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Ask Dr. Shore...

About High-Stakes Tests

Dear Dr. Shore,
My son is in fifth grade. I recently received the results of his standardized testing. Should I discuss the results with him and, if so, what should I tell him?

Learn More

To check out high-stakes testing from a kid's point of view, read Parents Try High-Stakes Tests -- and then check out what your state tests are like.

Talking with your son about the test results is important, but in order to do so, you need to make sure you understand yourself what the scores mean. That often is easier said than done since the maze of numbers, graphs, and terms can confound even the most sophisticated parents.

Begin by familiarizing yourself with the terminology of the test results. Scores often are reported as percentiles. Ranging from 1 to 99, that statistic indicates how well your child performed compared with other children in the same grade. Local percentile refers to how well your child did compared with same-grade children in your child's home school district. National percentile refers to how well your child did compared with same-grade children across the nation. If your child received a national percentile score of 74 in reading comprehension, that means that 74 percent of the children in his grade across the nation received lower scores.

In reviewing test results with their child, parents should keep in mind his age. Children in kindergarten and first grade typically are too young to review test results with in anything other than the most general terms. Older children, however, might benefit from a discussion of their strengths and weaknesses.

Give some thought to your manner of presentation and encourage your child to ask questions or raise concerns. Explain that the results in a non-judgmental, relatively matter-of-fact way using words and concepts appropriate to his age. Do not disparage his performance or express disappointment with the results and avoid making comparisons with the performance of siblings or friends.

Special sensitivity is required if your child has performed poorly. Let him know that everyone has areas of strength and weakness, but don't dwell on his difficulties. Try to find some strengths to highlight even if they're only strengths for your child, and let him know that test scores can change with time.

About Ken Shore

Dr. Kenneth Shore is a psychologist who has worked in various public schools for more than 25 years. He has authored six books and produced a book and video series on bullying for schools and parent organizations called The ABCs of Bullying Prevention. Click to read a complete bio. For information on how to obtain his books and videos, go to his Web site.