Understanding your Child’s State Test Scores
By Mary E. Miele M.A.Ed, Special Education Teacher
What tests did your child take?
Each spring, students in grades 3-8 take part in the New York State Testing Program as required under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The English Language Arts and Mathematics examinations given are based on the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) adopted by New York State in July 2010. However, it wasn’t until the 2012-2013 school year that the assessments in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics were used to measure a student’s progress towards mastering the Common Core Learning Standards. Students take the ELA and math assessments annually through grade 8. Science and Social Studies assessments are administered in grades 4 and 8 but are not Common Core aligned.
What skills are tested?
The ELA Common Core examination tests your child’s ability to comprehend key ideas and details presented in grade level texts. Their reading comprehension score is based on their responses to multiple choice questions that measure the common core learning standards. The mathematics common core examination tests your child’s ability to solve equations using the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), base ten, fractions, the number system, ratios and proportions, measurement and data, functions and geometry; which are determined by their grade level.
Your Score Report Decoded
You can locate your child’s score on your NYC Schools Account: https://www.mystudent.nyc/. You need to have your child’s ID number (found on his or her report card) as well as an Account Creation Code (provided by your child’s school) to register.
For both the ELA and Math examinations, there are four major scores reported.
Scale Score: The scale score is determined by the number of points your child earns on the test. The higher the number of points your child earned, the higher his or her scale score. There may be no scale score listed if, (1) your child did not complete a sufficient number of questions on the test to generate a score, (2) if your child was medically excused, or (3) if there was an administrative error.
Quick Tip: You should NOT compare your child’s scale score this year to the scale score from previous exam years. The range of scale scores change by grade level and should not be compared as they may falsely indicate a better/worse performance than what actually occurred.
Performance Level 2016-2017: Students are assigned a performance level based on how they perform on the test this year. There are four possible performance levels:
NYS Level 1: Students performing at this level are well below proficient in meeting grade level standards. The skills they demonstrate are insufficient to meet grade expectations and Common Core Learning Standards.
NYS Level 2: Students performing at this level are somewhat proficient in meeting grade level standards. The skills they demonstrate are on track to meet current New York high school graduation requirements but are insufficient to meet Common Core Learning Standards.
NYS Level 3: Students performing at this level are proficient in meeting grade level standards. The skills they demonstrate are sufficient to meet Common Core Learning Standards.
NYS Level 4: Students performing at this level are currently excelling in meeting the grade level standards. The skills they demonstrate are more than sufficient to meet grade level and Common Core Learning Standards.
Overall State Percentile Rank: The percentile rank compares your child’s scale score to the scores of other NY state students who took the same test this year. The rank is reported on a scale of 1-99. The higher your child’s percentage rank, the better your child did compared to other students. For example, if your child’s percentage rank is 50%, it means that your child did better than 50% of all students in their grade who took the test.
Performance Level 2015-2016: The second performance level listed indicates your child’s performance in the previous year’s examination. The 2015-2016 performance level can be compared to the 2016-2017 performance level (this year’s level) to determine if your child has improved. If your child’s performance level is lower this year than last year, it can indicate that there may be some interventions that are needed to ensure that your child continues to progress. These interventions can include providing test preparation, tutoring, and/or test accommodations offered through a 504 plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
Quick Tip: Students taking the 3rd grade test will not have a previous year performance level as this is the first year of administration. Use this year’s performance level as a baseline to compare to in future years.
Understanding your child’s results is just the first part. While the results may or may not have been what you expected, your understanding of the results can help you support your child during the school year and help them prepare for their next assessment.
If your child’s performance was a Level 1 or Level 2:
- Speak to your child’s teacher to get an understanding of what standards they struggle with the most. Ask for suggestions on how you can support learning at home.
- If you went through tutoring support, review that support with your child’s tutor and create a list of what improvements could be made for next year’s process.
- Advocate for your child to receive additional support as needed. Students whose performance level is either Level 1 or Level 2 are eligible for academic intervention services (AIS) from their schools.
- Speak to your child about their testing experience. Ask about any fears, anxieties or difficulties they faced during testing. Your child’s feedback may help you determine what type of support they need during this time.
- Find ways to help your child practice skills outside of school. For example, household activities like cooking, baking and shopping can help your child practice skills that will help them during testing. These activities can help students develop skills such as following multi-step directions and calculating measurements that are assessed during testing.
- Encourage independent reading at home. All children can benefit from additional independent reading time, not just struggling students. However, some students are more hesitant to pick up a book and read without encouragement. Find a book series or genre that your child particularly enjoys and don’t worry about how “educational” it is. Even magazines, newspapers and comic books can be good material to encourage reading.
