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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are standardized tests?
  2. Why are standardized tests given?
  3. What is the name of the testing service that the Archdiocese of Baltimore elementary schools use?
  4. What was the name of the test that was used at the elementary level prior to the Stanford 10?
  5. Why did the Archdiocese of Baltimore choose the Stanford 10 and the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test?
  6. What grades are tested and when?
  7. How many other (Arch)Dioceses across the country use Stanford 10?
  8. What makes one test different or better than the other?
  9. Why doesn't the Archdiocese use the same testing service as the public schools?
  10. How are the scores averaged? Nationally? Locally? Regionally?
  11. How do the Archdiocese of Baltimore Elementary Schools rank nationally?
  12. What will we be doing to increase / improve our performance?
  13. Will we see how our students performed within their own school?
  14. What does the test really tell us about how our children are doing?
  15. My child scored very high in math (or English, etc.) – couldn't that mean he/she is "gifted" and should be placed in a higher grade/class?
  16. My child scored below average in Math (or English, etc.) – does this mean he/she is not smart? What can be done to improve his/her performance?
  17. What does it mean when an entire class is not performing on grade level or is below average?
  18. What if many students are above average? Is this school challenging them to excel even more? How?
  19. What is "average"? Don't we want our children to be above average?
  20. What do the school and the teachers do to help children who enter at below grade level?
  21. How does this school compare to (another) school?
  22. Is there any kind of preparation for the test? Sample tests? Particular instructions?
  23. What is a Lexile score?

1. What are standardized tests?
A standardized test is a test administered and scored in a consistent manner. The tests are designed in such a way that the questions, conditions for administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent and are handled in a predetermined, standard manner.

2. Why are standardized tests given?
Data received from standardized tests assist educators with curricular, instructional and program decisions. They are a valid and reliable means to measure individual and overall student performance at a particular point in time.

3. What is the name of the testing service that the Archdiocese of Baltimore elementary schools use?
The Archdiocese of Baltimore uses Pearson Assessment's Stanford 10 Achievement Test. The Pearson Assessment website has a helpful presentation on understanding the components of the Stanford 10 test. Here is an example of one website that provides an explanation of the test in succinct language.
In addition to the Stanford 10, students at the elementary level take the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test. The OLSAT is a test of abstract thinking and reasoning ability of children pre-K to 18. Find additional information.

4. What was the name of the test that was used at the elementary level prior to the Stanford 10?
Prior to 2007, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) was administered in the fall to students in grades 2, 4, 6, 8.

5. Why did the Archdiocese of Baltimore choose the Stanford 10 and the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test?
Every five years the Archdiocese evaluates the different standardized tests using a committee with principals, teachers and administrative staff. In 2006 the decision was made to contract with Pearson Assessment and use Stanford 10 and OLSAT as the standardized testing program for the Archdiocese of Baltimore elementary schools. 

The major determining factors were:

  • The ability to receive results electronically. This allows the schools and the Archdiocese to analyze scores more quickly which assist with student performance decisions related to curriculum and instruction.
  • The student friendly format of the instrument. The instrument was designed to allow students as much time as needed to complete the test as long as they were working towards completion. This accommodation eliminates a large portion of the stress on children during standardized testing.

In 2010 a decision was made to renew the contract.

6. What grades are tested and when?
Students in grades 3-8 are tested during early spring of the school year. In addition to the Stanford 10, students also take the OLSAT.

7. How many other (Arch)Dioceses across the country use Stanford 10?
Hundreds of public school districts, private, and parochial schools choose Stanford 10 as their standardized testing instrument.

8. What makes one test different or better than the other?
One standardized test is not better or worse than another. Each is a means of measuring student achievement.

9. Why doesn't the Archdiocese use the same testing service as the public schools?
The No Child Left Behind Act mandates public schools to choose or design standardized tests that meet both federal and local requirements. The Archdiocese has the same high expectations for its assessment program and went through a very thorough process of vendor selection based on particular expectations. (See response, Why the Archdiocese choose Stanford 10).

10. How are the scores averaged? Nationally? Locally? Regionally?
The Stanford 10 is an achievement test with two major characteristics:

  1. It is a norm-referenced test. This means that a student's score is based on how all the other students taking this test scored. In a norm referenced test, the average score is always 50%.
  2. It is a standardized test. This means that that it is administered and scored under uniform conditions preventing the problems that arise with subjective scoring of tests. Besides using a national norm, the Archdiocese of Baltimore also has the ability to do comparisons against the entire Archdiocese (a local norm), and against Catholic schools across the country (A Catholic Schools' norm).

