Help! My Child Failed a Standardized Test

Help_My_Child_FailedIt’s here; the fateful day. After waiting weeks, anxiously watching for the moment the mailman puts that envelope in your box, your child’s standardized test scores have finally arrived. Perhaps you rip open the envelope, fully confident your child’s scores are above average (they are homeschooled after all). Perhaps you open the envelope with trepidation, unsure of what you’ll find. As your eyes scan the paperwork in front of you, your heart sinks and a million thoughts start rushing through your head. Your child has scored poorly on standardized testing… now what do you do?

First off, let me say this. Your child has not failed! Second, these tests don’t tell you everything. They are exactly what you would suppose, ‘standard’. They don’t test everything; this is not the sum of your child’s knowledge. This is a general assessment of learning.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve come across several parents who are worried about their children’s test results. Allow me to offer a few words of encouragement and share my thoughts.

Testing Format

The first thing we ought to consider is the testing format being used. Not all children test well under the same circumstances. Perhaps the test used, or the way in which the test was administered, was a problem for them. Using a different test, or changing the environment in which the test was taken, might help in the future.

Nervousness

Supposing the format was not a problem, the level of our child’s anxiety might also be an issue. I’ve seen children become ill over the thought of taking standardized tests, especially when given by someone other than their own parent. The low score might only be a symptom of their inability to concentrate due to nerves.

Overconfidence

If our children normally do well in their lessons and score high on weekly tests, they might enter into standardized testing presuming they’ll do well. While I don’t like to over-emphasize these tests, my children need to have a realistic view of their abilities. Scoring well on weekly arithmetic tests does not mean these exams will be a walk in the park.

Your Child’s Speed

Whether due to nerves or overconfidence, sometimes our children rush through standardized tests merely wanting it to be done and over with. Low scores might merely indicate our child went a little faster than they should have done. In the future, if they slow down a bit, their scores ought to improve.

Your Child’s Curriculum

Lastly, one should also consider the curriculum currently being used by the child. Not all curricula covers the same material. It is unfair to expect a child to test well in an area he has yet to learn. One year, one of my daughters came rushing out of a finished test (which was being administered by another parent) to anxiously ask me what a stem and leaf plot was; we had never covered this. Frankly, I had never heard of this, nor had, it seemed, any other parent in the room. Sure enough, her test results reflected this. We therefore have two options available to us: Continue with our current curriculum, knowing it might contain a few gaps, or choose new curriculum. Allow the Lord to lead you in making the right decision for your child.

While I have no opposition to standardized tests (it is good to have a general idea about your child’s aptitude level), we need to keep in mind that such tests do not ultimately reflect a child’s intelligence. These tests are only meant to be guides. If your child’s test scores are not quite what you had hoped they’d be, pray about the results and then ask God to show you your next step. One thing you shouldn’t do is obsess about test results.

Keep in mind, you know your child better than anyone else. You know his daily progress, his strengths, and his weaknesses. This is a test; this is only a test. Treat it as such.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature [nor on his test scores], because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (Italics mine 😃)
I Samuel 16:7

🔔Time to Chime In: For those who choose to test their children, do you share their results with them? Why or why not?

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23 thoughts on “Help! My Child Failed a Standardized Test

  1. We test every other year. I told my kids the tests are just to make sure that I am teaching them the academics they need. I use the information to find week spots I may have missed. As for curriculum that teaches skills at a different rate than the norm we do not worry over it since I know it will be taught at another time.

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  2. We live in a state that requires standardized test scores in math and language arts be submitted each August to show “evidence of achievement.” (Please know that a failed school .25 of a mile from me has been closed this year because it failed accreditation year after year – but – I digress.) We use unconventional curriculum, so when testing time comes my student and I are both usually a little nervous. I share the test scores with her because she always does well, and it is such a relief to her to see them. With a younger child, or a struggling child, I might not. I think you have to know your child. If the test scores can be motivational, yes, if it leads to feeling defeated, then no.

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    • We tend to share a general assessment of how our children did. We never give specific results, simply telling them they did great (which is true).

      My fear in giving them their exact scores, especially since they score high each year, is in them growing overconfident or haughty about the results. The knowledge gained is meant to increase them in wisdom and useful to God, not to become a braggart. Thus, we merely tell them they’ve done very well.

      I do see the fear of giving low scores to a struggling child as well, however. We do not wish to discourage them in their learning or cause them to stumble because of one low score.

      If you have no opposition to sharing, I’m curious to know what would happen if you were to turn in tests with low scores, given that your state requires these exams. Is there recourse for this?

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      • I considered the possibility of pride, and I agree with you that if sharing the scores caused that sort of attitude, I would reconsider. I don’t have any experience of anyone not meeting the required score, but there are alternate ways to file for homeschooling in our state and some parents opt to do portfolios or have an assessment done by a licensed teacher with a master’s degree or higher. If a child is not achieving then there is a one year probation and parents must provide a plan (which must be approved) to improve learning.

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  3. Great advice! As a retired public school teacher, I am very familiar with standardized testing.If parents remember that standardized testing is just “one snapshot” of a child’s academic growth, and one of many tools to use for this purpose, perhaps they can put this one test in perspective. (I had to laugh when you mention “stem and leaf” plot graphs. That strategy was taught in the math books we used, but I always wondered how they were used in real life. The next grade level teaches a “box and whisker” plot graph. I had to look that up on the Internet. Learn something new every day.)