- Consider having your child evaluated for special education services for additional support that they may need. Many students struggle silently with learning disabilities that are unsupported and are not allowing them to demonstrate all that they know and can do. Students who qualify for special education services are entitled to receive support throughout the school year and testing accommodations during assessments. Testing accommodations that may be considered include breaks during testing, administration in a distraction free location and questions read aloud. These supports can make all the difference for some students. In addition, even if they receive these supports, there are no future implications on their post-secondary school and career options.
If your child’s performance was a Level 3 or Level 4:
- Continue to encourage your child’s progress and do not look at the results as a reason to lower expectations for their performance. Some children (and parents) develop a false confidence that can cause them to slack on school and homework. Learning is a continual process that should be guided by your child’s curiosity and your encouragement.
- Challenge your child’s critical thinking skills. Regardless of what grade level tests they take, all assessments test your child’s ability to think critically and analyze information presented. Help your child develop critical thinking skills by asking open ended questions, encouraging them to make decisions independently, and having them make connections between what they learn and what they experience in life.
- Help your child develop their group work skills, their social skills and reinforce academic skills by having them act as a peer tutor. School is a very important aspect to a child’s social life and development. Giving students the opportunity to interact with their peers in an academic setting is preferred by many. Many advanced students thrive in this leadership opportunity. In addition, some struggling students benefit from learning directly from their peers.
- Speak to your child’s school about possible early promotion. Can they be switched to a higher level math class based on a strong performance? While you don’t want to push them if they are not ready, you also want to ensure that they are appropriately challenged for their ability levels. Nothing is worse than a student who loses motivation due to being “bored” and unchallenged in the classroom. Inquire about enrichment programs that may be a good fit for your child.
Note about how to discuss your child’s results:
The way you handle your child’s test results is a very personal choice and decision. I’m simply making some suggestions here from my experience in working with families and students to help navigate your own process.
What should I share with my child?
I advise being factual about test results with children. Tell them the scores matter of factly and work with them on a plan for what they will do to meet expectations this coming year. Provide suggestions on how to talk about their test scores with peers — or better yet advise them to keep testing information private. Even if scores are at expectation, it is important to review the preparation and make a list of what worked and what did not work.
What should our “talk” look like?
Give factual information. If you are feeling elated, excited, upset, frustrated, disappointed, or angry — cope with your feelings first. Talk with your child when you are calm. Ask your child a series of precise questions about the results and the preparation process such as: What do you think of these results? Do you have any questions? How do you feel your preparation went this year? Did you have enough time for instruction, enough independent practice, enough mock assessments? Did you have a successful mindset, discipline and/or attitude about the testing? What skills and concepts are solid and what may need improvement?
Write out the answers and use them to create a “goal sheet” for this coming year.
In addition to interpreting results and talking with your child about the goals, give your child a way to talk about testing with friends and teachers. I think if all parents talked with their children about the fact that results are private information — we would be all better off. But, since the questions and conversations do tend to happen — you may want to suggest your child know what to say if friends start to ask. If a friend asks, “What did you get on the ELA?” The student may be able to just say, “I did great – how did you do?” and give them ways to handle the peers who may really want to know a number, “You know, I don’t really want to publicize my numbers — that’s really private info, you know!” is a great line to use, for instance. Preparedness will help students to feel better about their social interactions.
What if my child did not meet expectations?
First of all, remember that these are test scores, and while they are one important aspect of your child’s academic experience, they are also a snapshot of that one experience. Any number of variables may contribute to a child’s success during test taking. At Evolved, we view children as whole people — academics, learning, school and home experiences as well as their social, emotional and physical development come into play at any time during their testing.
If you are feeling disappointed in the results, it may be best to talk with me or with your spouse or another parent before you speak to your child. You want your mindset to be one of constructive criticism instead of destructive criticism. The point is — be frustrated, be disappointed, and then get to work on supporting your child. And remember — this is your child’s journey. It may not go the way you have planned, but it will work out and we can partner together to support you and your child along the way!
What if I don’t want to talk with my child right now?
I would say that if your child is in 3rd or 4th or maybe even 5th grade that is okay, but if their friends will be talking about it, it is best for you to talk with your child about the results first. You will want your child to be able to ask you questions and not their friends. Most children have been involved in the preparation for the ELA and NYS Math Tests, so they are aware that results will come out. While they may not be aware of this happening this week, once they get back to school, they may have conversations with their friends about the tests.
Other questions? Contact me — I am happy to help!
If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com or at 917 388 3862.