Author Topic: Standardized Testing Woes  (Read 1711 times)

sjc0816

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 186
Standardized Testing Woes
« on: November 14, 2017, 07:04:52 PM »
I just got home from my 6th grader's conference at school. He got straight A's.....glowing report. He's not a gifted student by any means but he is very motivated to do well in school and works really hard. The problem is, in math specifically, his standardized test scores do not mirror his grades at school. His state testing last year had him around the 66th percentile and his recent math benchmark scored him below the fall benchmark for proficiency. It's crazy. His last two math tests were 100%'s. He's not struggling so I don't know what to make of these scores.

I'm not a huge fan of standardized testing in general but these are data points they will use for his placement next year in junior high.....so it does matter.

I really respect opinions on this forum so I wanted to get some advice or opinions. Should we not care? I want to help him without making him feel like it's really important (I don't even know if it is).

ixtap

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 721
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2017, 07:09:31 PM »
Math is an odd one to have trouble with standardized tests. Perhaps he can't do the math quite fast enough?

Anyway, you can probably fight the placement by showing his course grades, with the support of the instructor. This is precisely why kids with involved parents do better at school; they have am advocate.

Psychstache

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 623
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2017, 07:12:12 PM »
What state are you in? What kind of placement decisions could his results affect?

Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk


sjc0816

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 186
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2017, 07:21:23 PM »
Placement in advanced math next year. He will take two more benchmark tests this year and another round of state (Iowa Assessments) in the spring.

Somehow I think he's making careless errors from either rushing or having anxiety related to these types of tests. But he does exceptional on his quizzes and tests in the classroom so I just don't understand.

Then I wonder if he's missing some concepts and maybe these tests are exposing that? Perplexing.

middo

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 53
  • Location: Country Western Australia
  • Learning.
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2017, 07:28:16 PM »
Can you check to see what the curriculum is for the standarised testing and also for the school?  I can think of two reasons for his results:

1. The school is not teaching the appropriate content/level and reporting on what you child does against a different benchmark to the standardised tests.

2. Anxiety.  Very common.  Is he aware that how he performs matters?  Maybe reduce that anxiety by letting him know you love him regardless of how he does.  Let him know that you just want him to do his best, and not worry about doing better or worse than others.  Long term, effort always beats "brains".

formerlydivorcedmom

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 206
  • Location: Texas
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2017, 10:27:36 AM »
Does your state offer a detailed breakdown of the test results?  In Texas, I can see how many questions my daughter missed among each of the (broad) concepts they are testing on the annual test.  At the very least, the teacher should be able to see this for the benchmarks and should be able to tell you if there is a particular concept that he's struggling with.

Talk to your kid.  I discovered my daughter was having an internal competition to see how fast she could finish the test.  This led to errors because she was working too fast. On the next benchmark, she second-guessed herself and missed a bunch because she changed her answers multiple times.  She's finally in a groove where her knowledge is showing.

Boldly leading a blended family into (future) financial independence

sjc0816

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 186
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2017, 11:01:04 AM »
I'm going to talk to him more about it. Last night, he was extremely down about the score. Today, I emailed the teacher to get his specific results and it honestly is BAFFLING to me how he scored so low. There wasn't one specific area of struggle....it looks like he struggled here and there across the board. He was in the 14th percentile for his grade. He just finished the trimester with a 96% in math. Additionally, they just took a unit pre-test on material they haven't seen in over a year and he scored in the top 5 of 26 kids. So, we're just confused and concerned.

I asked his teacher if there is any possibility he can take the test again. Not for the score (don't care about that)....but to see if there are actual problems here or if it's a test-taking issue....etc.

TrMama

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2065
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2017, 11:05:40 AM »
I'd ask for copies of both his classroom tests and the standardized tests. Look them over to see where he's making mistakes. It should be pretty clear to you which concepts he's having trouble with. You'll also be able to see if the teacher is teaching the same material that's being covered on the standard tests. Obviously, if the teacher isn't covering everything that's being tested on the standard test, then your son won't be able to do those parts.

For the anxiety piece, I always tell my kids these tests are actually a test of their teacher's teaching ability. I know this isn't 100% correct everywhere, but here the standard tests are used to rank schools, not individual students. The teacher's union here despises the standard tests and encourages parents (and students) to refuse to take the tests. My anxious kids hear the propaganda and assume the test is going to be AWFUL and their world will end if they don't do well. I make them take it specifically so they can see that the sky doesn't fall the day after test day.

sjc0816

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 186
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2017, 11:38:06 AM »
I've seen all of his math tests from school. They were 100%, 100%, 97%, 94%....and the few mistakes he made were careless errors. Never a mastery issue.  His teacher said that she doesn't get a copy of this aMath assessment, only the score breakdown....so we can't look at the questions/answers to deduce anything. Which is frustrating.

