Mom-to-Mom Support/Today in the mail I received my daughter’s CAT results

Today in the mail I received my daughter’s CAT results

Girl confused by standardized testing


I just completed my first year of homeschooling my two daughters. Today in the mail I received their California Achievement Test results. One daughter received a composite percentile of 98%, while my other daughter only got a 27% composite percentile. The 27% had me so depressed, as I had worked so hard with this child throughout the year. She tells me that she tried her best. I do believe her, but it still pains me that she scored so low after all the attention I had given to her this past year at our homeschool. When she was enrolled in the Catholic school system from grades kindergarten through the 4th grade, she was always near the bottom of her class academically. That was one of the reasons we pulled her out to homeschool her. I feel I have failed her and myself. Any words of wisdom or advice would be appreciated. She is a lovely girl, has numerous friends, is involved in sports, but just seems to always be struggling when it comes to academics after trying so hard. Thank you in advance!

Dear Mom,

Let’s speak about the role of testing in education. First and most importantly, standardized written tests are not necessarily the best indicators of proficiency; however, they are the most reliable and the easiest to administer to a group of students. In other words, it is probably more ideal to “test” a child one on one and use the medium that best suits the child’s learning style. That would mean written tests for some and possibly interviews for another and hands on for another. However, as this is many times not possible in a classroom setting, written tests are the method of choice.

Tests are meant to point to areas that need improvement. These areas are considered challenges and could possibly highlight those needs which may impair a student’s ability to go forward with learning. While it is lovely when a student makes high marks on a test, this is not the main purpose of testing. Many years ago, tests were used by concerned and caring teachers to determine whether her students understood the material that she introduced. Poor marks reflected that the classroom as a whole or perhaps a few students needed more help. This also indicated that though some of the class was able to process the information through traditional means (lectures, worksheets, and reading assignments), others of the class, especially those that did poorly on the test, needed to have the material introduced in formats that best suited their learning styles (hands-on activities, audio etc). In large classrooms, meeting these needs is nearly impossible to do, but there are those teachers who work very hard to meet this challenge.

In recent years, testing has changed in its meaning from one of an instructional tool to a score for the ability of a teacher. This is not fair. Tests should be a positive tool in academics. After all, if the goal of teaching is to impart information, then it would stand to reason that a test which highlights those areas that need help would gear a teacher’s instruction to meet the overall needs. If the goal of the test is to discover those areas that need polish, then there is no failure at all but only a helpful tool. I have known many children who can “take a test” but who lack the skills necessary to make them students who can learn. Merely regurgitating information does not indicate that a student can learn.

The best place to start is to determine whether there are other issues at work upon your dear daughter that are impairing her ability to learn, read, and comprehend. Remember that reading comprehension is nearly 80% of successful test taking. Also remember that reading comprehension is the most important tool to ignite learning. Speak with your health care provider and share your insights as far as the challenges that you are seeing. Have her eyesight and hearing tested. Look at the scores on the test. Where are the problem areas? Do you see a trend? I would imagine that your daughter is a lovely, bright, and engaging little girl. She has some learning challenges at work on her ability to take tests, etc, but that has been more than compensated for by her loving and patient approach to life. Do not let the Tempter spoil what is beautiful in this child. Jesus has made her perfectly to His image, and the imperfections that you are seeing are the diamonds that will be polished and mirror the Lord’s great love and glory as manifested in this child.

Once you have determined the nature of the challenges, then go forward into solutions. Perhaps this lovely little girl could use some private tutoring. I would suggest that you get the book by Jim Trelease titled The Read Aloud Handbook (available at the library). This little gem is a wealth of doable solutions for reading challenges. Excellent resource.

Your daughter has the greatest gift in a mother that is willing to do the hard work of parenting. Jesus sends His precious children to those parents that He feels will be the best for the child. Keep praying and keep a positive approach. Remember that there is no challenge that has not been allowed by the Lord. If He allows the challenge then He will empower us to work through the challenge.

I admire you, and your devotion and love for your children comes through in your letter. It is very uplifting to read letters such as yours because it helps me on my journey as well.

Sending out a prayer,
Rita Munn

About Rita Munn

Rita Munn is a veteran homeschool mother of ten. For many years she was a popular speaker at Catholic homeschooling conferences. Writing has been a passion of hers for as long as she can remember, and she loves to use her writing skills to share her homeschooling experience with other parents. Her “family journal” reflections are featured in CHC’s Educating for Eternity e-newsletter.