In a Nutshell Blog
Standardized Testing 101
Today is the start of testing week for Oakhill 3rd – 8th grade students. Although Oakhill does not philosophically “teach to the test,” the information gained from student standardized testing results are an instrumental tool in helping us assess areas in our curriculum that excel, or areas that may need improvement. The test results also give us a snapshot of student growth and performance at the time of testing. This year, Oakhill is administering the Comprehensive Testing Program (CTP), a rigorous assessment in the areas of listening, reading, vocabulary, writing, mathematics, science, verbal and quantitative reasoning. This is Oakhill's 3rd year taking this specific standardized test, which is the most common assessment given in independent schools. In the past, Oakhill has administered the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS). Overtime, we found that one of the main advantages in switching to the CTP is that the same company who designs the SAT, ACT, and high school Advanced Placement tests also created the CTP. Student exposure to the CTP now, is great preparation for future testing.
Students take the CTP test online, unlike the pencil and booklet bubble tests that many of us grew up taking. However, in an age where classrooms are largely free of physical textbooks and the proliferation of tablet computing, the use of web solutions for standardized testing is far from unfamiliar territory for our students. Prior to testing, students have the opportunity to complete practice tests to ensure that they are not only familiar with the flow of the test itself, but it also gives them the chance to adapt to the online testing environment. Pre-testing is a great opportunity to explore test taking techniques with the students. Simple test taking tips like not leaving questions blank and instruction on how to go back and complete any questions that they are unsure of is covered. Students have ample time to complete each subtest.
The most important piece for you to understand as parents is that standardized tests are just one snapshot of your child’s knowledge. Ultimately, your child’s success in a given year comes down to their overall body of work in the classroom throughout the school year, not their standardized test results. Daily progress in school may actually portray the child’s study skills and retention of academic areas more accurately than testing scores, which outside variables like time of day and testing anxiety can skew.
The best recommendations we can give to make this week smooth and worry free for your children are:
- See that your child gets a good night’s sleep each day
- Make sure your child eats a simple healthy breakfast
- Be cognizant of tardiness and make sure your child attends school each day of testing
- If your child expresses anxiety about taking the test, discuss the cause of their feelings
- Assure them that their teachers, and you, just want them to do their best
Remember, as students get older, they become more proficient at test taking. Younger students are still adjusting to testing procedures, an important factor for parents to keep in mind when assessing results.
In an effort to ensure that Oakhill parents have a complete picture of their child’s progress, we mail test results to families over the summer. Sometimes the results are hard to interpret and sometimes it is not always clear how a child’s performance fairs from one year to the next. We always welcome and encourage parents to make an appointment with an administrator, either the Head of Lower School or Head of Middle School, to help interpret student scores so that parents have the clearest understanding of what their test outcomes really mean.
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