Standardized achievement testing provides to the parent, the student, and the school an objective measurement of academic progress. Teachers use their own assessments to determine student progress in a subject; standardized testing provides a second measurement that helps teacher, parent, and school to make comparisons of performance of the school as a whole as well as of individual students.
As we announced last year, we moved to Iowa testing this year for a number of reasons--including that the publishers of both the PLAN and the Stanford tests were no longer publishing or supporting those tests. As we made the testing transition we also adjusted the grade levels that are taking the ability testing—now the even-numbered grades from 2 through 10. In this transition, students currently in grades 7 and 9 will have two years between ability tests, not having tested in 2014-2015 or in 2015-2016. Students in grades 8 and 10 will take time during selected classes several days before and/or after the major testing days in order to have sufficient time to complete ability testing as well as achievement testing.
The American Association of Christian Schools (AACS), of which we are a part, has transitioned to Iowa testing this school year. The publisher has warned the AACS that when schools transition to a new test, test scores typically drop significantly during the first year of adjustment to the new test. Of course, we would like to think that BJA may be the exception to that rule but are alert to the possibility that we will see a similar first-year hiccup.
How can your student prepare? Because standardized achievement tests measure how much a student has learned about various subjects (e.g., reading and math), a student’s progress in his academic classes is most important. Parents can help their students to be prepared for testing by continuing to encourage good school habits:
- Be well rested. Adequate sleep--and even an extra hour of sleep--the week of testing enables students to maintain focus during testing.
- Eat well. Nutritious meals and snacks during testing week are important--as during other times that mental concentration is needed. After an initial burst of energy they give, sugary breakfasts and snacks leave a student tired, hungry, and struggling to focus on the material at hand.
- Be prepared. Having the right tools, such as sharpened pencils and good erasers, helps students avoid loss of focus and time. Testing week is also a great week to dig into a new book. Students are encouraged to read a book when finished with a test--what new reading adventure could help keep your student motivated?
- Be on time. Being on time, even early, on testing days can help a student to be unpacked, settled in, mentally focused, and ready to go when testing begins.
- Pray. Standardized achievement testing does not measure a student’s value, nor does it congratulate a student for the intellectual capacity that is given by God. Instead, it simply attempts to give a snapshot of a student’s current academic achievement. Students may need to be reminded to do their best but that this is not something to be apprehensive about. Students should take their time, keep moving, and ultimately do their best in order to please the Lord. Teachers pray at the start of each testing day, and praying with mom or dad can really help a student to relax and have a positive outlook on the experience.