TrMama

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2065
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2017, 12:02:57 PM »
I've seen all of his math tests from school. They were 100%, 100%, 97%, 94%....and the few mistakes he made were careless errors. Never a mastery issue.  His teacher said that she doesn't get a copy of this aMath assessment, only the score breakdown....so we can't look at the questions/answers to deduce anything. Which is frustrating.

Run it up the chain. If the teacher can't get it for you, find out who can and push them for the info.

MightyAl

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 121
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2017, 12:18:57 PM »
It is rare for standardized test questions to be available for review.  The whole standardized test thing is a racket but I doubt even the principal could get the questions or the exact results. 

There should be some sample exams somewhere that you could try.  It sounds like the specific questions aren't the problem but maybe your kid isn't used to the style of the exam.  Especially since they usually emphasize the time limit when in class tests are usually the same time limit but not as stringent.

Psychstache

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 623
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2017, 12:40:15 PM »
It is rare for standardized test questions to be available for review.  The whole standardized test thing is a racket but I doubt even the principal could get the questions or the exact results. 

There should be some sample exams somewhere that you could try.  It sounds like the specific questions aren't the problem but maybe your kid isn't used to the style of the exam.  Especially since they usually emphasize the time limit when in class tests are usually the same time limit but not as stringent.

Agreed. I've worked in test security for a district and releasing current simulation or actual testing material is a huge no-no.

I would check out the state education agency website for past year release tests. Our state releases old tests after 1-2 years for public consumption. In our state, actual math skills aren't as important to doing well on the test, you need to know how to read the questions and not fall into the traps they build into the way they word questions.

sjc0816

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 186
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2017, 12:59:56 PM »
These tests are relatively new and are in addition to our annual state testing (Iowa Assessments). It's called aMath testing from Fastbridge Learning. The "a" stands for adaptive....so the computerized test adapts to the skills of each student. My understanding is, if you miss a question, the next question is "easier" but now your ability level is considered lower. This test is given three times a year and is only 30 questions (to measure 68 "skills" - I counted on the report).

I'm not sure how they can base someone's math skills off of 30 questions.....and then measure against everyone else even though all of the tests are different. But the reality is, he was in the 14th percentile so everyone managed to do better than he did.

trollwithamustache

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 315
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2017, 01:28:27 PM »
Its actually good that you figured this out now.

Thing 1: Each standardized test is its own thing. Its different from schoolwork, real world work, previous test and the next silly test they will make you take.  So you must treat it as its own thing. The standardized math test is not the same format as in class quizzes.

Thing 2: Many teachers aren't really good at standardized tests or they don't seem to know what they test.  For example they seem to think since they taught the kids a bunch of vocabulary words the kids will test well if they really learned it. Whereas the test may really test your ability to answer questions in that test environment.

Thing 3: in light of 1 and 2, each time you take a new test you should view it like the first time you rode a bicycle. Potentially it was a hot mess, but that doesn't mean you now can't get anywhere around time super easy (while being super cost effective, which is a secret advantage in life)

That means you guys have to figure out together how learn this skill of standardized test taking. For whatever the test you need some practice books and  materials to start experimenting together on learning this skill.

 My biggest problem is I wear glasses and when I get tired I can flip lines on scan-tron type stuff. Our oldest just got too damn nervous and needed to learn how to calm down. The next one was an over thinker and just spent too much time wondering about alternative answers that weren't listed.. he just kept running out of time and could tell us 5 reasons why this or that question was stupid. None of this was addressed group-wide at school.

 

FIFoFum

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 916
    • Captain's Log - Mission to Puppy Waystation on Puppy Island
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2017, 01:59:50 PM »
I agree that this could be a whole bunch of things related to standardized tests or test-taking skills or anxiety.

I also want to raise the possibility that the standardized test more accurately reflects your kid's current math ability than the A's in 6th grade classes. You mention that he works hard and is a good student. These are very important things!

It seems like you are trying to "fix" or "explain" the fact that the test placed your son as not sufficiently proficient (or in the 14th percentile), when the reality may be that the class curriculum and class tests really may not be rigorous enough. This is nice for getting good grades in middle school, but it will catch up to your son when he gets to more challenging math in the future. To me, it's worth looking into the content being tested to see what's actually being taught and tested.

