ERIC Identifier: ED315434
Publication Date: 1989-02-00
Author: Bagin, Carolyn Boccella
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Tests Measurement and Evaluation Washington DC., American Institutes for
Research Washington DC.
Talking to Your Child's Teacher about Standardized Tests. ERIC
Digest No. 106.
Teachers learn about students by using a variety of methods. They assess
students by observing them in the classroom, evaluating their day-to-day classwork, grading their homework assignments, meeting with their parents, keeping close records of how they change or grow throughout the year, and administering tests.
Tests give teachers only part of the picture of your child's strengths and
weaknesses. Teachers combine the results of many methods to gain well-rounded
insights into the skills, abilities, and knowledge of your child.
This digest highlights one tool that teachers use--standardized tests. It
explains basic features of testing and suggests questions that you might ask
your child's teacher. By understanding the role of testing, you can help your
child succeed in school and can develop a better relationship among you, your
child, and your child's school.
WHAT ARE STANDARDIZED TESTS?
Standardized tests are
designed to give a common measure of students' performance. Since the same test
is given to large numbers of students throughout the country, a common yardstick
or "standard" of measure can be derived to tell evaluators whether school
programs are succeeding or to give them a picture of the skills and abilities of
Standardized tests are objective tests that are usually created by commercial
test publishers. Some names of standardized tests that you may be familiar with
include the California Achievement Tests (the CAT), the Stanford Achievement
Test (the SAT), the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (the ITBS), or the Stanford-Binet
Intelligence Scale, to name a few popular tests.
WHY DO SCHOOLS USE STANDARDIZED TESTS?
can help teachers and administrators make decisions. They help schools to
measure how students in a given class, school, or school system perform in
relation to other students who take the same test. Using the results from these
tests, teachers and administrators can evaluate the school system, a school
program, or a particular student.
Schools do not use standardized tests to label students as incapable of
learning, to place students in a grade or class, to give report card grades, or
to evaluate teachers.
HOW DO SCHOOLS USE STANDARDIZED TESTS?
Different types of
standardized tests have different purposes. Standardized achievement tests
measure how much students have already learned about a school subject. The
results from these tests can help teachers develop programs that suit students'
achievement levels in each subject area, such as reading, math, language skills,
spelling, or science.
Standardized aptitude tests measure students' abilities to learn in school --
how well students are likely to do in future school work. They do not measure
subjects taught in school, but rather they measure a broad range of abilities or
skills that are considered important to succeed in school. The results from
aptitude tests help teachers to plan instruction that is neither too hard nor
too easy for students. These tests can measure verbal ability, mechanical
ability, creativity, clerical ability, or abstract reasoning.
Remember that standardized tests have limitations. They are not the perfect
measure of what individual students can or cannot do. Paper tests cannot measure
everything that students learn. Also, your child's scores on a particular test
can vary from day to day and many factors can affect a particular score --
whether your child guesses, receives clear direction, follows the directions
carefully, is comfortable, and so forth.
HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR CHILD?
Here are a few tips to
Don't be overly anxious about test scores, but encourage your child to take
the test seriously.
Don't judge your child on the basis of a test score.
Talk to your child's teacher often to monitor your child's progress.
Ask your child's teacher to suggest regular activities that you could do to
help your child.
Make sure your child does his or her homework.
Make sure your child is well rested and eats a well-rounded diet.
Have a variety of books and magazines at home to encourage your child's
WHAT SHOULD YOU ASK YOUR CHILD'S TEACHER?
Which tests will be administered during the school year and for what
How will the teacher or the school use the results of the test?
What other means of evaluation will the teacher or the school use to measure
your child's performance?
Should your child practice taking tests?
After the test...
How do students in your child's school compare with students in other school
systems? across the country?
What do the test results mean about your child's skills and abilities?
Are the test results consistent with your child's performance in the
Are any changes anticipated in your child's educational program?
Are there things that you can do at home to help your child strengthen
WHERE CAN YOU GO FOR MORE INFORMATION?
highlights some important points about testing; it doesn't tell you all there is
to know about standardized tests and test results. For more detailed information
about testing, you may want to contact these organizations:
American Federation of Teachers
555 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20011
%ERIC Clearinghouse for Tests,
Measurement, and Evaluation
American Institutes for Research
3333 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007
%National Education Association
1201 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
%National Congress of Parents and Teachers
700 North Rush Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Anastasi, Anne. Psychological Testing. New York:
MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1982.
Herndon, Enid B. Your Child and Testing. Pueblo: Colorado: Consumer Information Center, October 1980.
Illinois State Board of Education. Assessment Handbook: A Guide for Assessing Illinois Students. 1988.
National School Public Relations Association. A Parent's Guide to Standardized Aptitude and Achievement Testing. Arlington,Virginia: NSPRA, 1978.
Weinstein, Claire E. et al. How to Help Your Children Achieve in School. Washington, DC: The National Institute of Education, March 1983.