March: High-Stakes Testing
When they take their standardized assessments, your child might be feeling the pressure to perform. As a parent or caregiver, it’s only natural that you might have questions about this process. Standardized testing is an important part of the teaching and learning process. Standardized state assessments ensure that students meet learning standards established by the state.
In this edition of Power Parent Magazine, you’ll learn more about why schools use standardized tests, and how you can support your child as they prepare for test day.
Power Parent: March 2021 covers each of the following articles:
- NEED TO DO: A Caregiver’s Guide to Testing contains a helpful overview of what standardized testing is and how your student’s scores are used
- Browse a list of pre- and post-testing tips in GOOD TO KNOW: Helping Them Prepare
- What is the MAP test, and what does it measure? Find out under SETTING GOALS: All About MAP
- Under CHECK IT OUT: Pros and Cons of Testing, learn more about the opinions on either side of the standardized testing debate, along with some interesting facts you might not’ve known about testing
- Learn one way to use your child’s MAP score to guide their reading in NETWORKING FOR SUCCESS: The Lexile Framework
- Under NAVIGATING ACHIEVEMENT: State Testing and COVID-19, learn more about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected standardized assessment in Michigan (hint: it’s had a HUGE impact!)
- Read more about anxiety and how your family can unite to improve the testing experience for your children in FAMILY CONVERSATIONS: About Anxiety
It’s Test Time!
What are standardized tests? Why are they used?
Standardized tests are designed to give a common measure of student performance. Because many students throughout the state (or even the country) take the same test, these tests give educators a common standard of measure. Educators use standardized tests to tell how well school programs are succeeding or to give themselves an idea of their students’ skills and abilities.
In Michigan, the state Department of Education tells schools which standardized tests should be given. Some tests include the Michigan Merit Exam (MME), the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP), College Board’s SAT Suite of Assessments (SAT), Michigan’s Alternate Assessment Program (MI-Access), and the WIDA-ACCESS for ELLs (a test of English language proficiency for English Learners).
Different types of standardized tests have different purposes. Standardized achievement tests measure how much students have already learned about a school subject. The results from these tests can help teachers develop programs that suit students’ achievement levels in each subject area, such as reading, math, language skills, spelling, or science.
How do schools use standardized tests?
Standardized tests measure students’ abilities to learn in school – how well they are likely to do in future school work. Instead of measuring knowledge of subjects taught in school, these tests measure a broad range of abilities or skills that are considered important to success in school. The results from standardized tests help teachers to plan instruction that is appropriate for the students’ levels. Educators most commonly use achievement tests to:
- Evaluate school programs
- Report on students’ progress
- Diagnose students’ strengths and weaknesses
- Select students for special programs
- Place students in special groups
- Certify student achievement (for example, award high school diplomas or promote students from grade to grade)
You’ve Got This!
There are many opinions out there about standardized testing. Regardless of what your personal feelings on high-stakes testing are, you can still help minimize your child’s feelings of anxiety by helping them feel supported and prepared before they sit down for a test.
But remember: “Helping” your child select answers on any test or homework assignment is NOT helping them!
There are many ways to help your child prepare for success ahead of a standardized testing day at school. In the current pandemic, there may be students taking NWEA MAP tests at home. It is CRITICAL to remember that you, as their parent or caregiver, CANNOT help your student select answers on a test (standardized or otherwise).
With that being said, there are still a number of ways that you can support your child before and after taking a standardized test:
Prioritize attendance and homework
Tests are ultimately intended to serve as instructional feedback and to measure how well students have learned the material being taught in class. We recommend setting aside dedicated homework time each night to make sure that your child is completing their assignments consistently throughout the year.
It also helps to establish attendance as a main priority during the school year. Frequent absences, even in elementary school, can make your child fall behind in reading and math, which can impact their performance on standardized tests. A student who misses 10% of the school year (around 18 days) is considered “chronically absent.” Chronically absent students may earn lower test scores and display poor attendance and retention in later grades. Every missed day of school is a missed opportunity to learn.
Keep testing in perspective
Avoid putting too much emphasis on your child’s test scores—doing so can make your child feel pressure that will ultimately only affect his or her performance negatively. It’s also important to not be upset by a single test score. Low test scores can occur for any number of reasons; it may have just been an off day for your child.
