No Child Left Behind: What You Can Do to Help Your Child Succeed on State Tests



*An overview of the No Child Left Behind Act

*State-by-state and age-level resources pages

Test strategies such as process of elimination, pacing, and the two-pass system that work on all standardized tests including state tests, Terra Nova, ITBS, and more

*A discussion of the main academic areas—and the types of questions a child is likely to see—covered on standardized tests

*An explanation of scores and how parents can interpret ...

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*An overview of the No Child Left Behind Act

*State-by-state and age-level resources pages

Test strategies such as process of elimination, pacing, and the two-pass system that work on all standardized tests including state tests, Terra Nova, ITBS, and more

*A discussion of the main academic areas—and the types of questions a child is likely to see—covered on standardized tests

*An explanation of scores and how parents can interpret their child's score

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743251877
  • Publisher: Kaplan Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/30/2005
  • Edition description: Original
  • Edition number: 0
  • Pages: 80
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Drew Johnson is an education writer and editor, creating workbook, textbook, and online educational materials for children of all ages. Cynthia Johnson is the author of several educational books for young people, two of which received the prestigious Parent's Choice Gold Award in 1995, and were listed in Curriculum Administrator magazine's ""Top 100"" educational products for 1996. The Johnsons have co-authored Kaplan Learning Power; Kaplan's Parent's Guides, No-Stress Guides, and Ultimate Guides to standardized tests; and the Homework Heroes series (with Priscilla L. Vail), which won the 2001 Parent's Choice Recommended Award and a 2001 National Parenting Publications Honorable Mention Award.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The A's, B's, C's, and D's of Good Test Taking

Understanding a Test is Half the Battle

Does the mere sight of a No. 2 pencil cause your child to break into a cold, trembling sweat? Are the words multiple choice or essay invariably followed by a thin, keening shriek or forlorn wail? If the answer to either of these answers is yes, it is time you faced the facts: when it comes to taking standardized tests, your child is just like everyone else.

Most Americans experience some fear and nervousness before taking a big test. It is only natural that a child would feel anxious when faced with a test that might cause her to have to take summer school or maybe even be held back a grade. Sure, there are a few folks out there who are perfectly calm when faced with exams, but they are all either hopelessly insane or currently making a living writing test preparation materials.

Let your child know that it is normal to be nervous about the unknown but that the more she knows about the test she is about to take, the less nervous she will feel. All the information and all the techniques we will cover in this book will ease your child's nervousness and replace it with confidence by making that unknown — in this case, the exams — familiar and manageable. Test anxiety almost invariably leads to a lower test score, so it is important you work to boost your child's confidence level. Just understanding the basic format of an exam can be empowering. It can transform a math test from a scary, unknown experience into something as simple as an untimed test with 60 multiple-choice questions worth one point each followed bythree to four extended-response questions.

Learning about question types and little details serves a dual purpose: it provides your child with useful information, and it takes away the fear-of-the-unknown aspect of the test. This principal is the foundation of successful test preparation:

Familiarity leads to confidence.

Think of a standardized exam as that haunted house on the end of your street. At first, your child only knows the horror stories about the children who went inside never to be seen again. Your job as a parent is to guide your child through the exams, showing them how the scary noise coming from upstairs is caused by a rusty blind, and beyond the usual dangers associated with an old house (loose floorboards or a rickety staircase), there is nothing about the place to worry about. If you can replace the anxiety and stress your child feels about the exam with a feeling of confidence, you will have done your child a great service.

Learning About the Structure of a Test

There are two main ways to find out the format of a test. One is the Internet. Every annual state test is discussed on the website of your state's education department, which are listed at the back of the book. In addition to providing dates for the test, many sites have sample questions or a version of previous tests. Some sites are very good, whereas others are not as forthcoming.

The second method is to talk to your child's teacher. Your child's teacher can tell you when the test is scheduled and can often answer any questions about the test format you might have. Your child's teacher can also answer some other helpful questions you might have, such as:

1. How much test preparation is going on at school?

2. How are these test results going to be used at school?

3. Are there any areas we, the parents, should focus on at home with our child?

Placing a phone call to your child's teacher is probably the best way to contact them, although you can always try the old ambush-at-the-basketball-game routine if you like. Leaving a brief message gives the teacher time to compose a response and get back to you with the answers you want. Writing an email is also an effective method, although not all schools (or teachers) are technologically accessible.

Learning about the format of the test is merely one strategy. There are many others, such as pacing, which will be covered throughout the rest of the chapter.

