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MissAusten's avatar

Parents: How important are your child's standardized test scores?

Asked by MissAusten (16142points) September 10th, 2009

Today my daughter’s CMT scores arrived, and it made me wonder what other parents think of the test scores. Do you reward kids for good scores? We don’t. Do the scores mean anything to you other than “My kid is good/bad/average at taking tests?” I know the overall scores are important for the schools, but I’d like other parents’ thoughts on state standardized tests and what they mean for you and your child personally.

I know there are some teachers here on Fluther, and I’d also be interested to know if their students’ individual scores matter, or if only the school average/district average is important.

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26 Answers

SpatzieLover's avatar

I’m a homeschooling mom. If our child ever goes to conventional school, the tests won’t matter to us at all

wundayatta's avatar

They mean my kids can get into a good public high school and be eligible for the mentally gifted program. Other than that, they are bullshit.

gailcalled's avatar

I would minimize their importance, whether high, low or medium. A child can obsess over them and that is bad. Scores often has little relationship to how well a child can study and do the schoolwork.

SuperMouse's avatar

I am not a homeschooling mom and standardized tests don’t mean much to me at all. What means more are the assignments he does in class and his actual grades. I tend to think of standardized tests as a measure of my child’s ability to take tests.

peyton_farquhar's avatar

(Not a parent, but once a student of a California public school) I honestly don’t think that scores on standardized tests (such as the exit exam or STAR—Standardized Testing and Reporting) are indicative of actual talent or academic achievement. The average score for the entire school determines how much state funding the school will receive, so the tests are designed to be comprised entirely of general knowledge questions that understate the actual level of instruction being recieved by students in their respective grade levels. In California, the STAR test is administered over three or four weeks in April or March, so students have to take three or four hours out of class time a few times a week to take tests. It’s bullshit.

YARNLADY's avatar

I homeschooled my sons and Grandsons most of the time. The standardized tests are not for evaluating each individual student. Standardized means over the whole group. I never did put any stock in any single test. The tests are supposed to be used to see how well the school and the teachers are doing their job, not how any particular student is doing.

gailcalled's avatar

I spent years professionally brooding over PSATs and SATs for 11th and 12th graders. And I think of two terrific young people who went to Med school with terrible SATs, as only one example.

avvooooooo's avatar

I think it depends on the test. Something like the ITBS, which is a nationwide test, is a better predictor of actual achievement than the state tests. Georgia’s CRCT is ridiculous. The “passing scores” aren’t decided until after the scores are all in. Its also pretty much a given that the schools are teaching the test. Its a very… stinky system.

ekans's avatar

@gailcalled I had the opposite experience. I was only accepted to two of the schools that I applied to, and one of those only after being wait listed, despite an outstanding at least, in comparison to the schools’ averages ACT score. My grades weren’t stellar, but they were not bad by any means. I guess that test scores don’t matter as much as we think.

gailcalled's avatar

@ekans: Sorry. I wasn’t clear. The two people I was remembering went to what you might call second or third tier colleges. But they worked hard, got into decent medical schools and are now practicing medicine.

ekans's avatar

@gailcalled Sorry for the misunderstanding. Still, I think that, at least in my case, I overestimated the power of my scores, and was quite disappointed at the outcome.

whitenoise's avatar

I live in The Netherlands so we don’t have the same system you guys so far seem to discuss. We however do have state organized tests throughout and at the end of primary school (when the kids are around11–12 years old.)

These tests are becoming increasingly important. For the child, as well as for the schools. The tests determine to a certain extent the access to the various types of middle/high schools we have in The Netherlands. And through that they decide on the demographic of the children’s school from that age on as well as on their access to higher forms of education such as college and university.

For the schools the results get published and parents as well as the government evaluate schools over the different exit levels they achieve.

Personally I feel ambiguity towards these tests. I think tests like these can be valuable tools in signaling developmental progress with a child and make that signaling less dependent on the individual teachers and their relationship with their children. If these tests on the other hand become not so much tools as well as targets themselves, then the ice gets thin (how about that for a good Dutchism).

One now may see high schools that are not accepting certain test level children, or primary schools that flunk them early on in order to tweak their exit results. Children are being prepped for months in advance, just to do well on tests and are extremely stressed. Certain high school types do not even consider input from parents and previous teachers on accepting children. There also is the risk that some children are just “late bloomers” and will now not get the opportunity to reach their full potential, because of early selection.

For myself, I am happy these tests were and are there. Our children are quite smart, but easily bored. (Tainted observation, true.) They therefore do not necessarily flourish in a school setting, but the tests offer some protection.

If it weren’t for the test at the end of my own primary school, my teacher would have sent me to the lowest type of high school possible. (My relationship with him was tainted by my total lack of interest in school.) He made me redo the test, because he suspected I cheated. Nevertheless, the positive test was the only thing that allowed me to in the end achieve my academic degrees, the way that I did.

