62 Introduction to Standardized Tests

Because education is increasingly influenced by the content and results of standardized tests, understanding such tests has become important for teachers. Not only do teachers need to know what these tests can (and cannot) do, but also they need to be able to help parents and students understand test results. Consider, for example, the following scenarios:

  • Vanessa, a newly licensed physical education teacher, is applying for a job at a middle school. During the job interview the principal asks how she would incorporate key sixth grade math skills into her PE and health classes as the sixth grade students in the previous year did not attain Adequate Yearly Progress in mathematics.
  • Danielle, a first year science teacher in Ohio, is asked by Mr Volderwell, a recent immigrant from Turkey and the parent of a tenth grade son Marius, to help him understand test results. When Marius first arrived at school he took the Test of Cognitive Skills and scored on the eighty-fifth percentile whereas on the state Science Graduation test he took later in the school year he was classified as “proficient.”
  • James, a third year elementary school teacher, attends a class in gifted education over summer as standardized tests from the previous year indicated that while overall his class did well in reading the top 20 per cent of his students did not learn as much as expected.
  • Miguel, a 1st grade student, takes two tests in fall and the results indicate that his grade equivalent scores are 3.3 for reading and 3.0 for math. William’s parents want him immediately promoted into the second grade arguing that the test results indicate that he already can read and do math at the 3rd grade level. Greg, a first grade teacher explains to William’s parents that a grade equivalent score of 3.3 does not mean William can do third grade work.

Understanding standardized tests is difficult as they use numerous unfamiliar terms and concepts, and because recent legislative changes in their educational use have increased the complexity of the concepts and issues (United States Government Printing Office, 2002). In this chapter we cannot cover all of the relevant issues; instead we focus on the basic information that beginning teachers need to know, starting with some basic concepts.


United States Government Printing Office. (2002). No Child Left Behind Act: A desktop reference. Washington, D.C.: Author.


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