High Test Scores but Lower Grades

Question: I just received the scores for the standardized tests that my daughter, a sixth grader, took this past year. All of them are better than last year’s scores. How can this be explained as many of her report card grades were lower this year? – Puzzled

Answer: Be pleased that your daughter has better standardized test scores this year. The improved scores indicate that she has probably done a better job of mastering the materials that your state considers most important for her to learn. Perhaps her teacher focused more on these concepts and skills in the classroom than her previous teacher did. Many teachers are now doing what is called “teaching to the test.” Also, students’ test scores vary. If she were to take the same test several times, her scores would probably fluctuate.

There are many possible explanations for why your daughter’s report card grades may be lower. Was it simply because this year’s teacher had different grading standards than the previous teacher? Did your daughter always do her homework? Did you observe her struggling to master some lessons? Was the overall quality of the work she brought home lower than in previous years? As students advance in school, the work tends to become more difficult. If your daughter has any weaknesses in basic skills, especially in reading, it would have made it more difficult for her to do well in her other subjects.

One good explanation for your daughter’s test scores improving but grades going down is because the tests measure a narrower curriculum than classroom grades. If her test scores increased significantly, this is good. On the other hand, if your child’s grades declined significantly, this is a red flag. Moving from B’s to D’s in a subject is a sign of problems.

Study your child’s report card carefully to determine if she may need special help in any areas this summer. Otherwise, remember that neither test scores nor grades are perfect measures of performance. Slight changes in either one are not true causes for concern.