MissAusten's avatar

I don’t place a lot of value on them myself. My daughter gets anxious when test-taking time rolls around, and I just remind her to take her time, do her best, and remember that it doesn’t have any effect on her grades. I’ve explained that the tests only show that the kids are learning what they are supposed to learn each year.

When the results come, I tell her how she did and show that I’m proud of her for doing well. We don’t reward it like we do report cards, or go over it in detail and discuss each little thing. I think our school district does a good job of balancing the test prep with more solid instruction.

@daloon Here the scores have no effect on what high school the kids can go to. There’s only one high school in town. The scores also aren’t used to determine eligibility for gifted and talented programs. We don’t even have them, sadly enough.

wundayatta's avatar

@MissAusten You raise an interesting point. One of the prime considerations for people with children or who are planning children, when buying a house, is the reputation of the school system. People will move to get to a better school system. I know people with no money at all, who move to an expensive town with a good school system, just so their kids can have access to a better education. They find cheap apartments, even in the most expensive places.

Of course, school system reputation is not the only consideration when people move, and sometimes it matters little to people, but it does appear as one of the top things people take into account in many studies. Your town may have only one high school, as did the town I grew up in, but, at some point, when one of your ancestors moved to that town, unless it was too long ago, they probably considered the school in making their choice. The school I went to, in a fairly rural area, was considered one of the best public schools in the state.

That having been said, there are, as you point out, situations where test scores don’t matter for the individual child’s education. They are just a way of ranking a school, again, for purposes of funding. As such, it can easily lead to gaming the system.

MissAusten's avatar

@daloon The school system here is known for being one of the best in the state. It is a major reason why we moved here. We aren’t as well-off as many of the families in the area, but we are doing fine. I do wish there was a G&T program, because my daughter would qualify for it. They test the kids, but don’t have a program, which makes no sense to me. In spite of that, we’ve been happy overall.

avvooooooo's avatar

@MissAusten @daloon My mother is a gifted teacher. Test scores for school-wide tests are one of the factors on determining who should be further tested to see if they qualify for gifted instruction. Some kids test well and get scores that get them into the further testing process, but teacher recommendations are also a factor in who gets further testing. Mental ability, achievement, creativity, and motivation are the four factors that are tested with various tests approved by the state to determine who is in the gifted program. Here is more information about Georgia’s requirements and process for determining gifted eligibility. Each state should have the information available online if you’re curious about your state.

@MissAusten The school probably gets funding for having higher level kids, even without a program.

@all “Tracking,” or putting kids in classes based on ability, is of questionable legality. At least here.

Rozee's avatar

Standardized tests are more valuable for the schools, as was noted earlier. In California, daily practice for test taking is the norm, i.e., worksheets that have sample questions in content and form of the STAR test.

Since the standardized tests are based on the standards for each grade as prescribed by the state, i.e., they test what the state dictates students should master for each grade, they are valuable tools to measure the successfulness of the school to meet the state standards for education.

In my experience, the more anxiety around the student, whether from parents, teachers, or peers, the more stress the student feels. Stress is a detriment to performance in most situations, although there are people who claim they do their best work when under stress to meet deadlines or goals.

There should be some concern if a student’s scores fall far from the norm and the student’s achievement in class work is far from the norm. Usually, the problem is falling far below the norm but those who have worked with gifted students know that far above the norm can be just as much a cause for concern. The data should not be completely dismissed but it should not cause undue alarm either.

avvooooooo's avatar

@Rozee How is it that “far above the norm can be just as much a cause for concern.”?

Rozee's avatar

Students who are far above the norm need to be nurtured to succeed according to their individual ability too. Typical classrooms focus on students meeting the minimum standards and a lot of the teacher’s time is used to support students who are performing poorly.

Students who are far above the norm sometimes are given the task of working with the struggling students in the class. Although that may have wonderful outcomes for both, it can hold a gifted student back because the student continues to work on materials already mastered, even mastered to the level of being able to teach it, while not using the time to move on to new and more challenging work.

A child in my son’s kindergarten class was reading at grade four but was socially a kindergartener. His mother and the teacher worked together to ensure he was learning and growing at his pace rather than working at the level of most of his classmates. He and my son were great pals partly because we lived next door to each other. Socially they were age five; scholastically they were years apart.

avvooooooo's avatar

@Rozee I wouldn’t call being gifted as much as a “cause for concern” as being tragically un-gifted. As it is, schools tend to do the best they can in order to help the high achievers stay high achievers. Things like the horrible “No Child Left Behind” deal (or “Smart Kids Get Screwed” as I call it) have made it almost impossible for smart kids to get the instruction that they need to continue to excel. As it is, the governmental priority is the underachievers and schools are mandated to take care of them first and foremost. Even those incapable of reaching “norms” are expected to by politicians who know nothing whatsoever about education and who’s advisors on such subjects are yes-men who only tell them that their screwed up notions are correct. If teachers (who would have to be decent/good teachers) have time, the smart kids might get something to do that helps them move on. But as it is, there’s a policy change necessary for smarter kids to get the instruction that they would benefit from. We’re all aware that there are kids out there that are gifted (like the now 2nd grader who was in Kindergarten last year but had to be moved up because there was nothing for him in K). What schools and teachers are able to do about it and knowing that they exist are entirely different things.

