Resources to Understand Your State’s Standardized Testing Practices

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 State standardized tests often seem like a daunting subject to tackle at first. With so much at stake, parents may feel overwhelmed with what these tests are in the first place and how they can help their children become successful later. Fortunately, there are many resources to search through when parents need more information on standardized tests.

What is a Standardized Test and Why is it Important?

Standardized tests are tests which require all participating students in a grade level to answer questions from one common source, such as a question bank. This type of testing allows test administrators and teachers to determine individual student performance, develop or redevelop classroom teaching, and compare school performance.

These tests are important because the scores for standardized tests will follow students throughout their school careers, as teachers and administrators will refer to them as individuals and as whole classes until they graduate.

Students will get their first look at the standardized tests offered by their schools in 3rd grade. By the time they take their last test, usually in 8th or 11thgrade, they will be well-versed in taking these tests.

While not every state offers the same test, most states’ standardized testing practices are aligned with the same goals. This means there are many similarities for when and how students take these tests. Parents can expect to start receiving information about standardized testing as early as December for testing which will occur between January and May. Half of the states offer either the following tests.

  • Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium assessment (SBAC)
  • Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessment (PARCC)
  • ACT Aspire assessment

The other half offer state-engineered standardized assessments.  For example, Ohio partnered with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to create their assessment. All of these standardized tests assess students abilities in math and English.

What Resources do States Provide Parents for Standardized Tests?

A department of education’s responsibility is to provide parents, teachers, and students with the information they need to be successful at school. For parents, it is particularly important to have a source of information on everything from learning standards to gifted education to standardized test prep.

Learning standards can influence a teacher’s lesson plans from the beginning of the year to how they make adjustments throughout, as well as how teachers assign homework, and determine their students’ level of performance from year to year. Parents can then use this publicly provided information to determine how their students or schools have performed, what items students were tested on, and how administrators made changes based on student performance.

The department of education provides practice tests, test dates, and scoring guidelines. If a practice test is not available directly from the department of education, then parents should check local school websites. Teachers will often provide excellent materials for tests, homework, or other subjects.

The practice tests for most states are easily accessible.

  • Parents can see the practice test for the ACT Aspire if they live in Alabama, Arkansas, or South Carolina.
  • If parents in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, or West Virginia need the practice test for the SBAC they can check out the website.
  • Practice tests for the PARCC are readily available for parents who live in, Colorado, the District of Colombia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, or Rhode Island.

The other states have individual state tests which may or may not be based on the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). These states have developed their own assessments, and therefore, provide their own information and practice tests.

  • Alaska has the Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP), Arizona uses the AZMerit, and Florida students take the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA).

How can I Help my Student Succeed at Standardized Tests?

There are many things that parents can do to help their students prepare for and succeed on a standardized test, including utilizing MathWizard’s standardized test prep material. Knowing the topics on which they will be tested, keeping up to date on the testing schedules, and making sure students have practice opportunities are also important strategies for successful testing.

Testing windows will vary for standardized tests, so parents should reach out to their students’ teachers for more information on end of year testing dates, which could occur anywhere from January to May.

Although the specific test questions, reading passages, and level of complexity will vary for each grade for students taking a standardized test, there will be some similarities. For instance, students taking the English portion of the tests will be asked to compare and contrast, to provide evidence as part of written responses, and to both persuade and explain. Similarly, students taking the math portion must demonstrate the ability to solve problems by explaining the steps to a solution, model with numbers or graphs and charts, determine when or if tools (such as graphing paper or calculators) are needed, and use precision with words such as units of measurement.

For students who lack confidence or ability with these two subjects, parents can help by providing them with additional training at home, requesting tutoring from school, or finding standardized test prep opportunities through education enrichment programs. Any good practice for a standardized test consists of the ability to practice with relevant materials and technology, as well as introduction to testing tips, which can streamline a student’s ability to test efficiently.

What resources have you used to help your student with standardized testing?

Author: Nicole Acevedo, Program Manager at MathWizard, Inc.

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