Communicate with your child’s teacher
Make a point of meeting or talking with your child’s teacher on an ongoing basis to understand what your child is working on, what he or she will be tested on, and the areas that he or she is excelling and struggling in. Your child’s teacher is also a great resource for test-preparation activities or strategies you can use with your child at home. Plus, they can keep you up to date on group study sessions or other opportunities for additional review that your child may benefit from.
If you believe that your child’s difficulty with standardized tests may be the symptom of a problem such as a language or learning difficulty, speak with your child’s teacher to learn if your child qualifies for any assessment accommodations.
Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep and eats a healthy breakfast
In the weeks leading up to the test, it is important for students to have adequate sleep (eight hours is recommended), eat balanced meals, drink plenty of water, and get exercise. Foods high in protein, and water help to stimulate the brain. Exercise, such as stretching and walking, helps to supply the brain with oxygen. Eating a healthy breakfast before school, particularly on the day of the test, gives the body the fuel it needs to maintain long periods of concentration.
Make sure your child is prepared
Knowing what to expect can help your child feel less anxious. Let your child know well in advance what day the test will be and what to expect during the test. This includes how often there will be breaks, where the bathrooms are and who to ask for assistance. (Older kids can likely find out this information on their own—but encourage them to do so.)
Long before test day, teach your child how to stretch, breathe deeply and stay calm. Practice using these strategies so your child feels comfortable using them on test day. Explore ways to help your grade-schooler or middle- or high-schooler stay positive.
What about the results?
After testing day has come and gone, talk with your child about his or her results and how he or she felt about the test. By discussing his or her answers, thought processes, and feelings, you can gain further insight into what he or she is struggling with and excelling at and then help him or her better prepare next time. Talking about testing can also help your child process the experience and overcome any anxiety that he or she might have had.
MAP in a Flash!
The NWEA MAP…
- Stands for Measures of Academic Progress.
- Assesses students’ academic achievement status in Math and English Language Arts.
- Provides a consistent measure of academic growth within and across grade levels.
- Compares individual student academic performance to national normative data.
- Supports the partnership between a student, teacher, and family as the student works to achieve academic standards.
- Helps EACH learner grow and progress academically.
- Aligns with the District’s mission that all students be educated, self-directed and productive members of society!
Making Sense of MAP Scores:
A GRPS Caregiver’s Guide
What is a MAP assessment?
MAP is a computer-adaptive test (CAT) that measures your child’s achievement status and growth in reading and math. As the student responds to test items correctly, questions become more difficult. If the student answers incorrectly, the questions become easier and then become progressively more challenging. This enables the assessment to precisely identify the full spectrum of a student’s strengths and weaknesses. MAP tests are aligned to the Michigan K-12 Math Standards and Michigan K-12 Standards for English Language Arts. To better measure some of the more complex Common Core Standards, students will experience responses in multiple choice, hot spot, drag and-drop and click-and-pop formats.
MAP is used as a measure of growth and performance to inform GRPS teachers, principals, and the district as a whole about how our students are performing compared to academic standards. MAP assessments are given up to three times a year for each student depending upon the school or grade level. On average, each subject test takes about an hour to complete.
Where can I go to find out more about MAP tests?
NWEA’s website provides information on MAP assessments for families. This page includes a Parent Toolkit with tips on supporting your child’s development in reading and math.
Please continue to work in collaboration with your child’s teacher(s) to support his or her learning and interests at home. If you have further questions related to your child’s progress in school, please contact your school staff.
How do I know how my child did on the MAP assessments?
Log into your Parent Vue account. On the side bar, you’ll notice a space to view “Documents.” Click here, then view your child’s MAP assessment report.
MAP Scores and the Lexile Framework
One cool way your family can use your student’s MAP score is to choose books based on a measure called the Lexile Framework. A Lexile measure indicates the reading level of an individual or a book. By comparing your child’s Lexile measure with the Lexile measure of a book, you can decide whether its text demand will be too difficult, too easy, or just right for your child’s reading ability. To best strengthen their reading skills, your child should read books within their Lexile range.
