De-Mystifying Standardized Achievement Testing

At Green Hedges, we are now in the midst of a little more than a week of test mornings for our students in Grades 2-7.  In this testing period, those students will complete one subject-area test each morning using their iPads.  No more broken pencil leads or less than completely-filled bubbles!  The student reads the question (or listens to it, in the case of our younger students), and indicates their chosen answer using the touch screen.  If needed, scratch paper can be used to make calculations or note key terms in a reading passage before a final answer is indicated, but only answers entered on the iPad are considered.

Green Hedges utilizes tests created by the Educational Research Bureau (ERB).  The ERB tests are a highly-acclaimed achievement test which compiles and reports the data back to participants.  The student scores are presented as compared to three large sets of students of the same age group:  students nationally (the largest comparative group), students in suburban public schools, and students in independent schools (the smallest comparative group).  The ERB test is one of only two offering comparisons on the independent student norms, and thus are a more accurate measure of the abilities of our very capable group of learners.

Green Hedges employs standardized achievement tests for two basic reasons:

  • First, it allows us to gain information to serve a child better.  Public schools view standardized SOL testing as the final measure of student success each year.  However, at GHS, these tests although important, are only one of several pieces of information about each student used to help teachers enhance the learning experience. “The tests focus on language-related tasks and mathematical abilities and skills. …This information provides teachers a better understanding of the learning profiles of our individual students,” says Assistant Head of School Deb Haag.  Taking the tests mid-year allows teachers and parents to engage on areas of strength as well as those where more support is needed in the current school year.
  • The second purpose of the testing is to provide insight into how well our curriculum is being absorbed by our students.  Following the test, Mrs. Haag and others spend many hours carefully analyzing the results of that year’s testing by class, by curriculum area, and also as compared against results from previous years.  These results are reviewed with department heads and faculty members, with adjustments made as necessary to ensure our program is both comprehensive and rigorous in its delivery.

Although we do not “teach to the test”, we recognize that standardized testing will be encountered by our students regularly throughout the academic years, and therefore we do focus on teaching test-taking strategies and skills.  Some homework questions are written to emulate standardized test formats to increase familiarity and grow confidence.  Strategies are offered which range from reminding our younger students to be sure to read the question carefully to more complex strategies for older students on how to eliminate obviously false answers first so they are choosing between fewer possible responses.  These and more are part of our holistic approach intended to carry them forward beyond the ERB testing period and into the SSAT, ACT, and SAT environments.