The No Child Left Behind Act requires that states conduct annual achievement testing for students in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 11th grades. Tests must be “standardized” in order to gage student achievement in relation to other children their age in schools across the state and the nation. Standardized tests provide an indication of student achievement in relation to the academic content standards set by the state.

What are standardized tests?
Students take many tests in the years they are in school. Most of the tests they take are teacher-made and are given on a regular basis to see how well students have learned classroom lessons. Standardized tests differ in many ways from the classroom testing:

  • Standardized tests are developed by educational testing experts. They have been evaluated to make sure the results are accurate and meaningful.
  • The same standardized tests may be administered to thousands of students throughout a state and across the country.
  • All students who take the same version of a standardized test will have the same conditions and the same amount of time to complete the test.
  • Standardized tests usually assess student skills and knowledge on a broad level and may test all academic areas at the same time (math, reading, science, etc.)

How will South Dakota students be tested?
Beginning in the spring of 2003 the Dakota STEP or Dakota State Test for Educational Progress has been given to all students in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 11th grades. The Dakota STEP contains features that will allow teachers, schools, and parents to see how their children are learning based on the South Dakota Content Standards as well as how they compare to other students across the country.

What can parents do to help their children?

  • Children should be encouraged to do their best on the test. They should know the test is important without being anxious about taking it.
  • Children should have a good night’s sleep and breakfast.
  • Review some simple test-taking strategies such as moving on if they do not know the answer – they can come back later.
  • Remind children to check their answers carefully. (Watch the numbers of the questions and be sure to be marking the right box on the answer sheet.)

Parents should also remember the limitations of standardized tests. A test is like a photo – a one-time look at your child’s performance. EVERY child has skills and abilities that cannot be measured by test.

Check out our “Parent’s Guide to Test Taking” for tips on things you can do to help your child be a successful test taker!