Testing has become a huge part of our children’s school lives for a variety of reasons. I know many parents are understandably confused and struggle to interpret the results from all these tests.
Have you ever wondered…
- What is the purpose of all these tests and why are there so many?
- What do the results mean? Did my child do well or not?
- Should I be worried my child’s low score?
- Why is my child getting good grades but low scores?
- What’s a RIT score?
- Why are there standardized assessments in the fall, winter, and spring?
Below is a summary of the standardized tests that educators in schools in Ohio use with answers to all of the questions above.
Ohio’s State Tests
From 3rd grade through 8th grade, the state of Ohio requires a year-end, standardized math assessment. The tests are developed in partnership with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) which is why you may have heard these tests referred to as “AIR testing”.
Students are tested in the spring. The test is administered on a computer and lasts 75 to 90 minutes. Families generally receive test results in the fall. The test results are primarily used by the state to compare local schools and districts to one another.
These tests are designed to measure student proficiency with the knowledge and skills outlined in Ohio’s Learning Standards. Each problem is chosen to assess a very specific math standard. The aim is to assess whether a child has mastered the standards for their grade level by the end of the school year.
It can’t tell you how much a child learned this year or why the child might be struggling. It is simply a snapshot of a child’s skills relative to the standards at one moment in time.
Here are some additional resources to help you understand and interpret the results.
- How to interpret the score reports
- Practice test questions
- Experience the test with sample questions
Terra Nova Tests
The Terra Nova is an achievement test designed to measure what students have learned in core academic subjects including math from K-12. It’s published by McGraw Hill. Most questions are multiple choice and students use bubble sheets to record their answers. The test is timed, but it is designed so that students have ample time to complete all the questions.
The Terra Nova is a norm-referenced assessment, which means it allows schools to compare their students to those from all over the country. Students receive a “Scale Score” which is a measure of their achievement across grade levels. In addition, students receive a percentile rank. The percentile tells you how your child compares to students from across the nation. A score in the 50th percentile would mean you child did better than 50% of the children his/her age who took the test.
The TerraNova is also sometimes used for gifted identification. If a student scores above the 95% percentile are classified as gifted.
Schools use the TerraNova to guide teacher instruction as well as compare teachers, schools, and districts to the national norms.
Many schools use the MAP test (Measures of Academic Progress) as an additional assessment. The MAP is used to improve teacher instruction.
The big difference between MAP testing and AIR testing is that MAP is intended to measure student growth during the school year and sometimes across multiple years as well.
On the MAP test, problems are dynamically assigned based on the student’s prior answer. If a student gets a question right, the next question will be more challenging. If they get a question wrong, the next problem will be easier. This is in contrast to AIR tests which are static and so every student takes exactly the same test.
The dynamic nature of the MAP allows it to better assess students who are further behind or further ahead of grade level standards. For example, if your child’s skills are advanced, the MAP will keep offering more challenging problems. Whereas on the AIR test, they can only receive the questions that were predetermined by the grade level standards.
MAP tests are not timed but generally take 30 to 45 minutes to complete. The MAP test is usually taken in fall, winter, and spring to provide student growth data throughout an entire school year.
MAP scores are reported as a “RIT score” that can be used to interpret student growth over multiple years of school. The expectation is that a student’s RIT score will increase over time from one grade to the next.
Understanding the Difference the Tests
Imagine a child that starts the year “one year behind” grade level. Over the course of the school year, they learn a ton, but not enough to master all the standards for their grade. They will score POORLY on the AIR test because they have not mastered all the grade level standards, but their MAP results should show significant growth. The TerraNova does a better job of measuring achievement above and below grade level than the state test, so their Scale Score should reflect the current state of knowledge and skills.
Now, imagine a child that is “a year ahead” of grade level. Over the course of the school year, they are not challenged and learn very little. They will score VERY HIGH on the AIR test, but their MAP results should show very little improvement from the beginning of the year. Again, the TerraNova does a better job of measuring achievement above and below grade level than the state test, so their Scale Score should better reflect the current state of knowledge and skills.
How You Should Interpret Test Results
First, remember that these tests are a SINGLE data point in your child’s mathematical learning journey.
These test results should not be valued any higher than school tests, homework scores, quizzes, and all the rest.
The two main reasons students don’t do as well on these tests:
1) Students take too little time (they rush)
2) Students were not engaged during the test (they are bored)
In fact, the NWEA Research group which develops the MAP tests actively tries to make the test as engaging as possible to prevent false readings. The NWEA itself warns teachers and parents NOT to overreact to one test result that doesn’t show growth for exactly these two reasons. The TerraNova test is also designed with an emphasis on being as engaging as possible.
Many children take standardized tests for several days in a row. Is it at all surprising that some of these kids might lose interest? I think not!
If your child’s score isn’t as high as you hoped or expected, remember that it could be a result of non-academic factors like being bored or rushing through the test. This is why it’s important to factor a test score in with your child’s ENTIRE math learning experience.
Having tested many kids, I can tell you that I learn more from a five-minute conversation with the child than I do from the answers they provide on an assessment. When you ask to explain their work and you really see how they think, you get a much clearer picture of their misconceptions, their strengths, and their confidence.
This is why you should always talk to your child’s teacher openly about your child’s attitude and skills.
If you have serious concerns about your child’s score(s), reach out to your child’s school math teacher and to try and get a better idea of how your child is doing in class every day. They can provide a much better picture of your child’s math learning than a 75-minute test can.
Three reasons to seek outside help
1) Your child did really well on the test(s) and isn’t being fully challenged in school. Check out our enrichment classes.
2) Your child is struggling at school and the test scores confirm what you had feared. Learn more about our combination of teacher-led classes and one-on-one tutoring
3) Your child’s scores aren’t showing the growth that you were hoping for. It may be time to supplement your child’s school experience with a system designed to help kids develop a deeper understanding and solve problems. Check out how our system works