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How Public Schools Use Testing

How Public Schools Use Testing

posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - November 26th, 2012

Controversial “Tracking” Practice Affects Your Child’s Future

Have you ever wondered how public schools use testing? Schools often use standardized tests for so-called “tracking” – that is, placing your child with other children deemed to have similar abilities.

These days, it seems like school and testing are practically synonyms. Not only do our children have to worry about quizzes, homework, and reading and math tests – they also have a slew of alphabet-soup standardized tests — such as the OLSAT, CogAT, NNAT, and Stanford Binet — to contend with. It is in your child’s best interest to be placed in the highest possible grouping for his capability. Your child’s test score may determine his placement, so it’s in his best interest to do as well as possible on the exam.

The first step is to get a solid grasp on how your school measures students’ ability, and how it groups them (if it does). When you meet with your child’s teacher, ask about your school’s tracking policy. In many schools, “tracking” is a dirty word, so if the teacher tells you that the school doesn’t track, don’t stop there. Dig deeper to find out how they teach children with different abilities.

Learn how placement decisions are made. Is it based on testing alone, or do schools use informal assessments, classroom observation, and/or academic performance? How are students in the same grade instructed differently? How do performance expectations change from one track to the other? And, of course, how can your child change tracks in the future if his academic performance improves?

While your child’s performance on a placement exam is very important, it’s helpful to remember that no matter how hard you work with your child, there may be areas of weakness that are very difficult for him to overcome. For these areas, if your child is still struggling after the exam, it’s important to work with him so that he so he can build these so that he can move to a higher track later.

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