Thursday, November 3, 2011

Standardized Testing

I printed out some standardized tests - free CAT released tests for 3rd grade.
Just want to make sure that we're getting the basics covered.
Since my son is ESL, I thought he'd have a hard time with the Lang. Arts Test.
He scored 80%. Of course I didn't have a curve to consider.
Our confidence was high, and I was sure that we were on track.

I thought he'd do great on the Math test, our next test.
He spent 2hrs on the standard 90+ questions,
and didn't even get half way through.
I think it was a mistake to do it in the afternoon,
so today he's trying in the morning.

Apparently he's like me in that if we learn content in one format
(a yellow workbook with the problems numbered from top to bottom),
and the format changes
(to a pink workbook with the problems numbered from left to right),
we panic.

I checked his answers from the half of the test he did yesterday.
66%. He was so frustrated. I was so frustrated.
Testing sucks.
I hope today goes better.

We were both on the verge of tears about twenty minutes ago.
I apologized for getting frustrated. I know he knows how to do this.
He just needs to look at it with a clear mind, and try not to panic.
I know how he feels.
So much information in an unfamiliar format is overwhelming.

Take a deep breath together.
Leave him to it.
We're both calmer.

10 minutes later, he yells out "Woo-hoo, only 35 more to go!"

So, yes, testing is painful. I question its worth. Mostly I do it because I think test-taking in itself is a skill that needs to be developed, in the case that my son ever choose an academic path. But I tread with caution, as I don't want to break his motivation or hurt his love for learning. So we talk a lot about why we take tests, who writes the tests, what they mean and what their objective is. I explained that they are standards of a system that we don't believe in, and that we use them (like spies), just to make sure that we can make our way around the system, but can also jump in when we want or need.


  1. I teach test taking skills for standardized tests in the's all about the approach, not the content. Since your son is used to working top to bottom, he can work *IN THE TEST BOOKLET* from top to bottom. Have him do an entire page *BEFORE* transferring his answers to the score sheet. That way it won't matter if he does problem 8 first, or problem 6, as long as he does the whole page, and then transfers all of the answers all at one time. Does that make sense? Or, have him skip around the page and start with the easiest problems first. The key is that he transfer the answers in the right order - it doesn't matter at all what order he does the problems in. My son and my tutoring kids all have a hard time with that idea's hard to break out of doing things in numerical order, ya know?

    I'm sure you know all of that though. :)

  2. I'd love to pick your brain about standardized tests Malea.

    Do you (or anyone else reading) know where I can find out how to translate right answers/total questions? I know the percentile thing is hard to work out. Is there a website I could go to or something?

  3. :) Funny becuase I probably wrote and deleted four or five replies. LOL! I was starting to write a novel instead of a quick note. :)

    I don't know about the answer to the right answers/total questions issue. It seems like there are so many different rubrics, raw scores vs. total/whole scores, etc. Honestly, I don't even worry about it. I tell my son just do the best he can, and that as long as he can show me through his daily work that he understands, then I am fine with whatever he gets on the standardized test. I figure these tests are far less about assessing a student's knowledge or critical thinking, and far more about testing how well a student takes tests. LOL! :)