Maybe that student has a high number of absences. Absences affect test scores. As does illness, family factors, health concerns, and moving from school to school. All are factors that cannot be controlled by a school or a teacher. So, then, do we blame parents. Not in all cases. Sometimes, parents are transferred by their employer and are required to move to a new location. Parents serving our country are often transferred, or possibly one parent is away for a long period of time. Children who have a terminally ill parent are facing a crisis beyond anyone's control. In some situations, parents are coping as best as possible. They are doing everything in their power to shield their child from these events.
A natural disaster has a way of shifting our focus. How high do you think test scores would be if the test followed such a dramatic event? States change targets or testing methods. If the new format is foreign to our kids, their test scores are likely to reflect their unease.
Tension in a school causes students to underperform. A toxic work environment is felt by the kids. An administrator that is not supportive can cause more harm than just lower teacher morale. Kids sense the problem and quite possibly they can identify the problem. But the negative effect of being in this environment, even though they are not directly affected, shows up in their level of achievement.
I'm of the opinion that standardized tests don't matter. One end-of-the-year test shouldn't measure what a child has learned during an entire school year. I think kids matter. They are not a number. They have problems. Some are dealing with adult issues. Some are in survival mode. Yet state standards continue to dictate what a child should learn academically. Schools continue teaching to the test and giving practice test after practice test.
In my opinion, this one is broke and needs to be fixed. We need to take a new look at our testing methods and madness.
(For more of Kim Frencken's writing and information about her educational products, check out her blog, Chocolate For the Teacher.)