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[Parent Involvement] What Are State Tests, and How Can I Support My Child Taking Them?

[Parent Involvement] What Are State Tests, and How Can I Support My Child Taking Them?

State testing is just around the corner, and it can be an understandably stressful time for your child. As a parent, it's important to know the basics of state testing to better support your little learner. Here are some basics of state testing and some tips on what you can do to better support your child.

What are state tests?

State tests are assessments administered by schools and districts to measure school effectiveness, student learning, skill acquisition, and academic achievement at the end of the school year. States use different tests or assessments to measure. State testing of the modern era is relatively recent, having been introduced as a voluntary system in the mid-1990’s during the Bill Clinton administration and later nationally mandated in 2002 by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) during the George W. Bush administration. Though required state testing is relatively new, don’t expect it to go away anytime soon, as it is relied upon for many important education policy decisions.

Why do we have state tests in the first place?

These tests are also a means of accountability for schools, for ensuring that students are meeting specific learning objectives, which are set by the state (e.g. state standards). The results of these tests typically determine grade or course placements, school or district accountability ratings, educational program effectiveness, and depending on the state, a minor portion of teacher evaluations.

What test does my state use?

For a breakdown of which test states use to evaluate their students at the end of the year, check out this Education Week article. Each state also has different accountability measures which these tests measure. This change was particularly emphasized in the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was signed into law in 2015. This act rolled back wide-sweeping federal involvement in education policy in order to give states more ownership over their own education policy. In short, states may use different tests and states measure different things. To find more details on your state's assessments, check out your state education agency’s website. 

How do the scores affect my child?

These scores are factored into a student's permanent academic record. They can be used to inform educators of specific academic areas of strength and weakness as your child progresses from year to year. Scores can also sometimes be used in the college admissions process.

What are some ways I can support my child during testing season?

  • Provide a structured bedtime and breakfast. Make sure that your child gets enough sleep, and give him or her a good breakfast the morning of the test. Make sure that your breakfast includes some sort of protein, not something overly sugary that could result in a crash later in on the day. These basics can prevent your child from feeling distracted from hunger or losing focus because of sleepiness.


  • Make sure that your child has all that he or she needs to tackle the state tests: sharpened pencils, erasers, extra paper, a calculator, a snack if he or she needs an energy boost, etc. Help ensure that your child has everything he or she needs so that he or she is not frazzled on the day of the test.


  • Put in some reps. If your child took state assessments last year and was weak in a specific area, get some extra repetitions in with that subject matter. An online practice tool like Study Island for Home can help with providing state-specific, grade-level curriculum for a low monthly price. Practice makes perfect, so the more practice he or she gets in, the more comfortable your child will be with the content that he or she is getting tested on.

  • Support and encourage. Help your child see the bigger picture by reminding him or her that you love him or her no matter how well he or she does!

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