children for the test?
It is accepted as more that ‘good practice’
not to ‘teach to the test’.
In fact it is vital not to ‘teach to the test’
as doing so invalidates the test.
We teach the Maths and English curriculum
as laid down in the Irish curriculum.
We do not prepare the children
for the specific questions in the standardized tests.
If we did that would negate the ‘standardized’ aspect of them
and the results wouldn’t be authentic.
These results just show how a child performed
in one test with a set of questions
that they are not prepared for in any way,
The format may be unfamiliar.
Other aspects to consider
The test may be given in 2nd class
or in the Autumn Term of 3rd.
For that reason, some of the sums included
by the designers of this test
are from the 3rd class curriculum.
So this content,
included towards the end of the test
will be unfamiliar to students in 2nd class.
Some children will approach these more difficult questions
as problems to be solved and
with a ‘can do’ attitude may get some right.
Others can be somewhat perturbed by their unfamiliarity
and say ‘Teacher you never taught us how to do this!’
The timing of the tests
The English or Maths tests are completed in a day.
We are advised not to ‘test’ on a Monday or a Friday
or on a day after an event like ‘Sports Day’
or the day of the School Tour.
Children find the standardized tests challenging.
At 2nd class, one section of the English test is 40 minutes long
and the Maths test can take over an hour.
That’s a long time for a 7 or 8 year old to sit quietly,
– work independently,
– and to remain motivated.
While the teacher is there to supervise and ‘support’ the children,
the examinees do not get help or advice from the teacher.
Exams by their very nature are all too often an endurance test
as much as a test of knowledge and abilities.
Then there are ‘exam skills’.
These are still very much developing in Second Class.
Time management is one of these skills.
It is considered ‘good practice’
the teacher moves around the classroom during the test.
So, for example, if a child gets ‘stuck’
on one question they can be advised to
‘leave it until later and move on’.
On the other hand some children can be
inclined to rush and not understand the
importance of checking back over their work.
The standardized test results are a ‘snapshot’ on the day.
Perhaps a child is tired or distracted.
Maybe he or she does’t realise
the significance of the test
and doesn’t do their best.
Teachers walk a tightrope between
reminding the children to do their best yet
not cause children unnecessary worry.
An analysis of errors made
I was pleased with how the class did
in their tests.
I had an interesting time analysing errors,
particularly in the Sigma T Maths Test.
The children do the first two pages with direction from the teacher.
They are then given up to an hour to complete over forty questions.
Some children were up to me very quickly to say they had ‘finished’ the paper.
Still in 2nd class some children equate doing best with finishing first.
Coming up after even twenty minutes means that a child has given less than 30 seconds to
– reading a question,
– deciding what needs to be done,
– arriving at an answer
– and checking it is correct.
I can see from the exam papers
that some very simple mistakes were made by those in a hurry.
at one point the students are asked to count money.
Instead they counted the number of coins on the page.
Many of the sums had graphics to help the children.
I see from my analysis that some children
who were in a hurry simply miscounted.
Rushing also resulted in some questions not being answered.
I also noted children adding where they were asked to take away and visa versa.
In the end of the year reports,
results will be given in the form of STen scores.
(A system of scoring from 1-10)
Just a few simple mistakes like those described
and a child can drop a STen
Sometimes it can be a case of two or three more correct answers
and a Sten would go up.
If the child got a STen of 5 (average) last year
and a STen of 4 (below average) this year,
it can seem like the child is beginning to have difficulties
whereas the reality is,
if they hadn’t made two or three avoidable errors as I have described,
they would still be at a 5.
In accordance with a recent directive
from the Department of Education,
school reports will be going out before the school holidays.
The standardized test results will accompany the school reports.
I hope you have found this information useful.
‘There is nothing in a caterpillar
that tells you it is going to be a butterfly’ 🙂