A Parent's Guide To High Stakes Testing by terrypete


          s a parent, you are the most effective
          advocate to make sure that your child
                                                            In Michigan...
          gets the education to which he or she is
                                                        The Michigan Educational Assessment Program
entitled in the public schools of your community.       (MEAP) was initiated in 1970, making it one of
                                                        the oldest statewide assessments in the nation.
Tests used to make important decisions about the        Currently, students are tested in English/Language
future of a student, a teacher, or schools are called   Arts (in grades 4, 7 and 10), Mathematics (in
                                                        grades 4, 8 and 10) and Science and Social Studies

                                                                                                                 A Parent’s
high-stakes tests. High-stakes tests have become
                                                        (in grades 5, 8 and 10). MEAP tests have evolved
as much a part of education as chalkboards and
                                                        significantly in scope and complexity, and are aligned
textbooks. To help your child succeed in school,

                                                                                                                 Guide To
                                                        with the Michigan curriculum frameworks, known
you need to understand how high-stakes tests            nationally for high content standards.
affect your child. All parents need to know how
                                                        Education YES!, Michigan’s school accreditation
high-stakes tests are used in their particular
schools, school districts, and communities.
                                                        program, uses MEAP data to evaluate school
                                                        performance; MEAP scores and yearly improvement          High Stakes
Parents need to know how to communicate with            rates make up 67% of a school district’s annual
teachers, principals, school board members, and         grade. Schools that meet MEAP targets (and eleven
other officials about how high-stakes tests affect      other quality indicators) are given an A, resulting
their children’s education.                             in summary state accreditation. Schools receiving
                                                        B through D grades are on “interim” status, and
                                                                                                                                       TERMS, LEGISLATION
                                                        unaccredited schools are so labeled. MEAP data
                                                                                                                                         AND TIPS TO HELP
                           This guide is designed       must also be reported in school’s annual reports, and
                                                        is widely disseminated in the press.                                          YOUR CHILD SUCCEED
                           to help you learn more
                            about high-stakes           Students do not have to pass the MEAP to be
                             testing. It includes       promoted to the next grade, nor do MEAP scores
                              definitions of            affect graduation from high school. High school
                                                        students who score in the top two achievement levels
                                important testing                                                                    Made possible by
                                                        on all four MEAP tests are now eligible for a “Merit     Ford Motor Company Fund
                                 terms, guidance on
                                  what you should
                                                        State Resources on high-stakes tests:
                                   know about the
                                    tests your child    MEAP tests: http://www.michigan.gov/mde/
                               takes, how tests         0,1607,7-140-22709_22878---,00.html
           relate to your child’s school, and how       Education YES!: http://www.michigan.gov/
you can help your child learn to do better on tests,    documents/Education_YES!_13524_7.pdf
including ones that have high stakes.

                                                                            Great Lakes Center
Further information on each section in this guide                147 S. Putnam | Williamston, MI 48895
                                                                 Office 517.655.4400 | Fax 517.655.1100
can be located on the Center’s website at
                                                            Background research provided by the Arizona State
                                                             University Education Policy Studies Laboratory
    Terms You Should Know                                 What Parents Can Do
Achievement Tests are tests designed to measure                                                                    3. Help your child prepare. Parental support
how much a student has learned in a particular                                                                     for student learning has always been important;
                                                     High stakes testing is a reality that has an important
subject or group of subjects.                                                                                      now it’s even more so. Make sure your child has
                                                     impact on virtually every child’s education, including
High Stakes Tests are achievement tests that                                                                       an adequate place, and adequate time, to complete
                                                     yours. What can you as a parent do to help your child
have specific, serious, consequences attached to                                                                   homework each day. Spend time reviewing
                                                     learn and succeed in this environment?
their results.                                                                                                     homework and engage your child in conversation
                                                     1. Stay informed. Ask your child’s teacher and                to make sure he or she understands the material.
Standardized Tests are achievement tests             your school principal what tests are given each year          Encourage your child to study regularly over time
in which all students are scored and their           in your child’s school and which of those tests may           instead of “cramming” for tests. Encourage your
achievement calculated according to a common         have high stakes attached to them. Ask what sort of           child to understand test-taking mechanics and
standard. High stakes testing programs use           preparation will take place in your child’s classes for       strategies:
standardized test results to judge the performance   each of those tests. Are certain days being set aside to
of students and sometimes of teachers and
                                                     drill for tests? Ask how testing in general, and high-
                                                     stakes tests in particular, are shaping decisions about        Test Taking Strategies
Norm-referenced standardized tests compare           what is being taught in your child’s school. Are tested
an individual student’s test performance with        subjects getting a more intense focus? If your child
the performance of students in a sample group.                                                                      ✔		 Relax and stay calm before and during tests.
                                                     has a documented, diagnosed learning disability,
Criterion-referenced standardized tests report       find out whether an accommodation is appropriate               ✔		 Read and listen carefully to all directions and follow
how well a student performs against a fixed          and contact your school’s special education office to              them closely.
standard.                                            advocate for your child.                                       ✔		 Budget time. Make sure to leave enough time to answer
Results of norm-referenced tests are typically       2. Understand what test results mean. First                        all questions, or as many as possible.
reported as percentiles. A percentile rank tells     of all, it’s important not to judge your child on the          ✔		 Check work carefully.
you how your child performed in relation to the      basis of a single test. How your child is performing
children in the sample group and others who took                                                                    ✔		 Answer easy questions first, and come back to more
                                                     day to day -- in class, on homework, and on tests
the test. Results of criterion-referenced tests                                                                         difficult ones.
                                                     for classes -- will tell you more about how well he or
report how well your child did in accomplishing                                                                     ✔		 Read questions and all answers completely.
                                                     she is learning. If a test seems to show your child is
a desired learning goal. Typically, results are
reported using words such as “not proficient,”       doing poorly in a subject in which you thought he or           ✔	 If the correct answer isn’t immediately obvious, figure
“satisfactory,” or “proficient.”                     she was doing well, speak with your child’s teacher.              out which answers are definitely wrong, then see if you
                                                     If the test report shows your child’s percentile score,           can choose from those that are left.
                                                     the test is a norm-referenced test. Ask if criterion-
 Current Federal Regulations                         referenced scores also were obtained, and if so, what
                                                     they may show about your child’s performance. Keep
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: The                                                                              When you talk to children about tests, don’t
                                                     in mind that standardized tests are given in a limited
popular name for the 2001 reauthorization of the                                                                   overemphasize test scores and try not to be
                                                     amount of time. Some students may find it easy to
Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA),                                                                     anxious. Listen to your children’s anxieties and
                                                     “race against the clock” to complete the test, but
signed into law in early 2002. This act included                                                                   concerns, and try to reassure them without
                                                                   other, equally intelligent students may find
for the first time a requirement that states test                                                                  discounting their feelings.
                                                                            the time limit to be very stressful,
students in grades 3 through 8 and to show
certain test score results in return for federal                             so that it actually interferes with   4. Find resources to help you understand high-
funding. Under the act, schools whose average                                 their concentration in taking the    stakes tests. There are a number of agencies
scores do not improve enough may lose federal                                  test. In reviewing your child’s     and organizations listed on the Center website
aid; parents of children in those schools may                                  test scores, consider whether       (www.greatlakescenter.org) that may be able
receive the right to transfer to other public                                  the time pressure of testing may    to provide you with more answers on the subject
schools or to hire private tutors using                                    have affected the score.                of high-stakes testing from various points of view.
federal grants.

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