Why Cosmos Ndeti, Former Boston Marathon Winner, Would Probably Do Well on Many Standardized Tests

Although Mr. Ndeti, a world-class marathon runner, probably has not had as much work with fractions as your child has recently, Ndeti is very skilled in one crucial test-taking area — pacing. Knowing that he is going to run 26 miles, Ndeti picks a nice, consistent speed at which to run and keeps at that pace throughout the entire race. What he doesn't do, and what you should not allow your child to do, is spend too much time in any one area or run out of gas before the race is over.

Although many state-standardized tests are untimed, that does not mean your child should spend four hours on every session. At a certain point, taking too much time becomes as harmful as taking too little; frustration mounts, and boredom and fatigue set in. Perseverance is a noble trait, but on a standardized test, spending 30 minutes answering one multiple-choice question is tantamount to standardized test suicide. Your child should stay focused on the task at hand and never get too flustered by any one question. One or two small breaks during each test are fine if your child feels her brain is getting strained. Tell her to put the pencil down, stretch out her hands and arms, take some deep breaths, and then pick up the pencil and finish the test. If she comes to a question she does not understand, tell her to think of this as a guideline:

Spend up to four minutes trying to figure out the question, then, using the techniques taught in this book, take an educated guess and move on.

Perfection is nice, but your child should not expect to get a perfect score on every standardized test. A much better approach is to shoot for a good score, not a perfect score. In fact, many high-stakes tests have only two real scores: pass or fail. To pass, students need to get approximately two-thirds of the questions right, so it is never worth their while to spend 50 minutes on one question that is stumping them, only to be so mentally fatigued that they do poorly on the rest of the exam. Certainly, you don't want to encourage your child to do less than his best, but he must realize that no one question is so important that it is worth getting bogged down on and upset over. There are always some questions that just seem baffling. Throughout the rest of this book, we'll show you how to teach your child to make good guesses, keep his cool, and stay on pace when faced with a stumper.

In addition to telling your child not to get stuck on one question, you can also encourage the "two-pass" approach to test taking. On the first pass through a test, your child should answer only those questions she can handle quickly and easily, skipping over any questions that leave her confused or require a lot of thought. Seeing a bunch of ovals filled in right away often gives students a quick boost of confidence. On the second pass, tell your child to go a little slower, use process of elimination (a technique we'll discuss in a moment) to cross out any incorrect choices, and then take a guess and move on.

The two-pass system is very helpful on tests that have both multiple-choice and open-ended questions. As their name suggests, open-ended questions are questions that have no answer choices. Your child must write the answer in his own words. Some open-ended response questions require only a word or two; these are often called short-answer questions. Other open-ended questions are more like essays, requiring much more writing. Typically, open-ended questions are worth more points, which is why students like to focus on them. However, these questions are usually much harder than simple multiple-choice problems, and they can take up a great deal of time.

The two-pass system allows your child to answer all the multiple-choice questions first before tackling the short-answer and extended-response questions. This is not to say your child should concentrate on the simple questions while blowing off the harder questions. The point is that the open-answer questions are harder and definitely more involved, and you do not want your child getting sucked into one of these to the detriment of the rest of the exam. By saving them for last, your child can answer all the multiple-choice problems, mentally prepare her brain for open-ended question territory (meaning she understands that these questions will be more involved and take more time than the multiple-choice questions), and then tackle them.

For example, consider a reading test with both multiple-choice questions and open-ended problems. After reading a passage, tell your child to answer all the multiple choice questions on the passage first and then answer the open-ended questions. This shouldn't be too hard to do because the open-ended questions are quite often the final questions for any passage. Still, it is important for your child to realize that these two question types primarily test two different skills. The multiple-choice reading questions predominantly test your child's reading comprehension level, whereas the open-ended questions are more like mini-essays testing your child's writing ability. Your child should focus on one skill (and one question type) and then switch to the other skill rather than jumping back and forth between the two.

To help illustrate the importance of pacing, here's a little test-prep fable you might share with your child:

Kaplan's Test-Prep Fables: The Tale of Ishmael the Snail

Call him Ishmael the snail. When all the fish signed up for the annual aquarium obstacle course race, no one gave him much of a chance, but Ishmael was confident of his abilities. The starting gun sounded, and all the contestants took off. The goldfish, Ahab, took the lead, but she got caught up on a whale of an obstacle early on. She couldn't figure out how to get around it, and she never finished the race. The two clown loaches were also very fast, but they made too many mistakes. They kept swimming under the hurdles instead of over them, and they skipped some obstacles completely. They wound up being disqualified. The gourami started out at a good clip, but he fell fast asleep around the plastic plant, and Ishmael passed him up. Ishmael ran the entire course at a steady, constant pace, rarely making mistakes, and when the final results were tallied, Ishmael was the winner. As his reward, Ishmael was named king of the aquarium. He now lives in a plastic castle and rules the other fish wisely and fairly.

