As we approach the months of March and April you will find many of our students taking part in assessments. Certainly testing is not new in school, however it may be helpful for you as a parent to know more about the tests students at Madison Elementary School are taking. There are “standards-based”, “norm-referenced”, and “classroom” tests.
States and school districts develop standards-based tests to measure student and school progress toward reaching state content standards. State (or district) standards are a written description—usually by grade level—of what students are expected to know in major subject areas. Students across the state or district take the test and the results are used to create a series of proficiency levels linked to the state standards. For example, KS State Assessments have the levels of Exemplary, Exceeds Standards, Meets Standards, Approaches Standard, or Academic Warning. In general, the more questions a student answers correctly,
the higher the proficiency level reached. Results are provided to teachers, schools, and parents
and may be used to determine how well a school or teacher is providing instruction on standards, as well whether or not a student is mastering grade level standards. Students in third and fourth grade at Madison Elementary School participate in KS State Assessments.
Many states or school districts include a national norm-referenced test as a part of their assessment programs. These tests are not designed as measures of any specific curriculum or instructional program. Results from norm-referenced tests compare a student's achievement with that of a national sample of similar students. At Madison Elementary, each student participates in the DIBELs (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy) at least three times a year. In addition, the DIBELs is used as a progress monitoring tool, to determine if a student is making progress towards reaching the grade level benchmarks in the area of reading. Teachers may also give students the Fountas & Pinnell Reading Assessment to gain further knowledge on a child’s overall reading skills.
We’re all familiar with basic classroom tests from our own school experience. Classroom test formats may include multiple-choice, true/false, short answer, essay, performance, displays or exhibits, and even computer administered tests. Classroom test results allow students to get ongoing feedback about their own progress and can inform teachers about additional instruction students may need. Teachers often use classroom test results during parent/teacher conferences as evidence of strengths, areas needing improvement, and progress. Classroom tests are important components of student evaluations, but they are only one means of assessment—a more complete picture includes teacher observation of a student’s classroom participation, student performance on assignments, portfolios, and many other assessment strategies that experienced teachers employ.
What Should A Parent Know
• Approach test scores with the general awareness that when tests are used for their designed purposes, they can be very helpful and reliable. At the same time, remember that they are not perfect, and give only a limited snapshot of a student, school, or district.
• When reviewing a student test score or school ranking based on test scores, consider what the intended purpose of the assessment is and how the data will be used to improve instruction for the individual student, grade level, school, and district.
• Refer to results of a number of different tests and grades whenever possible. Looking at performance from the viewpoint of these “multiple measures” will increase the probability that more accurate and appropriate decisions are made about students and schools.