Moving requires keeping track of details and making decisions about everything from finding a new home to packing your belongings. However, when it comes to changing schools, even the most organized parents can have a hard time figuring out a new school district's standardized testing system.
Standardized testing from state to state
The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires school districts to test students in reading and math every year from grades three through eight and at least once in high school in English and math. As of the 2007-2008 school year, states must also measure students' progress in science at least once during grades three to five, six to nine and 10 to 12. To fulfill this requirement, every state has developed its own testing system to assess how well students are progressing through the grades. More information on NCLB is available from the U.S. Department of Education.
If your child will be attending public school in another state, it is important that both you and your child are aware of testing requirements in the new school district. You can get information about standardized testing from several places. The best place to start is probably the websites of your state's department of education and your child's new school district. You can also call the school and ask to speak to the testing coordinator.
What you should know
Parents should ask the school officials in the new school district three main questions, which include the following:
- When will my child take standardized tests?
- What skills do the tests cover?
- How are the results used and reported?
When will my child take standardized tests?
- Get the testing schedule from your child's new school as soon as possible. Write the test dates on a calendar so that you and your child will not forget them.
What skills do the tests cover?
- It is important to learn what skills children at your child's grade level are expected to know in your new school district. It is possible the school you are coming from has a different curriculum, and your child may not have yet learned some skills tested in the new district.
- You can talk about this with the school principal, a guidance counselor or, if your child has already been assigned to a class, the teacher. Talk about whether it is necessary for your child to play "catch up" or if your child should be working on any particular area outside of school or with the help of a tutor or study group.
- It is also important to know what your new school district expects children to know at every grade level. Most school districts have websites with detailed information about grade level curricula and knowledge expectations.
- Talk to your child about what you find out. Moving can be very stressful for children, especially when they have to enter a new school. The idea of having to take a standardized test may add to that stress. By knowing what to expect, your child will feel calmer about taking the tests.
How are test results used and reported?
- Standardized tests measure student progress, identify weaknesses in the curriculum and provide the ability to compare schools. In some states, standardized tests determine which students will graduate or advance to the next grade level. It's important to find out exactly how your child's school will use test scores so that you can understand how the scores might affect your child's education. The NCLB Act requires states to issue "School District Report Cards," which provide information on how each school is performing. You can find the report card for your child's school on your state's department of education website and, in many cases, on your district's website.
More tips for coping with standardized tests
In addition to asking questions about what is on the tests, when they are given and how the scores are used, you can make the transition to a new school and testing system easier by doing the following tasks.
- If your child has any special needs, be sure to ask about testing accommodations. All states' testing systems allow for accommodations for children with special needs, such as providing extended time or taking the test in a quiet room. Your child's Individualized Education Plan team will select modifications from a list of approved accommodations.
- Try not to worry about your child's ability to perform on a test in a new school system before knowing all the details about the test. Find out about the testing system and the way the test scores will affect your child before getting a tutor or helping your child prepare for a test.
- Tell your child that all you expect is his or her best effort. Do not overly emphasize test scores or test results. Assure your child that good study habits throughout the school year, along with practice sessions with the teacher, will help him or her be ready for the testing.
- As you're preparing for the move, try to remember to talk to your child about everything you learn about the new school system. It is important that you help your child feel comfortable and confident with the expectations and activities in the new school, including standardized testing.