Frequently Asked Questions about Testing

1. Question: How can I help my child prepare for testing?

Answer: Parents should keep up with their child’s homework progress to ensure assignments are completed and help is sought when needed. Parents should keep in touch with their child’s teacher to maintain communication and support at school and home. The night before testing, students should get plenty of rest, and they should eat a good breakfast the morning of the test.

2. Question: What are some test-taking tips I can give my child?

Answer: Helpful tips include:
- Answer questions you know first.
- Come back to the question about which you are unsure.
- Use an additional sheet to guide reading.
- Use scratch paper for math.
- Check answers.
- Pre-write or outline writing.
- Make sure answers correctly correspond to question numbers.

3. Question: My child has always performed well on standardized tests, and he/she makes high grades. His/her test scores were really low for this test. What is wrong?

Answer: There are many reasons why a student may not perform well on a given test. He/she may not have been feeling well the day of the test. He/she may have spent too much time on each question (if it is a timed test). All questions on the test may not have been answered. There are several things on the student report which may give us clues: the number of questions in each section on the test and the number of questions answered correctly (the raw score); and the percentile, which tell us how a child performed in comparison to other children across the nation who took this test in this grade level. Lower performance on one test does not necessarily indicate that the student is having a problem or problems with a certain subject. Analysis of a student’s test scores should always take into consideration his/her overall academic performance and total test history.

4. Question: My child had problems answering questions on the test. This almost never happens. I would like to see a copy of the test.

Answer: It is always good to analyze what occurred in academic events where children may not be as successful as they usually are. However, standardized tests are considered to be “secure” materials and may not be reviewed by anyone because of the possibility of compromising the test. Parents should look for information that helps determine what types of content a child may have missed on the test in order to focus instruction on the things that need strengthening. You are encouraged to contact your child’s teacher to help you obtain this type of information.

5. Question: What does a national grade percentile of 85 mean?

Answer: A national grade percentile of 85 indicates that your child has performed better than 85% of students across the nation who took this same test, at the same time of year, in the same grade level as your child.

6. Question: We are going out of town during the testing window. I want my child to be tested the month we get back from our trip.

Answer: We are happy to accommodate make-up testing requests as long as the test can be made up DURING THE ESTABLISHED TESTING WINDOW. However, giving a standardized test outside the testing window is not advised because there would be not a way to derive a valid score for your child if he/she is not tested during the same period as other students.

7. Question: My child is upset that he/she did not know all of the questions on the test. He/she is an honor roll student and is in advanced classes.

Answer: Standardized tests include a range of questions from easy to hard. No child is expected to know every answer on every test. Each child should answer each question to the best of his/her ability.

8. Question: My child did not do well on his/her test. I want him/her retested because I know he/she can do much better.

Answer: All norm-referenced standardized tests are given within an established testing window, which corresponds to a national norming period. Therefore, it is not advised to retest a student outside this established timeframe, as his /her score would not be valid.

9. Question: My child tests better when he/she can have the tests read or when the teacher writes down the answers. I want him/her to be able to do this on this standardized test.

Answer: If your child has an active IEP, 504 Plan, or LEP Plan with this accommodation, then your request is possible. If your child does not have one of these plans, he/she must take the test without accommodations.

10. Question: My child has an IEP and has certain accommodations. I want him/her to take the test without any accommodations, and the school won’t let him/her.

Answer: The IEP is a legal document that specifies the details of an educational program for a student with disabilities. The school is bound by law to follow what is written in the IEP. You are encouraged to meet with the IEP Team to discuss your concerns.

11. Question: I do not want my child to participate in the Standards of Learning Tests or the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program.

Answer: Since the Standards of Learning Tests and the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program are state-mandated assessments, your requirement that your child NOT participate will result in your child and his/her school receiving a zero on the test. Since a student earns verified credits through the SOL Testing Program in high school, test results from grades 3, 5, and 8 are good indicators of how well your child is learning the curriculum.

12. Question: How good are the Virginia Standards of Learning? Are they accepted nationally?

Answer: Virginia standards are among the best in the nation. They have received national honors and acclaim from the American Federation of Teachers and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

13. Question: What if my child is doing well in school but fails a Standards of Learning test? Can my child be held back and fail his/her grade?

Answer: Your child’s test score for the subject is only one of many factors school administrators use to determine if your child passes a course or is promoted to the next grade. A school is required to give additional instruction to a child who fails all standards tests in grades 3, 5, and 8. High school tests may be retaken if the student fails.

14. Question: What information does the School Performance Report Card provide?

Answer: Each School Performance Report Card includes the percentages of students who pass each test in your child’s school, district, and state. It also provides information on your school’s accreditation rating, a comparison of school wide and state Standards of Learning scores, and information on the number of students, attendance, teacher training, and school safety. School Performance Report Cards for secondary schools also include graduation information and participation rates in advanced academic programs.

15. Question: I do not want my child to participate in the English language proficiency testing.

Answer: Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, all limited English proficient (LEP) students in grades K-12 at proficiency levels 1-5 must participate in the annual assessment of English language proficiency.

16. Question: My child is an English language learner. Will he or she be tested on the Standards of Learning (SOLs)?

Answer: Most limited English proficient (LEP) students are required to participate in all SOL tests. For details relating to exemptions and accommodations, please click on the link below to access the Limited English Proficient Students: Guidelines for Participation in the Virginia State Assessment Program.

A portion this information was obtained from the Virginia Department of Education website