In the world of high-stakes education testing, where I hear my friends saying that their child is stressed and that these tests cause anxiety, I thought I would take a different approach and give you some State Test Taking Tips…from a teacher.
This week Colorado begins the 1st major round of PARCC state mandated testing. We started on Monday and our students are completing a full day of classes with state testing being scheduled during their core (English & Social Studies) and math classes. As a science teacher, I somehow lucked out and am not proctoring this year, however, my colleagues in the other departments are amazingly adjusting weeks of curriculum to ensure that our students will have a meaningful education regardless of the tests we are required to give.
As a teacher, I am incredibly saddened for my students and those in our state who are enduring these tests. A few weeks ago, we had an inservice day and did the EPATS which are the practice tests for the PARCC exams. I have never felt more deflated and unmotivated in my entire life. I walked away from that inservice wondering how on Earth I was going to get my students to a level of analyzing and synthesizing information while trying to work with the technology and skills required to answer these difficult questions. Did I mention that PARCC is done completely online? Yeah…that.
No wonder our poor kids are anxious and stressed…add to that the fact that they are still expected to learn during these weeks. I am doing everything in my power to get them up and moving and distracted with cool labs and concepts that they really can enjoy, and I know my colleagues are too.
So here are some quick test prep tips that I figure might be slightly unconventional but really useful.
- Sleep: Like every other night, just sleep. However, when the tests are over and there is still time in the testing period, tell your kid to nap too if they feel like it. There is always extra time built in and sleep really does help your brain refresh and should help them stay alert.
- Eat: Yeah obviously eat breakfast, but also send them with snacks as well. Kids get restless and then they get hungry and then they get grumpy and crazy and you see where I am going right?
- Give them a break: Your kids just had their mind stretched to the limit, so go easy on them a little bit. I am not saying to let them get away with things (oh heck no, manners and rules matter folks), but maybe forgo chores on especially full testing days, or let them veg out and watch their favorite TV shows a little longer than normal, just give them a bit more time to themselves then you typically would.
- Don’t add pressure: Place your focus on how they are doing in their regular scheduled classes. These high stakes tests have enough pressure and nerves associated with them, so instead of adding more pressure asking about and prepping for these tests, focus on the good things they are accomplishing in their general classes.
- Words of Encouragement: Remember to tell your kids that no matter how frustrating and challenging these tests can be, that you love them and that the only thing that matters is that they try. Honestly, these tests do not impact their ability to get into a college or determine their future career path.
That is it, because these state mandated tests are flawed and absurd in many ways. I guess where I am going here today is that our kids should not be stressed over a set of tests that in the long run carry no real weight on them personally. Teachers & parents want them to do well, but most kids do not handle stress and anxiety very well under pressure. This is where we as parents take a bit of control and show them epic amounts of support and love. There will always be things that we do not want to do, but have to…and unfortunately from both a parental and teacher perspective, this state testing is one of those.