We believe there are many ways to assess the growth of our students. One of those ways is through standardized testing, which helps to measure a boy’s progress in certain parts of our curriculum. Of course, our mission and even our academic programs are much broader than what any standardized test can measure, but they can be a helpful—though limited—snapshot. Every January, students in second through sixth grade spend approximately five hours in the span of a week completing the CTP 5 online. Developed by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB), the Comprehensive Testing Program (CTP) is a rigorous assessment for high achieving students in content areas such as reading, listening, vocabulary, writing, and math. Beginning in fourth grade at PDS, the CTP also includes reasoning subtests, both verbal and quantitative. While tests in younger elementary grades are untimed, fourth through sixth grade tests are given in a timed setting, ranging from 20 to 45 minutes.
PDS boys experience many benefits from taking the online version of the test. Online testing shows if a student skipped questions, and the student can go directly back to the missed question to answer. Whereas paper and pencil tests involve bubble answer sheets and #2 pencils, students can never get “off by a line” and have their answers skewed with the online version. Students are only able to see one question at a time on the screen rather than a whole test booklet; as a result, they are less anxious and able to focus on one answer without looking ahead at what is to come. While testing, each student is able to see a timer in the top right corner of the screen thus making it easier to monitor his time.
Another reason we choose to give the online version of the CTP 5 is because we are able to have quicker access to score reports. ERB data is helpful to PDS’ approach to teaching and learning. We have specifically chosen to be an ERB member school so that we can compare our students’ progress with students at outstanding independent schools nationwide.
Year after year, PDS boys, as an aggregate, meet or exceed independent school norms in every subtest. We consider a PDS education amongst the best in the nation, and we are able to support this claim with test scores that few schools in the country could match.
When data is initially reviewed, we look for trends such as how well each grade is performing, and whether changes in curriculum have had any impact on overall scores. Strengths are identified, areas of concerns are discussed, and, if warranted, adjustments are made.
Working alongside teachers, data is also analyzed on an individual student level. While we don’t design our curriculum around these tests, and we don’t place undue significance on them, the test scores do enhance our understanding of each student’s specific needs and provide us with an opportunity to customize our teaching to meet his needs. Regardless of where a student’s test scores fall, we recognize that these test scores don’t measure many types of important learning, nor do they measure attitudes and habits toward learning. We also recognize the limitations of standardized testing. Each individual subtest score represents one morning in the life of your son…a morning that might have left him feeling tired or rested, a morning spent rushing around or peacefully calm, a focused morning or a morning full of distractions. Because testing limitations cannot be avoided, it is important not to make snap judgments about student ability based on one year of testing data. Rather parents should view scores within the broader context of their son’s overall learning and personal development. Feedback on classwork, ongoing assessments, and class participation along with teachers’ observations also contribute to the academic profile of the student.
Despite PDS’ strong test scores, we care much more about bringing out the best in every boy. We are so grateful to serve a wide range of boys, with differing abilities and learning styles, whose many unique gifts and talents enrich the whole school community.
Interpreting test scores can be complex. If you have questions regarding your son’s test performance, please reach out to Laura Glenn. We want to make sure the snapshot of your son’s learning is as clear as possible.