Monday, February 9, 2004

Terra Nova compares students across nation

Education Q&A

Click here to e-mail Denise Smith Amos
Pat Armstrong, assistant superintendent of schools for the Cincinnati Archdiocese, was recently asked about the use of the Terra Nova standardized test.

Here is what she said:

QUESTION: What is the purpose of the Terra Nova Standardized test? And what do the results mean for the student and the school?

ANSWER: Cincinnati-area Catholic schools began using Terra Nova standardized tests two years ago.

Students in Grades 2, 4, 6, and 8 take the tests in September and schools get results in December. Since January, the schools have been analyzing and explaining the scores to parents.

Terra Novas differ from typical achievement tests, in that Terra Novas compare students with others in their grades around the nation. (Ohio's proficiency tests compare student performance against a set of state education standards.)

Terra Nova scores are listed in percentiles. A 50 percent score doesn't mean that only half the questions were answered correctly; it means that a student did as well as half the students in their grade nationwide.

Students are also measured against themselves.

The Terra Novas include a component that acts like an IQ test, measuring students' ability to use information and apply it to new and different situations. It gauges how a student analyzes and employs higher-level thinking skills.

It's a very, very rough measure of intelligence.

Parents and teachers can compare a student's scores against how the student is expected to score, given that child's intellectual ability. If a student scores below expectations, that could be an area of concern.

The tests are just snapshots. Parents should ask teachers if their child's test scores are indicative of classroom performance.

The Terra Novas are to help generate improved instruction and to challenge our students to be the best they can be. It gives solid information about our students' strengths and indicates areas of improvement that are very helpful for the classroom teacher.

The schools take the tests early in the school year so teachers can adjust curriculum and focus on weak areas during that year.

Q: Proficiency tests are coming up. Who's taking what test and when?

A: The test season extends through March.

• Third-graders take reading achievement tests March 8-12.

• Fourth- and sixth-graders take the five-part proficiency test March 8-26, every other day, including makeup days.

• High school students who took but didn't pass the ninth-grade proficiency test get another chance March 1-14.

• Tenth-graders take reading and math sections of the new Ohio Graduation Test March 15-19.


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