The Moral: A steady pace wins the race.

Edgar Allan P.O.E.

One of the biggest advantages about taking a multiple-choice test is that you don't always have to know the correct answer choice. Think about it: the answer is already there staring you in the face. If you find all the incorrect answer choices and eliminate them, you will get the question right just the same. The process-of-elimination technique, known as P.O.E. in test-taker's lingo, is one that good test takers use instinctively but that anyone can learn to do with practice. It is especially helpful on any standardized tests that do not have a guessing penalty. You see, on some standardized tests, a fraction of a point is deducted from a student's final score for every question answered incorrectly. This is known as a guessing penalty, and it is meant to discourage random guessing. However, there is no guessing penalty on most tests. A wrong answer simply results in zero credit, not negative credit, so your child has nothing to lose and everything to gain by making good guesses on questions he is having trouble answering. P.O.E. is the key to good guessing.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of this technique, see if your child can answer the following question:

1. How old are the authors of this book?

A. 4 years old

B. 29 years old

C. 35 years old

D. 126 years old

If this were not a multiple-choice question, your child would have little to no chance of getting the question right. However, as it stands, she should have narrowed down the choices to either B or C, giving her a 50/50 shot of guessing correctly. Because, as we mentioned, there is no penalty for guessing, she should then pick either B or C and move on to the next question.

Use P.O.E. to cross out incorrect answer choices.

Perhaps the hardest part about using P.O.E. is knowing when to use it. In the above question, for example, how would you know that A and D were incorrect? You could say you used common sense, and that would be a valid answer. In many ways, common sense translates to a basic understanding of what the question is asking and therefore what the possible answers could be. Ask your child the question below, and help her use common sense to get a general idea of what the answer will be.

Thomas had $4, but he gave half of his money away to his friend Jeremy for a plastic bucket. Then Thomas gave away half of his remaining money to buy some gum. How much money does Thomas have now?

Before looking at the answer choices, ask your child the following questions:

Could Thomas now have more than $4?

Could Thomas have no money at all?

Could Thomas have $2?

The answer to all these questions is no. The last question is probably the toughest. But even if the question is confusing to your child, she could still look at the answer choices and eliminate some incorrect responses.

A. $4

B. $2

C. $1

D. $0

Why would answer choice A even be there? Test designers offer choices like A to catch the careless student. They know many students often glance at a question, feel unsure of how to work the problem, then just pick a number from the question that appears in the answer choices. Using the P.O.E. — and thinking about what the question is really asking — can help your child avoid these mistakes.

P.O.E. can also be used on English exams as well as math exams. The incorrect choices are generated the same way they are in the above question: Words are taken from the reading passage and placed out of context as an answer choice. Students who remember seeing the words in the passage mistakenly pick them as an answer choice, never questioning whether the answer makes sense. Here's an example of a typical grade 4 reading question:

1. Where did Farmer Ike keep his cows?

A. In the barn

B. In a fenced-in pasture

C. At a fruit stand

D. In his house

Which of these choices can be eliminated? Hopefully, your child will recognize C and D as unlikely correct answers. Answer C is wrong because stacking cows into pyramids is much harder than stacking apples and oranges, and D is unlikely because no farmer likes to have dinner interrupted by a stampede crashing through the kitchen. Still, these were actual answer choices because the words "fruit stand" and "house" appeared in the reading passage.

On standardized science exams, using common sense and P.O.E. is quite often the best way to approach a question. For instance, on the question below:

Where would it be MOST dangerous to conduct an experiment with electricity?

A. In a basement

B. Next to a full bathtub

C. Near a radio

D. In the driveway

Your child doesn't have to know any precise scientific facts about electricity; all she has to know is that electricity + water = a shock. There are public service announcements about this fact as well as cautionary tales she may or may not have heard from you ("I remember the time Uncle Wampus melted his hair by taking a car battery into the kiddie swimming pool"). Even if your child didn't know that fact, she could still use P.O.E. on the answer choices. What's dangerous about a driveway or, for that matter, a basement? Hopefully, your child would look at these answer choices and cross them out and then look at B and say, "You know, electricity and water can be trouble. Out of the two choices remaining, I'll pick B."

