STANDARDIZED TESTS are held in the school during the month of May for classes from 1st to 6th in the area of Maths and English using the Sigma T and Drumcondra tests. When exactly will depend on each teacher. He or she have tried to choose a day when there is good attendance and a day when there are no other events planned.
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 curriculum
as laid down in the Irish 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
that they are not prepared for in any way,
The format may be unfamiliar.
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,
– and to remain motivated.
While the teacher is there to supervise
and ‘support’ the children,
the examinees 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.
Tests are a ‘snapshot’ on the day
A parent generally shouldn’t be overly concerned
about test results unless the teacher is.
The teacher looks at the result in conjunction
with how the child has succeeded
at their schoolwork
over a full year
and decide if it reflects reality or not.
Parents can do this too.
Looking back over completed workbooks and copybooks
may show that your child can be inconsistent.
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.
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 designers of this test
are from the 3rd class curriculum.
So this 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 can be somewhat perturbed by their unfamiliarity
and say ‘Teacher you never taught us how to do this!’
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.
at one point in the Sigma T 2nd class, the students are asked to count money.
Instead they are inclined to count
the number of coins on the page.
Many of the sums have graphics to help the children.
Children in a hurry, miscount and mix up signs;
adding instead of subtracting for example.
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.
You can help by ensuring good attendance during the month of May so that your child does not miss their standardized test and making sure they have a good breakfast. The tests will be a reflection of the school year so far, so there is no need to study for the tests, beyond your child continuing to do the homework the teacher asks.
Remember: ‘A test only measures what the test asks’
These tests can’t measure creativity, depth of character, diligence and determination and so much more. Tests can’t measure success because learning is a journey in life. Practice always makes progress.