Like most schools around the nation (both public and private) Billings Christian School is wrapping up our second round of Benchmark testing for our Preschool – 8th grades. Because many families are unfamiliar with what these tests are, I’d like to take this opportunity to give you some explanation.
In the past, the only formal testing (other than weekly spelling or end of chapter tests, etc.) done in schools were the paper-pencil end of the year standardized tests every student took. Once they were completed, they were shipped off to a scoring facility, the results would be sent back to the school and then, more often than not, filed in an administrator’s locked filing cabinet to be looked at… NEVER! Sometimes schools would send the results home in final report cards, but the scores couldn’t really be used for anything since adjustments or improvements in the student’s instruction couldn’t be made because the school year was already over! Please don’t think that I am saying these kinds of tests are bad; on the contrary, BCS participates in Terra Nova standardized testing each spring, and they are very useful measures. Now, every year our staff receives training in analyzing and utilizing those reports in order to improve our curriculum and instruction for both overall and individual student achievement.
Benchmark Testing (also known as Universal Screening) serves a different purpose. These tests are administered to all students (at BCS we screen our Pre-K – 8th grades) three times/year for math and reading. These screenings are quick, efficient measures of critical skills known to be strong indicators that predict a student’s performance in a specific subject. The data provides our school with an indicator of not only how each individual student is doing, but also overall curricular and instructional effectiveness. I would be lying if I told you that these tests are 100% accurate 100% of the time, however. Rather, the scores represent a quick snapshot of a student’s skills and abilities at a given moment in time. And although a student’s results can be impacted by a variety of things (not feeling well, fight with sister, hungry, family dog is lost, etc.) the results are surprisingly accurate most of the time! Our staff spends a great deal of time with this data and are able to identify students who may be struggling (or exceeding) much earlier and make the needed improvements to the instruction based on their specific area(s) of need.
I hope this helps you understand a little more about our schools’ Benchmark Testing. If you are ever interested in seeing your child’s results, I’m quite sure his/her teacher would be happy to provide you with a copy of their latest scores, and I am always available to answer any further questions you might have.
Peggy Mathiason, Reading/Math Specialist