The good news is that kids do better when we encourage them to have a growth mindset, rather than a fixed one. It's better not to suggest that your son is good or bad at math or at testing. He tries hard and works hard and is rewarded in school for that. Those are the qualities you want to focus on. I think it's important to explain to him that he can work hard to get better at both math and tests, no matter where he is starting at.
Ask me about my puppy pics!

sjc0816

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 186
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2017, 02:13:55 PM »
The percentiles are based off of the other kids in 6th grade - they are all learning the same math concepts.
I agree that this could be a whole bunch of things related to standardized tests or test-taking skills or anxiety.

I also want to raise the possibility that the standardized test more accurately reflects your kid's current math ability than the A's in 6th grade classes. You mention that he works hard and is a good student. These are very important things!

It seems like you are trying to "fix" or "explain" the fact that the test placed your son as not sufficiently proficient (or in the 14th percentile), when the reality may be that the class curriculum and class tests really may not be rigorous enough. This is nice for getting good grades in middle school, but it will catch up to your son when he gets to more challenging math in the future. To me, it's worth looking into the content being tested to see what's actually being taught and tested.

The good news is that kids do better when we encourage them to have a growth mindset, rather than a fixed one. It's better not to suggest that your son is good or bad at math or at testing. He tries hard and works hard and is rewarded in school for that. Those are the qualities you want to focus on. I think it's important to explain to him that he can work hard to get better at both math and tests, no matter where he is starting at.


The percentile score is against the other 6th graders in his school. They are all learning the same curriculum. If my son is regularly in the top 5% of math quizzes and tests in class, and they are all learning the same curriculum, then how would 86% of the students score better than him on the standardized test? I'm genuinely confused.

One of the concepts that he did poorly on, for example, was multiplication and division of decimals. He just took a pre-test on this last week and was the 5th highest score in his class. Same exact concepts.

I'm not trying to make excuses....and we don't use the words "good" or "bad" at anything.  But we DO want to help him.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2017, 02:15:44 PM by sjc0816 »

moof

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 398
  • Location: Beaver Town Orygun
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2017, 02:23:18 PM »
If it is just standardized tests, the better question is whether only OK performance (66 percentile means he is better than 2/3 of kids like him) will derail him.  My guess is your are freaking out over the perceived judgement more than the actual ramifications.

sjc0816

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 186
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2017, 02:24:49 PM »
His score was the 14th percentile. So it's extremely low compared to everything else he's ever done. This is why I'm uneasy.

spookytaffy

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 29
  • Age: 54
  • Location: Illinois
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2017, 02:26:36 PM »
I work in the schools and one of the elementary schools in my district uses FastBridge.  It sounds like they are using it for benchmarking since you said 3 times a year. That's pretty standard.  When they benchmark it's to see which kids are considered "at risk" for not doing well or to identify any students that may need interventions to keep them from going into a special education program.  If your child is not doing well on the benchmark assessment, but is doing fine in the general curriculum, there shouldn't be a problem.  Any school that knows how to REALLY use the benchmark assessments knows they are supposed to take all the information they have about the students into consideration when making future decisions.  No school should be using one set of 3 data points across a school year to determine where a child should be placed. 

If they truly believe your child is at risk for math failure, they should be implementing some interventions in math to be sure he is understanding the concepts.  Given his high math grades, I wouldn't see why they would go forward with doing interventions.  So, if they haven't discussed doing math interventions and having concerns for his math ability, I wouldn't worry about it.  However, if they truly use these few data points for placement into future math programming, I'd be talking with administration or the school board and discuss proper use of data.

In my job as a school psychologist, I use benchmark data to help identify students who may need further academic support.  If the classroom teacher also says the student is struggling and work samples show similar need, we put a program into place to help the student be more successful through an individualized intervention in the identified area.  If the student has low benchmark scores but the teacher has no problems and the student's grades are good; then we just monitor to be sure the student maintains the strong grades and doesn't fall through the cracks and get missed in the future.

mousebandit

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 285
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2017, 02:46:36 PM »
I would second the suggestion to go get copies of prior years tests.  I would go so far as to create a practice test, as an exact duplicate of a prior years fall 6th grade test.  Administer and grade that yourself, and see how he does, and if there any shortcomings, you can see exactly where, and work with him in the evenings to master those concepts and computations. 

