High Stakes Testing

Many tests are for evaluation purposes only, but some tests have direct consequences in the educational experience of a specific student. These tests are known as 'High Stakes' tests. Read on to learn more about 'High Stakes' tests.

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In 1983, the U.S. Department of Education issued a report entitled 'A Nation at Risk,' which encouraged reform in public school education. Since then the use of standardized testing to evaluate student progress and the efficacy of teachers, schools, and whole school districts has become the norm. There are two basic kinds of tests, given at both state and national levels: achievement tests measure a student's grasp of information he's supposed to understand at his level of schooling, while aptitude tests measure his ability to learn new information at higher levels of schooling.

Many tests are used for evaluation only, to determine where a student needs more attention, where a teacher needs to put more emphasis, or where a school district may need an overhaul. But some tests have direct consequences in the educational experience of a specific student. These tests are called 'High Stakes' tests.

Here are some ways in which the results of a high stakes test can impact your student:

  • By determining what classes a child should take (AP? Remedial?)
  • By determining if your child should attend summer school
  • By determining if your child qualifies for, or should be allowed to keep a scholarship
  • By influencing state or federal decisions about funding for the school
  • By determining whether your child should progress to the next grade level
  • By determining whether you child should be allowed to graduate

At its best, standardized education can be useful to students as well as teachers. By working together, school administrators and teachers can use standardized tests to gather valuable information about student performance. They can then train teachers effectively and incorporate key skills into daily lessons. It's a crucial balance which, if handled properly, can strengthen public education.

But the system isn't perfect. If your child isn't fully prepared, a high stakes test could have a major impact on his education. It's more important than ever for parents to take an informed, active role in their kids' education.

Stay Informed

Ask your child's teacher, principal, the school district office or the state board of education for information on what standards are expected of your child at his grade level.

  • Find out how many standardized tests your child has to take each year
  • Find out which, if any might be 'High Stakes' tests
  • Find out what your child's teacher and school is doing to get him ready for the test

Get Ready!

While test prep courses and brushing up are a good idea, nothing beats a solid foundation. Keep up with your child's progress throughout the year.

  • Encourage good study habits and isolate bad ones!
  • Stay in touch with your child's teachers
  • Keep reading and math basics sharp - they're crucial to success in standardized testing
  • Put special focus on filling skill gaps, especially in reading and math
  • Ask your teacher or school district about evaluation testing for your child, to identify any potential problems well before he takes the real test
  • If your child needs extra help, consider a tutor. There are many online tutoring services that remove all the inconvenience, many are cheaper and employ state trained teachers who understand the specific skills evaluated by a standardized test

High stakes tests don't have to be a source of stress for you or your student. Knowing about it and being prepared go far to eliminating anxiety and doubt. No matter what you feel about standardized tests, your child needs to be prepared in order to do well. Don't be afraid to ask direct questions of teachers and school officials at every level. Ultimately it is to you and your child to whom they are accountable.

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