Thursday, December 3, 2009

10 Questions Every Parent and Student Should Ask About Testing

I found a 2006 CNN article by Audrey Schewe entitled, "Cheat Sheet for Parents on Testing: Ask Right Questions to Understand Impact on Children, Schools." The last couple of pages were from the National PTA and it involved questions to ask before and after testing. I'll list them for you first and then provide a few comments:

Questions to Ask Before Testing
1. Which tests are given in my child's grade?
2. What are the purposes of these tests? What will these tests measure? How will the scores be reported?
3. How will the results of the tests be used?
4. What do you do to prepare children for the tests? What can I do at home to help my child prepare to take the test?
5. What happens if my child performs poorly?

Questions to Ask After Testing
1. What do the test results tell me about my child's strengths and weaknesses?
2. What can I do to help strengthen my child's skills and abilities?
3. Are the test results consistent with my child's performance in the classroom?
4. How does my child compare with his peers?
5. Is the test data used to help improve instruction? What, if any, changes will be made in the classroom instruction?

First of all, I believe that all of these questions should be asked by both parents AND students. I think that a student should always advocate for themselves and taking responsibility for their actions is an important first step for any individual.

The first questions I would add to the list of questions to ask prior to testing is "who" will administer the test and "who" will interpret the test? It is important that a person knowledgeable in assessment should administer and interpret the test. A standard score of 70 is not "like a C average" and unbelievably, I have heard that interpretation before. I would also ask what happens if my child, or I, performs successfully? Almost any type of test will demonstrate areas of relative weakness and areas or relative strength. Your child may make a score at the 95 percentile, but he/she may have a weakness in a particular area. Like I have stated before, a test is a point in time reference and a multitude of factors comprise this score. A person knolwedgeable in assessment should include these factors when interpreting the test.

The questions that are listed to ask after testing are all important. From my point of view though, I'm most interested in building upon strengths and remediating weaknesses. Use the test results to establish obtainable goals for the student and then monitor their progress and continue to raise the bar. Although it is interesting to compare yourself or your child to others, I really care about maximizing a person's abilities. Everybody has a strength, something that is unique to them, and it's exciting to watch them find success!  One last thing, besides using test results to improve classroom instruction, the results should be evaluated in regards to program improvement as well.

Remember to empower yourselves as a student or as a parent. Become active in your education...get involved and ask lots of questions! Asking questions is the best way to learn!!! J.T.

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