Standardised testing is an area that can stress parents out. When the end of year report comes home, many parents initially skim over the report card looking to find the STen score. They place huge importance on this score…but is it really that important?
What is a standardised test?
It is an assessment that is carried out on all children in all schools at the same class or age level. The assessment has already been carried out with a large cohort of children previously – this gives the norms. The scores of each child can then be compared to the norms to place each student on a scale showing if their score was average – above average or below average.
What subjects are they in?
Standardised tests are administered in English reading and maths. An Irish reading assessment is administered in Irish speaking schools. There are other standardised tests too but it is the reading and maths assessments that must be reported.
What year groups?
They must be administered in 2nd, 4th and 6th class. However most schools will carry them out each year with the exception of infants. Standardised testing is not deemed appropriate in infant classes.
So what do the scores actually mean then?
The teacher will correct the test and get a raw score – this is the actual number of questions the child answered correctly. These are then converted into standard scores or STen scores based upon the child’s year group. All schools must carry out this testing in 2nd, 4th and 6th class. The results must be communicated to the parents, the board of management and the Dept. of Education.
Most schools seem to choose to report the scores as STen scores. So what do they mean? These scores are on a scale of 1 to 10. Remember, it is not a mark out of ten. This is where parents seem to get stressed out. If they see their son received a STen score of 5 – they presume “5 out ten is not good”. Or “he is only getting 50% correct” However a score of 5-6 is average – a third of all pupils will be in the average range.
Again, raw scores are converted to standard scores. Generally the average Standard Score is set to 100 – so any number above is above average or well above average and any number below is low average of well below average.
How Important are the Scores?
From the teacher’s perspective, these scores will help highlight any student who is in need of extra support. If the score is consistent with other assessments – teacher observation, questioning, teacher designed tasks/tests etc further diagnostic testing will be carried out usually by a support teacher to try to pinpoint where the need is. The student may be placed on a level of a support that will meet the needs of the student.
Schools may use the scores to highlight an overall need in the school. For example, problem solving in maths could be an area that the school feel they could improve on. Whole school measures will then be put in place to help improve teaching and learning in this area.
Standardised testing is a very small part of the overall assessment of a student’s progress. Students are assessed in many ways – teacher observation, portfolios, questioning, teacher designed tasks/tests, conferencing, concept-mapping and self-assessment. The standardised test is just a snapshot of the child’s progress and doesn’t tell the whole picture. Bare in mind, some children can have off days, or feel a level of anxiety about taking the test and therefore not perform well on the day.
Standardised tests can be useful if analysed correctly – with the aim to improve teaching and learning for individuals and whole school. From a parent’s point of view, don’t stress over them – our children are much greater than a number will ever show!