Whether it's your first move or your 10th, even the most organized military parents can have a hard time figuring out a new school district's standardized testing system. While the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires every school district to test students in reading and math, every state has developed its own testing system. So even if you think your child rivals Albert Einstein's genius, you might want to check out these need-to-know items before your child switches schools.
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- When the standardized tests are taken. All third through eighth-grade students test in reading and math every year and at least once in high school in English and math. Science is also tested three times between third and 12th grade. The exact dates and years vary, so get the testing schedule from your child's new school as soon as possible. Put the dates on a calendar so you don't plan a vacation or schedule a dentist appointment during those days.
- What skills the tests cover. Ask the principal, the guidance counselor or your child's teacher about what your child is expected to know in the new school district. It's possible your child is lacking the necessary skills required because your child's old school had a different curriculum. Most school districts have websites with detailed information about knowledge expectations.
- How the test results are used. Standardized tests theoretically measure how well a student and the school are doing. In some states, these tests determine which students will graduate or go on to the next grade. Find out how your child's school will use test scores so you can understand how the scores might affect your child's education. States also use the scores to issue School District Report Cards, which show how well each district is doing. Visit your state's department of education website or your district's website to view your child's school report card.
- Accommodations for children with special needs. All states accommodate for children with special needs with things like extended test times or quiet rooms for test taking. Your child's individualized education plan team will select modifications from a list of approved accommodations.
- Talk to your child about the tests. Do not overly emphasize test scores or results, but be clear about what will be different at the new school. Assure your child that good study habits all year and practice sessions with the teacher can help your child feel less stressed about changing schools.
Don't worry. We're not going to test you on all this. But if your child will be attending public school in another state, it is important that you and your child understand these helpful pointers so you can both be prepared for the switch.