So far, all of the examples of P.O.E. have dealt with the multiple-choice questions. Whereas P.O.E. is not the best tool to use when writing an essay, it is a technique that can be used for some open-ended questions. Although these open-ended questions are not as amenable to P.O.E. as a multiple-choice question, the fact is that many test problems are multistep questions requiring the student to do more than one piece of work. On questions such as these, P.O.E. is an excellent tool to find the correct answer or at least to do work that deserves partial credit. For example:

Michael reached into his desk and brought out these seven pens.

blue gray red orange yellow black green

Michael used one of the pens to color on a map.

Use the clues below to find out which color Michael used.


It has less than six letters, but more than three letters in its name.

It is not the first or the last crayon.

It is not next to the red crayon.

What color pen did Michael use?

Explain the steps you used to find your answer.

In essence, this question is nothing but a three-step P.O.E. question, although instead of using common sense to eliminate answer choices, you use the clues given to you. With the first clue, you can eliminate red, orange, and yellow. The second clue knocks out blue and green, and the third clue eliminates gray, leaving only black. Even if your child messes up one of the clues and ends up with the wrong final answer, by describing which colors he eliminated and why, he could earn half credit on the question.

Although P.O.E. has many uses, one place where it is not very effective is on the short-answer questions. The short-answer format is specifically designed to prevent test takers from using P.O.E. to find an answer, and in this respect, it is effective. However, there are other ways to skin a cat, so whereas your child cannot use P.O.E on these questions, there are other methods to get the right answer, which will be discussed in later chapters.

Have an Answer for Everything

Suppose your child comes to a multiple-choice math question that she cannot figure out at all. She spends some time looking over the answer choices to see if there are any she feels she can cross out, but nothing comes to mind. P.O.E. fails her. Should she leave this question blank and move on to the next question? The answer is "No, no, no, no, no, a thousand times no!" Again, if there is no guessing penalty, every question should be filled in, even if it means random guessing instead of educated guessing (although educated guessing using P.O.E. is always better, of course). Advise your child to:

1. Look for ways to work the problem using the appropriate skill. (On the short-answer and extended-response questions, be sure to write down what skill you are applying because discussion of the right technique could earn partial credit).

2. Use P.O.E. to cross out incorrect answer choices.

3. Guess and move on, knowing that your test grade does not depend on every little question.

If your son or daughter needs further convincing about the benefits of guessing, you might try telling the following story:

Kaplan's Test-Prep Fables: The Story of Kronhorst the Fuzzy Chihuahua Bunny

Early in his life, Kronhorst was just like all the other bunnies. He enjoyed carrots, frolicking in a pasture, and hopping up and down to his heart's content. One day, the Bunny Master came to all the bunnies in the world and said, "OK, it's time you all got ears." (This happened a long time ago, when all bunnies were earless.) The bunnies had several choices: long and floppy, really long and floppy, and tastefully long and floppy, just to name a few. Every bunny made a choice except Kronhorst, who couldn't pick between cute and floppy or trippily floppy.

Not making a choice was the worst thing that ever happened to Kronhorst because from that point on, everyone he met always mistook him for a fuzzy Chihuahua. "Look at that way too hairy Chihuahua!" people would cry, at which point Kronhorst would have to explain that he was a bunny. People would then ask, "But where are your ears?" Needless to say, Kronhorst got pretty tired of these conversations, as well as the endless invitations to the Hair Club's Annual Dog Show...although later in life he did make a lot of money investing in the stock market.

Moral: Answer every question on the exam or people will confuse you for a fuzzy Chihuahua.

Whereas this advice is crucial for the multiple-choice sections, it is no less important on open-ended questions. There might be one open-ended question that looks to your child as if it came directly from the Question Institute of Neptune. If so, tell your child to write Neptune next to it and come back later if there is time. However, he must not write Neptune more than once on any one session. On all other questions, your child should make his best attempt, and make sure to document his attempt well. Who knows? Your child's guess might be the correct solution, or it might display enough sound math principles to garner partial credit. This is true even on the short-answer questions. Even though your child's chances of answering correctly are very slim if he just guesses randomly, an educated guess has a better chance of being correct than no answer at all.

The Only Way to Avoid Mental Mistakes

Your child gains nothing by trying to solve any test problems without writing anything down. Whereas it is impressive if your child can multiply big numbers without using pencil and paper or work out scientific experiments in his head, it's not required for any standardized test. In fact, it even works against his score. Get your child into the habit of writing down all his work on problems and jotting down the main idea of a reading passage as he goes through it. Kids can eliminate a slew of careless errors simply by writing down their work. For many children, writing things down helps them clarify the material. Writing down work during practice sessions also makes for a better learning experience: if your child misses a question, at least you can go back together and see what the problem was.

