Most parents of children in grades 3–5 have seen the notation in the school calendar announcing “ERB/Standardized Testing.” These tests evoke a twinge of nervousness for many parents and students and raise questions about how standardized tests will impact our students’ lives. We’re conditioned through the current news cycle and our own experiences with standardized tests to worry about how these tests will be used and, depending on our scores, how the rest of our lives might be impacted. With those concerns lurking in our minds, no wonder we may find ourselves panicking!
The good news is that while standardized tests do play a role in our world, much of our concern, particularly around ERBs, is an overreaction. One of the benefits of a school like Virginia Chance School is that our children are protected from high-stakes testing (definition: testing with a direct consequence attached to the result). We can use these tests as they were designed—to inform our teaching practice and your child(ren)’s learning.
ERB testing does not define the whole child in a whole child-focused school. This testing does not focus on the following characteristics of a child, which are also indicators of success in life:
- demonstrating problems solving skills
- being a good friend
- having empathy for others
- showing leadership
- having a strong sense of self
- developing a passion for music, art, sports, etc.
- collaborating and working with others
Who is ERB, and What Are These Tests?
ERB is not the name of the test itself. It is a nonprofit educational organization (Educational Records Bureau) that oversees the development, administration, and scoring of tests for more than 1,600 independent and public schools.
The multiple-choice ERB is a combination of tests designed to provide information about a student’s performance in several key areas (depending on the grade level): listening, verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, word analysis, writing mechanics, and mathematics.
The WrAP is a writing assessment that measures a student’s ability to respond to a prompt in idea development, organization, support, sentence structure, word choice, and mechanics.
Why Do Students Take These Assessments and How Does Virginia Chance School Use Them?
From a school-wide perspective, the ERBs provide a comprehensive picture of student learning and can highlight trends in achievement. These results guide discussions regarding where the school would like to focus instruction and where the school is excelling.
From an individual student perspective, the ERBs can provide more insight into a student’s strengths and growth areas. The ERBs are simply a snapshot in time of a student’s performance. Test-taking skills, nerves, and general unfamiliarity with standardized tests (particularly in the younger years) can affect scores. ERB results are always best considered in partnership with the student’s daily work and performance in the classroom. In the elementary years, the ERBs are not used for determining placement in classes or special accommodations. However, they can be used as one determinant in middle school for math placement.
What Can Parents Do?
Parents play a crucial role in helping children prepare for tests like the ERBs! Your partnership is critical in helping students enter any test with a calm presence and confidence in their abilities.
- Make sure your child gets good rest. Standardized tests like the ERBs require us to think clearly and focus—two things we can’t do without adequate sleep. So make sure you have a clear bedtime and stick to it.
- Eat a good breakfast. Like sleep, nutritious food helps us remain alert and fuels our brains. Be sure to fill up on good proteins and high fiber foods (think oatmeal or eggs) so your child doesn’t get hungry during tests.
- Please keep it in perspective. Children look to the adults in their lives to determine how they should react to different stressors. If we hype up the ERBs by asking about them every day or hyper-focusing on scores, we message that these tests carry more weight than they do. While small amounts of stress can help us attend to an important task, too much only leads to panic, resulting in lower scores. Help children understand how these tests are used and how taking these tests can be learning experiences.
- Don’t automatically compare ERB scores to how your child will perform on the SAT or ACT down the road. Yes, ERB is a standardized test, but not all standardized tests are alike because the ERBs aren’t high-stakes. When it’s time for students to take the SAT or ACT, your high school of choice (and many outside organizations) can provide resources and teaching to help students master the art of a standardized test. Because of ERBs, students will already know how they respond to standardized tests and learn more about where they could use support when the SATs or ACTs roll around.
Dos and Don’ts
Don’t panic! Don’t overestimate the impact. Do encourage a healthy perspective. Do encourage your child(ren) to learn from the experience. And DO enjoy this time in your child’s life. There will be high-stakes tests down the road, but your child will be prepared when the time comes. The ERBs help us do the work that every teacher, staff member, and administrator at Virginia Chance School is committed to—assessing our students’ growth and learning and ensuring your child(ren) receives the education they need to reach their unique potential.