Help Gifted Students Succeed on Standardized Testing

Standardized testing might be hoop-jumping, but those are some high-stakes hoops. If students do not meet set standards for test scores, potential consequences can be in-school (such as schedules limited to remedial classes), out-of-school (such as limiting driving privileges), and beyond-school (such as delaying or preventing graduation). It can also lead to more testing, as schools look for other measures of readiness, such as the Redistep test for 8th graders.

Most gifted students do not need to worry about not meeting minimum standards. Instead, they face the consequences for not earning the advanced scores of which they are capable of achieving. Students who test well may:

  • be able to participate in programs and camps (such as the Duke Talent Identification Program) by having advanced scores
  • be rewarded for high scores through scholarship programs, such as the Reach Program, which awards students in select New York schools $1000 for high Advanced Placement scores
  • be favorably compared to other students in applications for camps and colleges, because while grades may be inflated by liberal grading policies, test scores are measured the same across the state.

Why Students Don’t Care About State Testing

It is hard for students to take state standardized tests meaningful because, in many ways, they are not meaningful. The questions are generated based on state requirements, so they are difficult for students to predict. The language arts sections will not test students on the creative stories they wrote, the persuasive speeches they gave, or the books they read that changed their lives. Instead, they will be given writing prompts, asked to identify genres, and required to answer questions about bland blurbs. It is difficult for students to see individualized class experiences reflected in impersonal tests.

Students also fail to value state testing because it is little for them to value. They will not, in many cases, see their scores for several months, by which time they will have forgotten the test questions. They may never learn which specific questions they missed, or what they did wrong. Often, students can not learn from their specific content mistakes. They will only get a generalized report, such as this sample student CRT report. The report tells them how they scored per section, although the sections might be broken down into content clusters.

How to Help Gifted Students Succeed With State Testing

Although schools often focus on helping students who are not meeting state standards achieve passing scores, both the school district and the students will benefit by raising passing scores to high scores. Teachers can add meaning to the testing experiences by helping students realize not only what they could lose if they perform poorly on the test, but what doors might be opened with superior scores. Additionally, teachers should try to create distraction-free environments for testing by:

  • creating a comfortable testing environment
  • not collecting the test until all the students in the room are finished so that everyone feels comfortable taking as much time as needed
  • not offering tempting incentives to finish the test, such as telling students the class will play games when everyone is finished
  • requiring students to go over the test and check for mistakes before allowing them to consider themselves finished and close the testing books. Just as teachers insist that students proof-read their essays, they should insist that students make re-checking the part of the test of their testing habits.

The usefulness of standardized testing continues to be debated, but since students do not have a choice about participating in state testing, it is to their current advantage to score as well as they possibly can on the tests.