Data and Statistics for Parents: Understanding Your Child's Academic Assessment
Educational data and statistics can be confusing and overwhelming for parents, but an understanding of a child’s academic assessment will help parents decide which educational opportunities to look for as children transition through different school settings. Montessori schools assess children’s academics in a variety of ways from progress reports to testing. Some states require private schools to administer standardized testing, while others do not. Where not required, a Montessori school may choose to introduce the experience, especially to older students in Elementary or Secondary programs. A state school system releases funding based on standardized testing, but parents of Montessori children have a unique opportunity to choose a different path. Parents might decide on a system with or without testing, but a clear understanding of Montessori vs. traditional student assessments will allow parents to know if a prospective school will meet their child’s learning needs.
Formative vs. Summative Assessment
Montessori teachers act as observant guides to students in their classrooms. Maria Montessori believed that children intrinsically know what they are ready to learn and when: a child has an innate knowledge of their developmental level and needs. Montessori teachers prepare an environment where these learning needs can be met on an individual basis for each student. A child’s teacher will observe and keep records of which classroom materials each child engages, has mastered, and when they are ready for another activity. This type of observation and record keeping is called formative assessment. It is a way for teachers to track individual children’s learning. In higher grades, students of Elementary and Secondary programs might be given quizzes and tests to measure their understanding of more abstract concepts in science and math. This feedback is then used to tailor student lessons.
Summative assessments generally come in the form of annual report cards or progress reports. They look at the whole of a student’s achievement, knowledge, or skill. How this is measured will differ from school to school. Before enrolling children in a new school, parents should ask how academic growth is measured and review the template used for end-of-year reports.
Standardized Testing in Private vs. Public Schools
Private schools are not required to participate in standardized testing; however, some will administer the tests to prepare students for traditional schooling. It’s important to understand that standardized testing is used as a metric not only for governmental assessment of educational benchmarks, but also to gauge how well individual teachers are performing. The data is used as a comparative tool for government agencies to decide where aid should be allotted and to whom.
In Montessori, teachers focus on individual students’ progress; it is not a teacher’s duty to make sure all students master the same set of skills at the same time. However, a Montessori school can introduce standardized testing in its Elementary or Secondary programs to meet the needs of its student population. For example, if most students move on to public schools rather than attending a Montessori high school, accustoming them to standardized tests will be beneficial. A recent survey showed that students in urban public schools face an average of 112 standardized tests from Kindergarten through graduation. Introducing Montessori students to the testing process in a low-stress, familiar environment will normalize the testing experience for them. The Mayo Clinic offers a list of strategies to combat test-taking anxiety here.
Reviewing Your Child’s Educational Assessment
When receiving progress updates or end-of-term report cards, it’s important for parents to put this data into the context of their child’s learning development. If a parent reads at home with their child or practices math informally through board games (cooking, gardening, etc.), they will have a realistic view of their child’s academic strengths and weaknesses. This information transforms parents into active participants who are able to ask pertinent questions at parent-teacher conferences. In following children’s learning progress through the year, parents will be less likely to be surprised by an end-of-year report. An informed parent is a child’s best advocate in navigating their educational experience.
Parents who oppose the idea of standardized testing can keep children on an educational path that does not require it. But they must be aware that their child might miss some opportunities. For instance, some specialized high schools require testing to admit teens. Parents can initiate frank conversations with their teens to discuss potential opt-out consequences like those. If parents decide to send their child to a public school, they should double check state testing requirements. Many states have adopted third grade reading legislation wherein students will be held back if they do not pass a reading test. Knowing which tests a child must pass will alert parents to the skills their child should practice. While parents must navigate testing requirements in elementary grades through high school, many colleges and universities no longer require standardized testing.
The decision to pursue schooling with or without testing affects a child’s future for many years. Parents who thoroughly review their child’s academics and involve themselves in their child’s learning progress, become advocates and active partners in their child’s education.
About the Author
V. Kulikow is a former Montessori teacher and youth services librarian. She currently works as a UX designer and enjoys content creation both with words and images. On weekends you can find her gardening, taking nature photos, and working on her garden design certification through the Native Plant Trust.