Write down your work whenever possible.

As stated throughout this chapter, writing down your work is crucial on the open-ended questions. To illustrate this, read the following math example and then see how Imperious Student A and Well-Behaved Student B responded.

Jonathan had $5.00 at the start of the day. At noon, he gave half of his money to Gwendolyn, and at 3:00 PM he lost $0.50 in a vending machine.

How much money did Jonathan have at the end of the day? Explain your answer.

Imperious Student A:

Jonathan had two bucks because I say he did. Now all must bow to the brilliance of Student A!

Well-Behaved Student B:

Starting out with five, Jonathan gave half, or $2.50, away, so he only had three dollars left. Then he lost 50 cents, so $3.00 - $0.50 = $2.50.

Not only is Student A a megalomaniac, he is also no better than Student B on this short-answer question. Student A provided the right answer with an inadequate solution, earning only partial credit. Student B has the wrong answer but the right explanation, so he gets partial credit as well. Garnering a few points by properly showing your work could significantly boost your child's final score.

Although the example above is math-related, this technique is just as helpful on reading tests as it is on math tests. On the reading passages, have your child take whatever notes she is comfortable with, ranging from writing down the main idea to summarizing each paragraph. You don't want your child to spend a lot of time looking for the perfect phrase to describe the reading selection, but writing down any thoughts she has about the passage will help your child understand the passage better. Because many reading questions are testing just how well your child understands the action in the reading paragraph, any notes your child writes to aid her reading comprehension should lead to an improved score.

"Twas the Night Before the Test..."

Make sure your child feels confident and well rested on the days of the test. Hopefully, this means keeping the nightly routine as regular as possible. You might want to schedule some sort of activity for the nights during the tests, but it should not be cramming. Trying to jam in tons of information before a test session is not conducive to a child's test-taking confidence, and it should be avoided.

A positive attitude is more important than any one fact.

If your child does want to review for a while, stick to the basics, asking questions about the test format and general test-taking strategies. These will come in handier than reviewing any particular parts of the different tests. Also, your child will probably answer most of the general test format questions correctly, which will boost her confidence. What you do not want is to have your child stumped by a series of questions because she will go into the exam the next day thinking she is going to do badly.

Here's a handy chart of pointers for the time before an exam.

Things To Do Before and During the Exam

1. Make sure your child gets an adequate amount of rest.

2. Give your child a healthy, adequate breakfast.

3. Let your child have any medication if and only if he takes that medication on a regular basis.

4. Participate in some activity at night that is fun for your child but not too taxing. (Watching a movie on the VCR or playing board games are two ideas.)

5. Give your child positive words of encouragement right before she goes to take the test.

You get the main idea. Send your kid to school relaxed and positive, and don't do anything to upset her normal rhythm. Some things that would definitely upset her normal rhythm and as such should be avoided at all costs are included in the following list:

Things Not To Do Before the Exam

1. Send her to bed earlier than usual because she will just have to lie in bed thinking about the test

2. Let your child have any noncritical medication (such as over the counter cold or allergy medicine) that will cause drowsiness or muddled thinking

3. Decide to unwind by watching the midnight tripleheader of Scream I, II, and III

4. Decide that the morning of the test is the perfect time to explain to your child how big the national debt really is and what that will mean to her


The main points:

1. Understand the format of the test in question.

2. Maintain a consistent pace throughout the test, and don't let any single question get you flustered.

3. Use P.O.E. whenever possible.

4. Answer every question.

5. Write down all work to avoid foolish mental mistakes and to garner possible partial credit.

6. Make sure you are relaxed and positive on test day.

Questions to ask your child:

1. What 's the moral of "Ishmael the Snail"? A steady pace wins the race.

2. What does P.O.E. stand for? Process of elimination. Why would you want to use P.O.E.? Because finding incorrect answers and crossing them out gives you a better chance of answering a question correctly.

3. What's the moral of "Kronhorst the Fuzzy Chihuahua"? Answer every question on the test or be mistaken for a Chihuahua with a hair problem.

4. When should you solve questions in your head? Never!

5. Who will love you no matter how you do on these exams? Your parents, of course!

Copyright © 2005 by Anaxos, Inc.

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Table of Contents




Chapter One: The A's, B's, C's, and D's of Good Test Taking

Chapter Two: Reading Skills

Chapter Three: Writing Section

Chapter Four: How the Math Test Adds Up

Chapter Five: I Got a What?!

List of State Exams, Grades 3-5

List of State Test Websites


Copyright © 2005 by Anaxos, Inc.

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