I am not too familiar with computerized adaptive tests.  The idea of being immediately graded on each question, and the balance of the exam then being adjusted to that answer, spooks me.  It removes the "second look" opportunity, which is not only valuable for correcting errors, it's an extremely important habit to form, IMO.  It also sounds like it could lock you into a lower score based on a single error.

As far as his placement next year, I would take it upon myself to work with him in the evenings, to try and bring the standardized score up in spring.  If you feel certain he is ready for the higher level math class next year, I would absolutely advocate with the math teacher and principal to ensure he gets placed appropriately. 

trollwithamustache

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 315
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #20 on: November 15, 2017, 04:08:29 PM »

I am not too familiar with computerized adaptive tests.  The idea of being immediately graded on each question, and the balance of the exam then being adjusted to that answer, spooks me.  It removes the "second look" opportunity, which is not only valuable for correcting errors, it's an extremely important habit to form, IMO.  It also sounds like it could lock you into a lower score based on a single error.
 

This is why you have to prepare for the test you are taking. Adaptive tests CHANGE your time management strategy. You really need to take your time and double check everything about the first 5 or so questions. Typically the first one is easy and then they rapidly get harder until you get one wrong and this sets your score range. Later in the test you need to speed up to answer everything if its a test you are penalized for not answering everything. (not every test has this penalty).  However, many teachers will tell you to pace yourself at the same pace and answer all the questions, which likely should not be your priority.

This SLOW, then slower/most careful then later faster pace has nothing to do with how you test quizzes ect in class.


ixtap

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 721
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #21 on: November 15, 2017, 04:25:05 PM »
Grab one of the math quizzes he did well on a couple of months ago. Present him with the same kinds of problems. How does he do?

Sometimes students can do well on a specific task that they just learned, but cannot necessarily recreate success with the same skill out of context.

Prairie Stash

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1115
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #22 on: November 17, 2017, 10:27:30 AM »
Grab one of the math quizzes he did well on a couple of months ago. Present him with the same kinds of problems. How does he do?

Sometimes students can do well on a specific task that they just learned, but cannot necessarily recreate success with the same skill out of context.
Some kids are extremely adept at pitching for tests. They learn material, write the test, forget the material. I use to excel at doing just that, great short term memories but I was failing to create long term memories. Classroom tests are generally based on short term memories, Standardized tests are testing the long term.

I also wrote departmental tests in High School and you could clearly see in which schools were under performers in University, kids with higher grades getting poor results. Standardized testing picks up these trends earlier on, so you can actually work on it, before its too late. Look at the tests as a blessing, you learned something extremely valuable that may be important later on when schools are charging tuition.

atx

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 1
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #23 on: November 20, 2017, 12:46:48 AM »
Was the test itself on a computer? Was the format the same as what he's used to in class? When I was 16 I failed my drivers exam at the DMV which was on a computer - for some reason I couldn't get the hang of it despite doing well on all my practice tests at drivers ed which were on paper. The next day I went back and requested the paper test, and got a 100. I wonder if just the format could've thrown him off.

goatmom

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 263
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #24 on: November 20, 2017, 05:55:16 AM »
Wow - that sounds very frustrating.  How were his standardized test scores in previous years?  How about in subjects other than math?  If it was a one time thing that is different than an ongoing problem.  I know my son did terribly on some standardized testing and when questioned told me he just filled in the blanks because "it didn't really matter."  Huh? It was when they first started doing common core testing and half the class was opting out and he got the idea that it really wasn't worth his time to even read the questions.  You might consider getting educational testing done if you have the resources.  Here - the schools don't really do it so it is about $1000 out of pocket but can be very helpful to know exactly if there are issues. 

sjc0816

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 186
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #25 on: November 20, 2017, 01:59:11 PM »
Was the test itself on a computer? Was the format the same as what he's used to in class? When I was 16 I failed my drivers exam at the DMV which was on a computer - for some reason I couldn't get the hang of it despite doing well on all my practice tests at drivers ed which were on paper. The next day I went back and requested the paper test, and got a 100. I wonder if just the format could've thrown him off.

This test was computerized and they've never taken a standardized math test on the computer before....so it may just take some getting used to for him. They take the Iowa Assessments every spring and he tests consistently around the 70th percentile in Math (90's in everything else). Still lower than his A's in math would lead you to expect....but he is always WELL above proficient.

