Reality check

So, your children are bringing home stellar report cards and achieving above goal on state tests.  How can you tell how they fare on the national level? For many parents, the first indication of how their children rate on the national level occurs when the students take the PSAT’s.  Sometimes the results are quite unexpected.

I regularly encounter parents who contact me because they are alarmed by their children’s scores on national tests.  They ask why their children, who have consistently achieved honor roll status in middle and high school, score below the 50% when they first encounter a standardized test.  These can be entrance exams required by private or parochial high schools or SAT’s and ACT’s for college entrance.

These are the facts: Reports cards are subjective. They reflect an individual teacher’s experience with a student at a particular point in time. They may fluctuate greatly from term to term for a particular student. The reporting of a letter or number grade may not provide valuable information. The determination of the requirements for a grade may vary widely.  What would constitute an A in one class may be a B or even a C in another.  And attempting to compare grade requirements among different schools may be virtually impossible.

State tests are just that. The Connecticut  Mastery Tests (CMT’s) administered to public school students in grades 3 to 8, and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT’s) given to tenth grade students,  are useful only for purposes of the State Board of Education. They determine a district’s adherence to basic curriculum standards. They aren’t meant to determine a student’s aptitude or potential.

Many independent schools administer nationally-normed exams like the Iowa’s or ERB’s to assess their students’ progress.  Sadly, many, if not most,  public school students and their parents aren’t aware of their comparative standing on the national level until they’re at the end of their high school career.  One way of avoiding an unpleasant surprise is to take a national test like the SSAT in the lower grades or a PSAT before junior year.  It’s critical for a student to have an early indication of where he stands, so he can work towards his potential.  

For more information, go to the SSAT website.

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