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    • Okay, now you’ve sent me into research mode. 😉 What exactly IS a ‘box and whisker’ plot graph? I’ve got to look that one up now, too! (I remember checking by 9’s being a new one for me when my oldest girls started higher maths. We never did this when I was in school.)

      What I think most parents are forgetting, is that their children probably did well overall. Usually a child is merely low in one subject. Their child is not unintelligent, merely weak in one area.

      To be fair, I struggle with the notion that all children need to excel in ALL areas. Why do we do this? Shouldn’t education expose them to various areas of study, yet give them individual freedom to pursue higher learning in a specific field? Why do we insist all children be proficient in all areas, from academics to sports to being prom king? What a burden we sometimes put on these young people.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  4. Oh yes, the standardized tests were the straw that broke this camels back. We pulled Catie from school after this past year because of the testing. In Texas I am not going to be required (at least by the laws in place at this time) to test her at all. I will keep a running score of her weaknesses and strengths along with giving her some “test prep” drills so as to keep her on par, just in case testing becomes required or I end up with a circumstance where I have to put her back into Public Schooling.

    I would like to point out that I have a very bad taste for the testing. All the “drama” that went on for my daughter this year was that the teachers thought she might do poorly on the STAAR test. I had over 6 parent/teacher conferences and even had the instructional coordinator and principal pulled in a couple of times. All to Prepare me for the possibility that my child may have to “stay back” this year. And who can blame the teachers when their very livelihood depends on how the children score on these tests. Raises are based on the average class test scores and if the class scores low as a whole the teacher is put on “probation” whatever that means. So Catie’s entire third grade year, along with the other students in that grade, revolved around these tests. Reading and Math were so over emphasized that the other subjects were barely touched at all. Now do not get me wrong Reading and Math are certainly on the top of the list for me but science, history, art and the like should not be pushed aside because of emphasis on a test, in my humble opinion. Catie and I worked hard every evening on anything I could get my hands on for math, we read and read and read. But I also had to supplement the other classes also. Catie struggled with the different cloud types (Cirrus, cumulus, etc) and I discovered that they had never even looked at a cloud at school that was not on a worksheet. So I started taking her outside every day, we looked at the clouds and named them then we did crafts with cotton balls to make a hard copy of what we were seeing. We predicted weather based on the cloud types and how fast or slow they were moving and changing. Within a month Catie was the resident expert on clouds and the weather and water cycles. I do not understand, and never will, why in the world the students were inundated with worksheet after worksheet when they could have simply gone out into the school yard and looked up at the sky and started from there. A more natural approach in my mind, the school disagrees, they told me there is no time for such “projects” as they have the tests to prepare for. sigh.

    After all the drama and tears, from her teachers, from me, and from Catie herself her final report card came and she passed into fourth grade, then the STAAR testing results came and not only did she pass but she passed with plenty of wiggle room. Not top of her grade by any means but it certainly seemed that all the stress and worry were for naught. We have decided to homeschool anyway. I want my child to our read and out math anyone but I also want her to roll around in the dirt and study nature, experiment with building with Popsicle sticks and learn physics and other science through hands on experiments and seeing it happen for herself. I am a History geek so the thought of exploring (again for me) all the characters from our past with my daughter makes me absolutely giddy. We already discuss all kinds of history spontaneously in this house just based on the fact that is how I roll, I read, watch movies and videos and regularly research into history just for fun…………..so that is what we talk about or what I may equate a certain conversation to naturally. Art in our Public Schools is rather nonexistent………..it is still a grade but there is no more “art class” the grades came as add on to other assignments. For instance there was one grade based on how a poem “looked” after she wrote it in her Language Arts class.

    I guess this rather long and rambling comment was to say: I agree that testing should be a way, but only one way, to show weaknesses and strengths. I intend to use it as such, but I feel that our schools put way too much emphasis on it. I think there was way to much time and effort spent on drilling for the tests when the tests could have been passed easily by students if they had been allowed to learn in a more natural way.

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  5. After always being homeschooled, my husband urged me to put the older ones in ps because I was pregnant with our seventh and he thought I couldn’t balance that (and a move). Let me tell you, it was WAY harder juggling public school schedules and having very little idea of what my kids were learning (no textbooks!). Anyway, my fourth grader failed the reading part of the state test. Can my fourth grader read and comprehend? Absolutely! I know… I was his teacher for years, after all! But like you said, different curriculum, different approach to how things are done at ps, anxiety and ADD (which was better controlled at home than in a highly stimulating classroom), and BAM. A failed test. And now he thinks he is not smart. Hubby thinks I must have failed him during our homeschooling years if he can’t dive right in and ace everything. Schools teach to the test and there is a certain skill involved in passing them. Failing them does not equal failure. Education is not and never will be a one size fits all! It was a frustrating experience!

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  6. I’ve been seeing a lot of parents in groups worried at one weak area and panicking. I think it’s important to know your laws so you can spare yourself that. My son does extremely well on the testing and for that I am grateful and do share his results. When the school labeled him with an unspecified learning disability in reading and he saw on day four of homeschooling it as a “teaching disability ” I know there is damage that still haunts him. This year he got a perfect score on the vocabulary. I hope the joy that brought him continues to heal him. At 15 and four years of homeschooling, he still tears up when talking about his school experience.

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  7. We have a love/hate relationship with testing. My older daughter sees it as torture, my younger daughter thinks it’s a game. Oddly enough, I was about to post on my blog on exactly the same subject!

    Thank you for posting your experience. One thing I always remind myself is no one knows everything. Cover the basics, and see what happens from there!

    Liked by 1 person

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