Scholastic’s website has a wonderful parent’s guide to Lexile reading levels. Enjoy!
What Does “Lexile Score” Mean?
Standardized reading tests can be used to convert the reader’s results to a Lexile measure. If a student gets a 550L then he or she is a 550 level Lexile reader. 550L is the measure of his or her readability level. It is important to note it is never called a score! This encourages student achievement.
How to Find a Child’s Lexile Level
The Lexile level will always be shown as a number with an “L” after it — for example 770L = 770 Lexile. The higher the Lexile measure, the higher the student’s reading level. The reader’s Lexile Framework works in intervals of five with 5L being the lowest. The highest possible measure is 2000L. Anything below 5L is assessed as a BR or Beginning Reader.
How to Find the Lexile of a Book
A book’s Lexile measure is analyzed by MetaMetrics©. After a text is assessed, it is given a measure like that of a student’s readability level, 600L for example. In this measure, MetaMetrics© is assessing the text’s difficulty level. A book or magazine at a 500L has a Lexile Level of 500. MetaMetrics© predicts and assesses how difficult a text will be for a reader to comprehend. The two main criteria it tests are word frequency and sentence strength. A text’s Lexile Framework works in increments of 10 with 10L being the lowest. Measures below 10L are classified as BR or Beginning Reader.
Lexile Levels in Practice
The ideal for both reader and text is to match both their assessed Lexile measure. For example a book or magazine with a 770L and a reader assessed at a Lexile level of 770. The reading levels per classroom are wide-ranging and varied. There are many factors that go into matching a student to his or her ideal text. The Lexile Framework is a good place to start in picking the right book at the right Lexile level as it targets areas in need of intervention and encourages achievement across grade levels and curricula.
How to Find Books on Your Child’s Lexile Level
Lexile levels are scientifically and mathematically assigned based on the difficulty and readability of a book. Once you know your child’s Lexile level, you can search for books that match this level to expand your home library and encourage daily reading practice in your own home. Use the Lexile database to search by Lexile level, title, or subject to find books your child will enjoy and be able to read without becoming discouraged at his or her reading achievement.
Use the chart below to compare Lexile Levels with other leveled reading systems:
The Caregiver’s Guide to Helping Children Cope with Test Anxiety
Help your child prepare. Teaching your child effective study techniques and test-taking skills can take care of anxiety that comes from being ill-prepared. It can also help boost your child’s confidence, as it’s typically much easier to meet a challenge when you know you’ve done all you can do to be ready for it.
Study techniques that can be helpful include regular reviews of the material, flash cards and practice tests. Starting regular study sessions a week or two in advance can prevent the high-stress need to cram last minute.
Work on maintaining focus. Since one of the effects of test anxiety is the habit of looking around at other students and thinking everyone is smarter, reviewing focus techniques with your child may help nip that habit in the bud. Reinforce that the only thing that should grab your child’s focus is the test in front of him or her, not the boy in the next seat, the girl in the next aisle or the bird sitting on the window sill.
Purge anxieties on paper. All that anxiety packed in your anxious child’s brain has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is usually the part of the brain that controls a person’s working memory. Letting the anxiety stay in the brain and fester tends to crowd out other thoughts and decrease the working memory’s effectiveness.
Instead of keeping the anxieties harbored inside, students may do well to purge them by writing them out on paper shortly before the exam.
Go for relaxation exercises. Visualization exercises are great for little kids because they tend to have active imaginations. Practice these when your child is calm. Ask him to close his eyes and identify a place he feels happy, confident, and relaxed. Encourage him to share details about the sights, sounds and scents in his calming place. As he shares, cue him to take deep breaths. Then on test day, remind your child to close his eyes and visualize his calming place when he feels anxious.
- Watch how Arthur and his friends practice relaxation techniques in advance of a school-wide test.
Change your child’s mindset about stress. Cognitive reframing is a great way to help young children cope with their anxious thoughts. We can teach kids to “boss back” anxious thoughts by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. So when their brain signals that something is too hard, they can say, “You don’t worry me! I know how to do this!” Remind your child that, no matter what happens with any test, he or she is a wonderful, beautiful, worthwhile individual who is deeply cherished and loved.
Fun Facts about Testing!