That Time of Year Again: Information For Parents about 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 children 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 than ‘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 the students.

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,

– concentrate

– 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

a test of stamina 

as much as a test of knowledge and abilities.


Exam Skills

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’

that 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

are inclined to rush

and do not understand the

importance of checking back over their work.


The standardized test results

are a ‘snapshot’ on the day.

Perhaps a child was tired or distracted.

Maybe he or she didn’t realise the significance

of the test and so didn’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

It is useful for the teacher to analyse

why mistakes were made.

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 come up very quickly to say

they have ‘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.


Simple mistakes can be made by those in a hurry.

For example;

at one point the students are asked to count money.

Instead they are inclined to count

the number of coins on the page.


Many of the sums had graphics to help the children.

Children in a hurry, miscount and mix up signs;

adding instead of subtracting for example.


STen Scores

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

like those described,

they would still be at a 5.


Remember too, your child may be tired

after a morning of testing.

‘We Teach Individuals’ by Krissy.Venosdale, on Flickr

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