I just had a conversation with his teacher this morning (she is absolutely wonderful)....and she has been communicating with the district folks regarding this test. Together, they found a similar format test that he can take up to five times this year just for practice. She said it will help us to get a clearer picture on whether or not he is lacking skills while at the same time, getting him familiarized with this type of test and some extra practice before the next benchmark this winter. So, I'm incredibly grateful for her!

Dee18

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1298
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #26 on: November 20, 2017, 05:07:24 PM »
I would have your son do math from Khan Academy (pretty sure it's free online) for a couple months. And do some more practice timed testing.  A standardized test is usually much harder than an in class test because a wider array of concepts is being tested at once.

Nudelkopf

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 868
  • Age: 26
  • Location: Australia
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #27 on: November 25, 2017, 05:31:36 PM »
I'm a maths teacher, with a degree in pure math.

 Some kids do really well with explicit instruction - i.e. they're taught the math, they learn the math, & have no trouble regurgitating it on the exam. Which is fine - that's how about half my kids get through maths. To them, that is maths. This sounds like your son.

Other kids can get by without explicit instruction. These kids are more problem solvers. They 'get' it sometimes without being explicitly taught that type of question. They can connect different parts of maths together. They tend to do well on those random tests.

I was the 1st kind of math person for a long time - if you taught me the math, i would get it right 100% of the time. I hated standardised tests & always got low marks. It wasn't until I was about 16 yrs old that I started to become the other type - the type who can put it all together by myself.

Given your kid is thetype who [probably] thrives under explicit instruction, then he needs to be explicitly taught the topics & types of questions & format of your standardized test. Can you give him practice booklets? Or I like the suggestion of Khan academy. He needs to be exposed to math other than what his teacher teaches him in the classroo.

LiveLean

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 614
  • Location: Central Florida
    • ToLiveLean
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #28 on: November 27, 2017, 08:29:25 AM »
Here in Florida, we lead the nation in standardized test insanity, which has done nothing to improve our lackluster public education system, which ranks among the worst in the USA.

But we decided to embrace the insanity. Our sons (7th and 9th grade) have been involved in gifted programs that have allowed them to start taking the SAT and ACT starting in 6th grade. Sometimes it's an 8th grade-level version, but often it's the same one as the high schoolers. Our 12-year-old 7th grader will be taking the SAT with the high schoolers on Saturday.

As a result, our guys have no anxiety about taking standardized tests and I wouldn't be surprised if they do very well when they start taking them for real in a few years.
Living lean at www.tolivelean.com

Liberty Stache

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 673
  • Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #29 on: November 28, 2017, 12:57:15 PM »

I am not too familiar with computerized adaptive tests.  The idea of being immediately graded on each question, and the balance of the exam then being adjusted to that answer, spooks me.  It removes the "second look" opportunity, which is not only valuable for correcting errors, it's an extremely important habit to form, IMO.  It also sounds like it could lock you into a lower score based on a single error.
 

This is why you have to prepare for the test you are taking. Adaptive tests CHANGE your time management strategy. You really need to take your time and double check everything about the first 5 or so questions. Typically the first one is easy and then they rapidly get harder until you get one wrong and this sets your score range. Later in the test you need to speed up to answer everything if its a test you are penalized for not answering everything. (not every test has this penalty).  However, many teachers will tell you to pace yourself at the same pace and answer all the questions, which likely should not be your priority.

This SLOW, then slower/most careful then later faster pace has nothing to do with how you test quizzes ect in class.

This is great advice. It's how I scored very high on the GMATs which is also an adaptive test. Focus / take your time on the first few questions as the are by far and away the most important. Once you get 1 or 2 wrong in the first 3-5 questions, you are effectively screwed as can't get back into the 'tough/highly rated' question path.
"Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor wears, while the used key is always bright" ~Benjamin Franklin, The Way to Wealth

Trifele

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 707
  • Location: US
Re: Standardized Testing Woes
« Reply #30 on: December 02, 2017, 05:33:47 AM »
Hi there
Late to the conversation, but just wanted to say I agree that the testing format could be the issue (computer based, adaptive) and that practice may take care of this issue.
Another factor could also be your son's innate 'processing speed.'  If the test is not only evaluating mastery but also speed, that could explain the results.  Our daughter is gifted in math and has rock-solid mastery, but her processing speed is slower than average.  There are one or two sections on the Iowa tests that bake in the speed factor, and her scores are always lower on those sections.  The first time we saw her test results (wild swings from 99th percentile to 30th percentile) we were puzzled, but then once we understood the speed factor it made sense.