Putting kids in classes based on achievement levels would be one way to resolve this problem, but as I said above, it tends to be of questionable legality.

I’m well aware of the plight of the gifted student, more so than the vast majority of people, but still… “cause for concern” is a little… off.

Rozee's avatar


In that case, consider the thought and allow for the awkward word choice.

To me the expression cause for concern does not carry a negative connotation but rather a reason to look at seriously. I seriously have concern for the brightest of us and equally as much as I have concern for the least bright of us. The following example might make my point better about caring (being concerned) about students. I had written this and then deleted it for fear that I was adding more than was reasonable as a response.

A boy who started kindergarten with my son was reading at grade-four level according to pre-K assessments done that year. Socially he was a five-years-old who cried often because he easily got his feeling hurt. He took afternoon naps wherever he was when he felt tired, often on the floor in my son’s room. There were times when both boys played so hard that after a little lunch they both were sound asleep without regard for where they were. We were next-door neighbors at the time; he and my son were good friends.

His mother and the teacher worked together to ensure he was making social and scholastic progress at his pace. He would not have done well socially with fourth graders and he was far ahead of his classmates scholastically in kindergarten.

The school administration’s first reaction was to pressure his mother to move him up to at least second grade. When she refused, they wanted to move him up to first grade. She won the battle and her son finished kindergarten; however, he did skip first grade. He hit a growing spurt and was a head taller than most of the first graders, he had matured beyond many kindergarteners, and his math and reading scores were beyond fifth grade.

My point is that the testing can highlight concerns for all people who are involved in a student’s education, but alone the tests are not especially useful.

avvooooooo's avatar

@Rozee Reading at a certain level does not mean at all that a child needs to be taught reading at that level or be in that grade. In 8th grade (on the ITBS), I tested as grade 14 reading level. That’s college sophomore level. That doesn’t mean that I should have been promoted to that level. That’s not how the system works and for good reason. There are things that are taught in grades that can be detrimental if missed and kids are not promoted grades and grades just because they’re ahead of the typical child their age. They need more advanced material so that they can continue learning. True. But promoting kids up the levels should be a very, very rare occurrence when there is little to nothing in that grade level for a child to learn.

Yes, you know this one kid who you’ve talked about twice. I’ve known many. However, you don’t really get the whole educational perspective about how to handle children who are intelligent and advanced. It has a great deal to do with a great many factors including development, achievement, knowledge and the available resources among others.

MissAusten's avatar

@Rozee and @avvooooooo My daughter also started kindergarten reading at an advanced level. Our schools don’t measure reading by grade level, but she was reading chapter books. Her math skills were beyond what you’d expect at that age as well (for example, she could add three digit numbers in her head). We didn’t teach her to read or teach her how to add. She figured it out on her own, and actually surprised us when she was 4 by reading to us out loud from a book she got for her birthday.

The problem we ran into when she started kindergarten was the school’s position that children who have been “pushed” to learn more aren’t automatically gifted. It took time for the teacher to see how our daughter could learn at a rapid pace and even intuit things that typically need to be explained to kids. When you have a child who is intellectually gifted, people often expect that child to also act older. That’s not the case at all. In reading about gifted children, I came across a lot of information about how the kids who do best in school aren’t gifted, but are intelligent high achievers.

I wouldn’t change anything about my daughter, but I will say that if she was a little less intelligent she’d have an easier time at school. She’s not socially capable of being with older children, but often has a hard time relating to her peers. Teachers don’t always respond well to her because she takes things literally, is bored easily, and corrects them or adds information to the lessons that complicates things for the rest of the class. I am hoping that being in middle school, with several different teachers and more options for activities will be better for her. I think a gifted program would have served her well, but instead we’ve tried to make up for it at home. Her main problem with school, she says, is that she doesn’t get to learn anything new. I know that’s not entirely true, particularly with math, but that’s her perception.

I absolutely agree with @Rozee that children who perform at gifted levels should have special attention. Most teachers, in my experience, just don’t know what to do with them or have a lot of incorrect, preconceived notions about them.

YARNLADY's avatar

@MissAusten from a similar situation, in my experience, in the upper schools it doesn’t get better, it just gets worse. I hated school very much.

MissAusten's avatar

@YARNLADY Well, it’s still early in the school year, but already my daughter seems happier with school. Maybe it’s the teachers, or the variety during the day. Maybe it’s the science teacher, who has promised to let the kids blow something up this year. ;)

avvooooooo's avatar

@MissAusten I had a teacher that HATED me in middle school because I did know it all. Or most of it. And it was a rare day when he read a question off his Jeopardy daily calender and I couldn’t give him an answer… To things he didn’t even know. When I answered that “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was Maya Angelou, he accused me of cheating. Then again, that was 8th grade, the same year where I was pissed that I only got 937 Accelerated Reader points instead of the round 1,000 I was shooting for.

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