Saint Brigid’s National School, is a primary school situated in the centre of Greystones, Co. Wicklow. Our mission is to provide the highest quality education for all our children in a happy, safe and stimulating Christian environment, focusing on their academic, social, personal, moral and spiritual development to help them be the best they can be.

May – Standardized Tests

Standardized Tests are held in the school during the month of May.

Please ensure good attendance during this time.

‘A test only measures what the test asks’

Parents may find the following information useful:

The teacher looks at the result in conjunction with how the child has succeeded at their schoolwork over a full year
and decides if it reflects reality or not. A parent generally shouldn’t be overly concerned about test results unless the teacher is.

Parents can look back over completed workbooks and copybooks too. Doing so may show that may show that some days children may do excellent work and present their work beautifully and on another they may not. This is not unusual. Children after all are children! We wouldn’t have them any other way.

Some background information on standardized tests.
How do teachers prepare children for the test? It is accepted as more than ‘good practice’ not to ‘teach to the test’. In fact it is vital not to ‘teach to the test’ as doing so invalidates the test.

We teach the Maths and English programme as laid down in the Irish Primary Curriculum. We do not prepare the children for the specific questions in the standardized tests. If we did that would negate the ‘standardized’ aspect of them and the results wouldn’t be authentic.

These results just show how a child performed in one test with a set of questions. The format may be unfamiliar.

Other aspects to consider
A test may be designed to be given in 2nd class or in the Autumn Term of 3rd. For that reason, some of the sums included by the creators of this test are from the 3rd class curriculum.

So a small amount of content, included towards the end of the test will be unfamiliar to the students. Some children will approach these more difficult questions as problems to be solved and with a ‘can do’ attitude may get some right. Others will be bothered by this unfamiliarity and say ‘Teacher you never taught us how to do this!’

The timing of the tests
The English or Maths tests are completed in a day. We are advised not to ‘test’ on a Monday or a Friday or on a day after an event like ‘Sports Day’ or the day of the School Tour.

Children find the standardized tests challenging. At 2nd class, one section of the English test
is 40 minutes long and the Maths test can take over an hour. That’s a long time for a 7 or 8 year old to sit quietly, work independently, concentrate and to remain motivated.

While the teacher is there to supervise and ‘support’ their class, those doing the standardized tests do not get help or advice from the teacher. Exams by their very nature, are all too often a test of stamina
as much as a test of knowledge and abilities.

Exam Skills
Then there are ‘exam skills’. These are still very much developing in primary school. Time management is one of these skills. It is considered ‘good practice’ that the teacher moves around the classroom during the test. So, for example, if a child gets ‘stuck’ on one question they can be advised to ‘leave it until later and move on’.

On the other hand some children are inclined to rush and do not understand the importance of checking back over their work.

The standardized test results are a ‘snapshot’ on the day. Perhaps a child was tired or distracted. Maybe he or she didn’t realise the significance of the test and so didn’t do their best.

Teachers walk a tightrope between reminding the children to do their best yet not cause children unnecessary worry.

An analysis of errors made
It is useful for the teacher to analyse why mistakes were made particularly in the Sigma T Maths Test.

The children do the first two pages with direction from the teacher. They are then given up to an hour to complete over forty questions. Some children come up very quickly to say they have ‘finished’ the paper. Some children equate doing best with finishing first.

Coming up after even twenty minutes
means that a child has given less than 30 seconds to
– reading a question,
– deciding what needs to be done,
– arriving at an answer
– and checking it is correct.

Simple mistakes can be made by those in a hurry. For example; at one point the students are asked to count money. Instead they are inclined to count the number of coins on the page.

Many of the sums had graphics to help the children. Children in a hurry, miscount and mix up signs;
adding instead of subtracting for example.

STen Scores
In the end of the year reports,
results will be given in the form of STen scores.
(A system of scoring from 1-10)

Just a few simple mistakes like those described
and a child can drop a STen
Sometimes it can be a case of two or three
more correct answers and a Sten would go up.

If the child got a STen of 5 (average) last year
and a STen of 4 (below average) this year,
it can seem like the child
is beginning to have difficulties
whereas the reality is,
if they hadn’t made two or three avoidable errors
like those described,
they would still be at a 5.

Remember too, your child may be tired
after a morning of testing.

Please ensure good attendance during the month of May so that your child does not miss their standardized tests.

Tests don’t measure sports
Tests don’t measure art,
Tests don’t measure music,
Or the kindness in your heart.
Tests don’t see your beauty
Tests don’t know your worth
Tests don’t see the reasons,
You were put upon this earth.
Tests don’t see your magic,
How you make others smile,
Tests don’t time how quickly,
You can run a mile.
Tests don’t hear your laughter,
Or see you’ve come this far,
Tests are just a tiny glimpse
Of who you really are.
So sitting at your table,
With a pencil and your test,
Remember tests aren’t who you are,
Remember you’re the best!

A version of this poem was on Twitter and was uncredited.
If you can tell us who wrote this we will credit it.