Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, states that receive federal funding for education must test all students in grades 3 through 8 annually in math and English Language Arts, beginning in the 2005-06 school year.
New York State has been testing fourth and eighth grade students in these two subjects since 1999. Now, to comply with the federal mandate, the State Education Department has created new tests, similar to those given in grades 4 and 8.
Test results will determine if a school is making Adequate Yearly Progress toward
student achievement goals determined by the state.
What’s on the tests?
In ELA, students may be asked to:
Listen to a story read aloud and answer questions about what they have just heard.
Answer questions about a passage they have read.
Identify and correct grammar, punctuation and other errors in a passage they have read.
In math, students must:
Answer multiple-choice questions.
Answer open-ended questions that require them to show how they arrived at their answer.
Read and interpret graphs and tables.
Recognize and use signs, symbols and terms that represent mathematical concepts.
How will the tests be scored?
Scores will range from 1 to 4. A score of 1 or 2 is considered below the state standard; a score of 3 is proficient; a score of 4 is highly proficient. ELA test results are scheduled to be available to schools in August; math results are due by late September.
What if my child does poorly?
Tests will be scored by teachers and approved scorers. Children who score a 1 or a 2 are entitled to receive extra help. Principals must contact parents of those students, and your school district is responsible for providing extra help to your child. That could include tutoring before or after school, extra help during the school day, or summer school. How your district provides this help is spelled out in a document called the Academic Intervention Services plan.
Can a child who scores low on a state test be held back?
The tests help identify students needing additional help in meeting state standards. Districts use them, together with your child’s classroom performance and your input, to decide whether your child is ready to be promoted. Because they are only one indicator of a student’s performance, the tests alone should not be used to decide whether your child is promoted. Ask your school for a copy of its promotion policy.
Do students with disabilities take the tests?
In general, students with disabilities are expected to take state tests. At Individualized Education Plan meetings, you have the opportunity to discuss the tests and whether your child might be allowed accommodations in how the tests are given. Your district’s Committee on Special Education would determine whether accommodations – such as more time to take the test – are appropriate.
How can I help my child?
Research has shown that there are some good ways to help children learn:
Set up a dedicated area for homework and studying.
Require your children to complete homework assignments, and challenge them to respond in detail to writing assignments.
Have frequent discussions with your children about their studies.
Stay in contact with your child’s teachers.
Preparing for the tests
Kids can’t “cram” for these tests. The best way for parents to help is to introduce fun activities and study habits at home that will strengthen your child’s abilities in these key subject areas:
Reading, writing and listening:
Have your child explain information from a newspaper or magazine article.
Encourage children to keep a journal.
When watching a television commercial, ask your child to separate fact from fiction.
Play word games during car trips.
Read aloud with your child, alternating paragraphs. This helps motivate your child to complete assignments and helps you monitor progress in reading.
Help your child get started on a writing assignment by asking relevant questions. This helps a child internalize the questions writers ask themselves when composing a piece.
Demonstrate the everyday uses of math. Let your child tally your spending while shopping, calculate the savings on a sale item or help estimate how many gallons of paint you need to cover the living room walls.
While driving or walking, have your child identify the geometric shape of common items that you see.
Give your children the chance to help put together a budget for a family vacation, calculating what you might spend for gasoline, accommodations and activities.