Each spring, St. Johnís third through eighth graders take the CTP 4 (Comprehensive Testing Program), a standardized assessment published by Education Records Bureau. In addition to helping ensure compliance with our accrediting organizations, the test also provides data for curricular evaluations and improvements. It is one measure of assessing a studentís performance in the areas of verbal and quantitative reasoning (measures of ability), and vocabulary, reading comprehension, writing mechanics, writing concepts and skills, and math (all measures of achievement). Auditory comprehension is assessed at the third grade level, and second graders take a non-scored version of the CTP 4 as an introduction to the process.
Our perspective is that a standardized test provides a snapshot of a studentís performance on a given day for a short duration of time. And while test scores of this sort are important, they are only one piece of the portrait that describes a child as a learner. To help you better understand the purpose of the test and how to consider results, in the section below we answer questions about why we test, how we use results, and how you can use results.
Why do we test?Primarily, we administer an annual standardized test to inform teaching and learning, to monitor growth in achievement over time, and to measure the achievement of our students as compared to similar achievers. We test to get tangible feedback about student performance so we have hard data on which to base decisions.
Why does St. Johnís administer the CTP 4 rather than another test?The CTP 4 is published by the Education Records Bureau, which also publishes the ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam), which is the test required for admission to independent high schools. The CTP 4 is considered one of the more rigorous standardized tests and gives students good practice in preparation for taking the ISEE in eighth grade and the PSAT and SAT in high school.
How does St. Johnís use CTP 4 test scores?
- First, it is important to understand that we track and evaluate CTP 4 scores over time, not by looking at one year in isolation.
- As we consider the individual needs and progress of a student, we look at many aspects of his or her educational profile. We examine grade reports, teacher comments, progress, growth over time, and CTP 4 scores. In other words, when we talk about a studentís CTP 4 scores, we donít evaluate them in isolation; alone, they provide an incomplete picture of a student.
- We compare our group scores (data aggregated by grade level) to the independent school norms. The wide range of ability levels among our student population impacts our group scores; however, our goal remains for our students to compare favorably when measured alongside the highly competitive pool of independent schools. We often say that at St. Johnís, we meet students where they are and take them as far as they can go. That means we have students with a very wide range of test scores.
- As part of a studentís dossier, we send his or her sixth and seventh grade CTP 4 scores to the independent high schools to which he or she applies. A studentís dossier comprises many pieces, and test scores are only one factor evaluated by high schools. Other components of the admission process include: application and essay, interview, transcript (sixth through eighth grade report cards without comments), activities and involvement in the greater community, teacher recommendations.
- In 2014, we began a study of our studentsí CTP 4 scores from the past five years. We will use the resulting data to help identify our curricular strengths and specific areas in need of improvement. Upon completion of the analysis, Lower School and Middle School faculty will use the data to inform teaching and planning.
How can you use your childís test scores?
- Consider the stanines. ďStanineĒ derives from the phrase, ďstandard nine,Ē which is a method of scaling test scores on a nine-point standard scale, with 1, 2, 3 considered below average; 4, 5, 6 average; and 7, 8, 9 above average. St. Johnís students with scores in all stanines go on to be successful teens and adults. Look at these scores in the context of everything else we know about your child as a learner and student. Standardized test results are one piece of the overall portrait. They neither guarantee admission to a particular high school, nor do they prevent it.
- In Lower School, we do not yet have substantial multi-year data about a student to review for trends or major changes. Receiving quantifiable information about your child in comparison to other children around the country can cause a variety of reactions in parents: pride, confirmation, anxiety. We encourage you to put aside emotional reactions and focus instead on understanding your child as a learner. Are there areas that show as strengths? Are there others that confirm what you see when your child completes unassisted work? Often there is variation between report card assessments and standardized test scores because report cards present a broader assessment of a childís progress and include many qualitative components.
- In Middle School, look at your childís scores over time. Small variations among stanines are common from year to year and are rarely cause for concern. Remember that test results provide a snapshot of a studentís performance in the spring of a given year and are a barometer check against previous years.
- Notice any particular subscore areas that are outliers Ė strengths or weaknesses Ė for your child. Many factors impact a childís test performance, and those may vary from year to year. Watch the evolution of scores over time. The Parent Guide included with your child's test scores provides valuable information about how to understand your childís individual subscore report.
- View scores as additional data points about your child, not as a tutoring list. If you believe your child requires academic support, that is a larger discussion to have with a division head, and the ultimate decision should not be solely based on standardized test results.
Should you discuss the test results with your child?You know your child best. If he or she asks about the scores and you are comfortable sharing the information, do so. We encourage you to frame the discussion as presented above.
We hope you find this information about standardized testing at St. Johnís helpful and that you better understand why we test, how we use CTP 4 scores, and how the results can broaden your understanding of your child as he or she grows as a learner.