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In the 2014-2015 school year, students across the country will be taking new standardized tests. Of the 45 states that will make this transition, students will either take the PARCC Assessment, or the SMARTER Balanced Asessment: both will be aligned with the Common Core Standards.
In this era of increased accountability for students, stress is a very real concern for our young test-takers. Text anxiety takes a toll on students, and sometimes this worry carries with it the potential to negatively impact their test performance as well. As a parent, you can help reduce standardized testing stress and anxiety by following these recommendations:
Remember that this is a test that measures a student’s performance on one set of questions, during one particular time frame. While these tests are indicators of your child’s progress and attainment of the Common Core Standards, it is still important to remember that no test can assess everything your child has learned. While it is important to take the results seriously, realize the test does not “make” the child. Your child is more than a singular test, subject, or grade. In other words, avoid one-dimensional thinking by acknowledging your child as a whole person: this will not only help with his/her development and self-esteem but also will nurture a positive environment in which your child thrives – even when it’s time to take a high-stakes test.
Teachers will no doubt be working with students to prepare for this new wave of testing, yet nothing replaces the one-on-one assistance of a parent. