Monday, March 2, 2009

Testing 1-2-3

This week, all the second graders at AJ's school are taking the Otis Lennon School Ability Tes, or OLSAT. The OLSAT is not an IQ test, but it is often used as an entrance exam to gifted programs. It is the only aptitude testing that AJ's school uses. Third and fourth graders take a state achievement test.

The school uses the OLSAT to determine tracking and special services. Starting in third grade, students are clustered with others at their level within their classroom. Those performing well below or well above the norm will get special services. AJ's scores on this exam will determine whether he gets into the gifted program next year.

I'm not concerned about that. I'm sure he'll do well enough to get in, and even if for some reason he didn't, we have enough paperwork to get him in the back door. But I did want to make sure he knew how to take the test.

This will be AJ's first experience with standardized testing. I would like it to be a good one, for his sake. He will expect to do well. His teacher hasn't said anything about the test, what to expect, how to take it. I wanted to make sure AJ knew how to handle the mechanics -- finding directions when they are at the top of each page instead of by each problem (a known issue for him), coloring in the circles accurately, what an analogy problem question. But I wasn't sure if I should. I don't want to pressure him. I honestly don't think this test is all that important in the general scheme of things (if he does well, it will help; if he doesn't, it probably won't hurt much). I also don't want to prep him if we're not supposed to. In the end, I decided to walk him through the basics. I really don't know much about the test, so I don't think I could possibly give away much.

What would you do?


My Kids' Mom said...

I'm surprised the school isn't prepping them. Maybe we just have more riding on the tests, but all Pook's homework just started to be in the style of the upcoming CRCT- all fill in bubbles, directions at the top, analogies etc as you described. They teach how to take tests as much as any other subject. We're sent info on what foods are good "brain foods" what time kids should be going to bed, and all sorts of other "This test is the end of the world" type information. I worry that the kids will panic with all the pressure.

freshhell said...

Dusty will be taking a similar test thru the JHU Ctr for Talent - it's a standardized test taken on a computer. The info I got gave screen shots of sample questions and explained how it will work. I sat down with Dusty and we looked over it. Explained analogies (my absolute favorite thing), etc. Her test is 22 min of verbal, 22 min of math, broken up by a break. She feels pretty good about it. Her school doesn't offer the test AJ will be taking but it may be similar. I am not sure when her school gives the dreaded SOL tests. Those are fill in the ovals with a #2 pencil tests that absorb every waking moment of teacher and student life. I guess as long as AJ's not anxious, he'll do fine. Knowing what to expect is half the battle.

Jeanne said...

I never prepared my kids for their first standardized test for the same reason I try to stay out of their homework--it makes them take responsibility for their own stuff. As you say, we don't really need to worry that they won't test well. If one of my kids misses something because she/he didn't read the directions, you can be sure THAT will never happen again.

I've been amazed this week as I transcribe Walker's homework for him. Doing math is like reading for him--he reads through the problem and then reads me back the answer. He has his own way of doing things, and he's confident in it because he's developed it.

Hmm, maybe this works best for fiercely independent people.

Harriet said...

I was surprised too, MKM. The OLSAT is a fill in the bubble test too. I asked AJ if they'd practiced that. He said no, but yesterday his teacher did talk to them about the importance of coloring in the bubbles carefully. Mostly, I think it's okay that the kids aren't prepped at school. I don't really want them spending a lot of time teaching testing anyway. I suspect it will be different next year, however, when they start the state testing. As I understand it, the OLSAT's are for internal use only. But the ISAT's are reported elsewhere and are part of a school's ranking. Freshhell, that does sound kind of similar. I believe the OLSAT (or, at least, the version they take) is 20/20 on verbal and math/logic. I'm not sure how great the OLSAT is, though. It's one of the most widely used of the aptitude tests, but I think that's because a) it's relatively short and b) it's multiple choice and therefore easy to scan. Everyone likes the Stanforod-Binet better, but that has to be done 1 on 1.

Jeanne, you raise an interesting point about personal responsibility that is something I've been thinking about a lot lately and will probably be the subject of another post in the near future. Stay tuned!

FreshHell said...

I happen to have the booklet in front of me. It's called a SCAT School & College Ability Test. Taken on a computer. I think there's nothing wrong with kids knowing what to expect. Some kids have serious test anxiety and need to know the ground rules: the test is timed so don't spend too much time worrying about an answer. Guess and move on. Read the instructions carefully. Understand the question first. Don't panic. It's not the end of the world.