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As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Cumulative File on Your Child

Every large institution keeps files on its members.  In

the  army, it is called the 201 file.  In school systems,  it  is

referred to as the cumulative record folder. 
 
     The  first  time  you  may be  aware  of  your  child’s

cumulative  record  is  when  you  are  given  a  report  of  his

standardized test scores. These scores are dutifully added to the

cumulative  record folder.  Some schools even include  IQ  scores

which  are arrived at by means of pencil and paper  group  tests.

In  addition  to  the  scores, schools  may  include  a  computer

printout which separate the questions into categories  indicating

the student’s strengths and weaknesses in different areas. 
 
     You need to know what use the school is making of these

test  results  and  how this affects  your  child’s  program  and

progress.   It  is even more important for you to  know  how  the

school  interprets these scores and what use they make  of  these

interpretations.   If your child, for example, shows a  drop

in a reading comprehension score, you might ask if the school  is

going  to give him a diagnostic test to determine if there  is  a

problem.   The  computer printout of scores is only useful  as  a

screening tool to indicate a possible problem area.  It is  based

on  too  little data to actually pinpoint what  the  problem  is.

Diagnostic tests and tests of hearing and vision are more helpful

in  solving a potential problem.  Or, as the  parent,  you  might                      
ask what program is being planned for your child in order for him

to  learn  better and possibly to improve his scores.   In  other

words, insist that the test scores be used as tools for  planning

your  child’s  program and not merely as a  statement  that  your

child is deficient in some way. 
 
     If  you  question  the validity of  the  scores  for  a

particular  year, ask that they be deleted from the  folder.   In

such  cases,  it is not very useful to subject the child  to  the

same  test  again.  Another kind of test might  be  more  useful,

especially  for the child who does not test well.  Some  children

fill in the answer sheet incorrectly, or they get distracted  and

lose their place, or they just freeze up.  Retesting them on  the

same type of test will not help such problems and it does them  a

disservice.  
 
     Standardized  tests  are  useful  for  evaluating   the

school’s  curriculum by establishing whether or not, on  average,

that curriculum is helping groups of students to learn . Ideally,

the teacher should look at the results of the test for her  class

and  see  where there are deficiencies so that she can  make  the

appropriate  changes in her program.  In this vein, it  would  be

much more useful to give the tests at the beginning of the school

year rather than at the end.  Or, if the tests are to be given at

the  end of the year, the scores should be reported according  to

the  classes the students will be in for the next year.  In  that

way, the teacher can plan an appropriate program for the new  in-

coming class.              

   
     Schools also use the results from achievement tests  to

group  children  for  instruction.   Grouping  children  for  the

purpose  of  acquiring the tools of learning,  such  as  reading,

works  well.  The problem comes in when one group  is  considered

more worthy or better than another.  Children can be grouped  for

the  purposes of improving or learning skills,  but they  do  not

need to be grouped when these skills are utilized in other  areas

of instruction like science and social studies discussions.  
 
     Cumulative  folders  contain  many  other  pieces    of

information besides achievement test scores.  Sometimes there are

teacher’s comments which usually tell you more about the  teacher

than  the student.  You should know and it is your right to  know

what  is  in this folder.  Make it a point to look at it  at  all

transition  periods,  especially before your child  moves  on  to

middle and/or to high school .


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