Welcome to the GreatSchools State Test Guide for Parents:

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)


What’s the GreatSchools State Test Guide for Parents?

The GreatSchools State Test Guide for Parents is a free tool designed to help you understand — and respond to — your children’s state test scores. The guide helps explain what children are supposed to be learning in math and English language arts, and offers easy ways to help your child learn these skills. The guide covers grades 3-8.

Who created the GreatSchools State Test Guide for Parents?

The team at GreatSchools.org worked with teachers and experts to research and create the GreatSchools State Test Guide for Parents. GreatSchools is a national nonprofit dedicated to helping all parents get a great education for their children.

Why was the guide created?

In the past few years, the majority of the nation’s states have adopted the Common Core State Standards and new state tests. As lessons, homework, and tests change, it can be really confusing to know what it all means and how you as a parent can help. We created this guide to solve that problem. We want to help you to understand new educational expectations — and how you can help your child meet them. First we start by explaining what your child is being tested on. Then, we show how you can help at home — with everything from sample math problems (with solutions!) to grade-by-grade academic vocabulary lists you can post on your fridge to book lists that feature grade-level texts to read with your child.

The guide is organized to match the categories and areas you’ll find on your child’s state test score report. This makes it easy to find customized information based on your child’s specific needs. (See “What information is included?” below for more on this).

Is the GreatSchools State Test Guide for Parents just for parents?

Though this guide was created with parents in mind, the advice and ideas are meant to help students. If you feel your child is able to understand the guide and would benefit from reading it — especially if they’re concerned about their test results — then you may want to share it with them.

If you’re a teacher or principal, this guide is a great way to help parents understand the new standards while offering research-based ways they can support their children’s learning outside the classroom. There are resources for different parents (and different needs). For example, there are videos that show what grade-level reading, writing, and math skills parents should look for in their kids. There are links to free worksheets to boost reading, writing, and math skills in every grade. To help tackle academic vocabulary, we have lists that parents can print and post on their fridge at home. To keep parents involved in learning (without needing expensive supplies or a teaching degree), we’ve included fun activities parents can do at home with their kids. Finally, we’ve curated lists of online resources where kids can get (free!) extra math practice.

What’s the best way to use the GreatSchools State Test Guide for Parents?

You can use this guide without your child’s scores, but the information will be even more relevant if you have your child’s test results handy so you can focus on your child’s strengths and struggles. Start at the main GreatSchools State Test Guide for Parents page.

What information is included?

First you’ll see the ELA/literacy skills section of the guide. You can switch to the math section at any time by clicking on the math button near the top of the page. (You can also switch grades at any time using the grade navigation at the top right.)

State Test Guide for Parents aligned to the Smarter Balanced state tests

The ELA and math sections are divided into areas based the test measures, like Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening, and Research for ELA/literacy skills and Concepts & Procedures, Problem Solving & Modeling/Data Analysis, and Communicating Reasoning in math. This corresponds to the areas tested (and scored) on your child’s test results report.

State Test Guide for Parents aligned to the PARCC state tests

The ELA and math sections are divided into areas based the test measures, like Reading Literature (Fiction), Reading Information (Nonfiction), Reading: Vocabulary, Written Expression, and Writing: Knowledge and Use of Language Conventions for ELA/literacy skills and Major Content, Additional & Supporting Content, Mathematical Reasoning, and Modeling & Application in math. This corresponds to the areas tested (and scored) on your child’s test results report.

In both State Test Guides

Each area starts with What it means — an explanation of what is being tested in this grade and subject area.

If your child did not meet a particular standard, check out the bulleted list of the most common reasons that children struggle with these skills. Every child is different, but this list can help you think about your own child’s particular abilities.

In the How to help section, you’ll find research-based activities, projects, and easy-to-do ideas you can use to boost your child’s skills.

Explore each section of the guide, check out some of the resources, and try some of the suggested activities. (They really work!) We’d love to hear your feedback via social media — please reach us on Facebook or Twitter.

Why don’t I see my state in the drop-down menu?

When it comes to the new standards and new state tests, not all states are the same. Some states adopted new standards, others did not. Some states adopted new state tests from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), other states chose new state tests developed by Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), and still others created their own state tests or contracted with other testing companies.

To see which state test your state has chosen, check out this map.

We designed two guides, one to work specifically with the Smarter Balanced state tests and one to work specifically with the PARCC state tests. Even if your child isn’t taking either of these state tests, the information in these guides about what students are expected to learn — and especially the activities, book lists, academic word lists, worksheets, and free online math resources — will be relevant and useful.

Can I still use the GreatSchools State Test Guide for Parents if I don’t have my child’s test score report yet?

Yes, you can. There is a lot of information to help you understand what your child should be learning and simple, research-based ideas for ways to support your child’s education. Select your child’s previous grade if you’re concerned about their potential test performance, or their current grade if you’d like to read about what your child will be studying this year.

Will the GreatSchools State Test Guide for Parents work on my mobile device?

Yes! We designed the guide to be used on your mobile devices, too. Just visit StateTestGuide.org in your mobile browser to get started.

Is the GreatSchools State Test Guide for Parents available in Spanish?

Yes. Visit the Spanish language version of this guide aligned to the Smarter Balanced state tests or the PARCC state tests. In addition to translating the information in the English version of the guide, we’ve added culturally relevant hints and tips to help parents of English language learners.

What if I have a question that’s not covered here?

Please ask! We have a link at the top of the guide (on the right side) that says Give us feedback. You can share your name and/or email if you want an answer, or you can leave a comment or request and we’ll do our best to address it.

You can also send our Customer Service Team an email. We do our best to reply to all inquiries within 48 hours.

What’s happening in my state?

See which state test your state has chosen, check this map.

What is the purpose of new state tests?

State tests help measure whether your child is learning the reading and math skills needed to succeed. For you and your child’s teacher, test results can provide important insights about your child’s strengths and struggles. For schools, districts, and states, tests provide information about how well schools are preparing their students for higher learning and life after school. Remember, tests are just one gauge of understanding your child’s progress. Be sure to connect with your child’s teacher(s) to better understand what your child is expected to learn and how you can support your child’s education at home.

If my child didn’t do well on the state test, should she be going to the next grade?

Teachers consider a variety of factors to determine whether or not a child should move to the next grade. Primarily, teachers consider how much progress a student has made throughout the year. Even if your child is not yet meeting a certain standard, he may have improved a lot in both reading and math, which demonstrates he will likely continue to improve with the right support. Use the GreatSchools State Test Guide for Parents to understand what areas your child should work on to boost certain skills and to find activities to help your child at home.

My child did well in school but not on the state test. What does that mean?

The new tests are considered more difficult than previous tests so many students are expected to have lower scores on them. If your child’s scores are lower than you expected, first look at the detail in your child’s score report and use the guide to see which areas your child needs to work on.

Next, take your new-found knowledge and talk to your child’s teacher — even if your child just started a new grade with a new teacher. Being informed about what your child should know and asking specific questions can be really helpful when talking to your child’s teacher.