***This content is based on an interview with Reading Horizons Board Member and former Director of Graduate Literacy Programs at Bemidji State University, Dr. Brian C. Ludlow.***
With so much riding on standardized test scores, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and make decisions based solely on those results without questioning their accuracy. Be sure to get the whole story before making any judgment calls. There are many ways to receive insight into your student’s educational needs on top of assessment, including: close observation during class time, checking test scores against classroom grades, and simply having an honest conversation with parents. These decisions need not be taken lightly as they effect a student’s self-esteem and future accomplishments.
Here are some real life insights from Reading Horizons Board Member, Dr. Brian C. Ludlow, which will help you understand the effect testing error can have on our students.
One reason that reading instruction and assessment holds such a dear place in my heart is because of an experience I’ve had with one of my own children. I have a daughter named Sarah; she’s 16 now and is going to be a senior this year. She is very scholastically accomplished with high ACT scores, a 4.0 GPA, and is 1 of 50 award winners in the state of Utah for the Governor’s Academy Scholarship this year.
Between Sarah’s first and second grade year, her teacher came to me and said that Sarah was a struggling reader and that they needed to pull her out of her regular classroom for part of the school day for intervention. I told the teacher that Sarah didn’t need that kind of additional support and that there was probably a testing error. They were frustrated with me at the school and said that my daughter was in the 25th percentile and that she needed additional support.
To address the school’s concerns, we worked on phonetic skills with Sarah over the summer. Much to my surprise, when she went back to school as a second grader she had been assigned to receive intervention instruction. I immediately called the school and arranged to hold a meeting with the principal and the special education director.
During the meeting, I assured them that my daughter did not need the additional support and to return her to her regular classroom full-time. They assured me that they were just going to keep her there until the end of the week when they would retest her. So they retested her, and to their surprise, she tested in the 98th percentile. Now, I’m sure the summer instruction may have improved her reading abilities but I am convinced that her original scores were due to some form of testing error.
Looking back on this experience, I can see how my daughter’s life would be different if I had not been a parent with a doctorate in reading. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go to the school directly to provide Sarah with the educational experience she needed to succeed.
As educators, the decisions we make based off of test results will make a huge impact on the lives of our students. Particularly, decisions made during the formative years, between kindergarten and third grade, when children begin to determine things about themselves. Learning to read is important, but developing a healthy sense of self is also important. Giving students an environment where they will be appropriately challenged is crucial for their long term success.
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What can you do to prevent testing error in your classroom? What works for you? Post your thoughts under the comments section, we'd love to hear from you!
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