11. How do the Archdiocese of Baltimore Elementary Schools rank nationally?
When compared to the national norm at the district level, the students in the Archdiocese of Baltimore consistently score at or above the 50% in every category or sub-test.

12. What will we be doing to increase/improve our performance?
The Stanford 10 and OLSAT data guide curricular and instructional decisions. Adjustments are made at both the school and Archdiocesan level that will hopefully lead to increased student performance. Results over time are analyzed to determine the effectiveness of such adjustments; this is an on-going process of evaluation.

13. Will we see how our students performed within their own school? Compared to other schools in the same regions? Across the Archdiocese? Across the nation?
Parents will be able to compare their child's results with their classmates using the class norm for their school, with students in the same grade in the Archdiocese using the Archdiocesan norm and with same grade students across the country using the national norm.

14. What does the test really tell us about how our children are doing?
Standardized tests are a "snapshot" of student achievement and ability at a specific point in time. This accounting of student performance can be affected by numerous factors which must be considered when looking at test scores. This is why these types of test scores should not be used as the only measure of student success.

15. My child scored very high in math (or English, etc.) – couldn't that mean he/she is "gifted" and should be placed in a higher grade/class?
Standardized tests are not designed to determine grade placement. They are designed to measure how much knowledge a student has gained. This is only one factor of many that contribute to student placement and academic success.

16. My child scored below average in Math (or English, etc.) – does this mean he/she is not smart? What can be done to improve his/her performance?
This does not mean that your child is not smart. Educators understand that many factors contribute to student performance on standardized tests. Gathering multiple forms of assessment data (i.e.: teacher observation, projects, exams, written work, performance in art, music, physical education) assists teachers in determining how to help students meet high standards and grow to their full potential. A poor score on a standardized test could be reflective of test anxiety or simply a bad day. If other assessments show that your child is struggling in a certain area, you can work with his/her teacher and principal to find ways to improve his/her performance.
· Are there programs to help my child in areas where he / she is having difficulty?
Each school uses testing data to guide curricular and instructional decisions. When areas of weakness are identified and supported by other assessments, teachers and administrators are expected to make necessary adjustments to address individual and group performance concerns. One poor test score is not cause for concern when it is not supported by the student's daily performance.

17. What does it mean when an entire class is not performing on grade level or is below average?
Specifically, it means that this particular class when compared to other students across the nation did not perform as well as others students given the same test during the same period of time. This information is used by teachers and principals to make appropriate curricular and instructional changes that will help students reach higher levels of achievement.

18. What if many students are above average? Is this school challenging them to excel even more? How?
Standardized tests in combination with many other forms of student performance information at the class level give a more complete understanding of student achievement. This comprehensive view of assessment data guides educational decisions so that students can reach their full academic potential.

19. What is "average"? Don't we want our children to be above average?
When discussing test scores, "average" is a statistical term. It literally means the score at which 50% of the scores are above and 50% of the scores are below. So the "average" student's score will be below half the other students' scores and above the other half of students' scores. Above average is not the goal for Archdiocesan students, our goal is for each student to reach his/her full academic potential.

20. What do the school and the teachers do to help children who enter at below grade level?
The teachers gather specific assessment information, including standardized testing results, and use that data to formalize a plan of instruction. These plans will vary from student to student and school to school and may include: extra time for completing assignments, diversified instructional strategies, increased assessments to measure performance gains, and/or individualized or small group instruction.

21. How does this school compare to (another) school?
The Archdiocese of Baltimore does not compare schools to each other using standardized testing data. There are numerous ways to determine which school is best for your child. For example, social environment, service opportunities, faculty credentials, total population of students, facilities, specialized programs, before and/ or after school care programs, extra curricular activities, and location. Test scores should not be the deciding factor for selecting a school.

22. Is there any kind of preparation for the test? Sample tests? Particular instructions?
The Archdiocese of Baltimore does not specifically prepare students to take the test. The goal of the test is to capture a student's knowledge at one specific time- this is not measured accurately if the student has been given the opportunity to "study the test" or teachers have "taught to the test". There are example tests available to schools who feel their students need to have the experience of taking a standardized test. The best preparation for a student is to make sure they are well rested, relaxed and have a nutritious breakfast before each testing day.

23. What is a Lexile score?
A Lexile score is a measure of reading comprehension. It can be very useful in showing how much of what is read is understood. The Lexile system can recommend books that are appropriate for your child's reading ability. These scores cover academic ranges from pre-school to college. View more information on Lexile scores.