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Standardized Testing-Worth the Time and Effort!

Ann Wright G., Staff Writer

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Photo by Ann Wright G.

Standardized testing has been a part of life at Westminster for over twenty years. Having just been administered in the middle school, testing is different from grade to grade.

Sixth and seventh graders took the ERBs (Educational Records Bureau), and eighth graders the CogATs (Cognitive Abilities Test).

Because eighth graders had their Nantahala Retreat during the time sixth and seventh graders were testing, they completed the CogATs the morning of October 20. Sixth and seventh graders took the ERBs October 24-27.

For the CogATs, nine individual tests are taken in increments of ten minutes. Students are given a break of about one minute in between each and a break of five minutes after the third and sixth tests. Sixth and seventh graders took eight ERB tests spread out over four days.

Eighth grade girl Ruthie H. appreciates her most recent experience. “I prefer CogATs because I think the tests are shorter, and also I like the different topics in the English section,” she said.

Previously, the Iowa Test for Basic Skills was administered to sixth and seventh graders. “The Iowa Test was a norm for the entire country. We needed something a little more discriminating. The ERBs gave us that discriminating thing. With the CogATs being more of what a student can figure out, while the ERBs are a little more achievement-oriented,” said Leslie Ann Little, a seventh grade English teacher and Assistant Head of Middle School for Academic Programs.

Testing requires major schedule changes with students missing some classes or experiencing shortened classes. Ruthie H. prefers attending class to taking the tests, but seventh grade boy Theron B. disagrees. “I’d probably want the test,” he said.

While common knowledge is that standardized testing is given to students because it allows teachers to gain more insight into the learning level of that individual, it exists for two other reasons. “It’s important for us to look as a school at how each grade does. It’s important in developing curriculum. For example, if a group is highly verbal, are we challenging them enough?” said Ms. Little.

Finally, Westminster has a third purpose behind administering standardized testing. “The last reason is experience, so that when students take higher stakes tests, they’re prepared,” said Ms. Little.

The format of both the ERBs and the CogATs is multiple choice, and students use their computers to complete them. “I like how it is now,” said Theron B.

Sixth grade girl Sylvia B. agrees. “I like how it’s multiple choice, so there’s a way to guess if you don’t know the answer.”

Although testing may seem boring, Westminster actually does extremely well. The CogATs do not provide a score compared to the rest of the country, but the ERBs do. A student scoring in the 50th percentile at Westminster will score in the mid to upper 90th percentile across the country.

“Our students are truly above average!” said Ms. Little.

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Standardized Testing-Worth the Time and Effort!