Standardized Test Performance

There are many reasons why good students do poorly on standardized tests.
My 13-year-old seventh grader is an excellent student. The problem is standardized testing. When she takes such tests, she routinely scores well below her academic level. She contends she always finishes first or near the first. I have encouraged her to take extra time with the questions, even review them after she finishes. She says she does that but still does not score appropriate to her level. How can I help her?
It is very important to understand that standardized tests are just one measure of how your child is doing at school. Don't be overly anxious about these scores. They are not perfect measures of what children can or cannot do.

Standardized tests are designed to give a common measure of students' performance. They do help parents, teachers, and schools see how an individual student performs in comparison to other students in the same class, the school, the state, or the nation.

There are several reasons why a bright child who has always done well in school may score below expectation on a standardized test. Your daughter may . . .

  • be disinterested in doing well on the test,
  • suffer from test-anxiety,
  • possess poor test-taking skills, or
  • have felt poorly on the test day or days.

Since you are concerned about your daughter's test scores, it's time for a chat with her teacher or the school counselor. Find out how your child's classmates compare with children in other school systems across the country. If the best students in your daughter's class are also receiving poor scores, it is possible that the teachers are not teaching the students the material on the test or may be giving them inflated grades relative to their performance in the classroom.

Make it a point to ask the teacher or counselor what the test results mean about your child's skills and abilities. Ask if any changes are anticipated in your child's educational program as a result of the test scores. You should also inquire if there are things that you could do at home to help your daughter strengthen particular skills or improve her test-taking skills. Perhaps, the two of you could select a book that would give her hints on how to do better on standardized tests or she could even work on these skills at a learning center.

Learn more: Read our Parents' Guide to Standardized Tests

Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

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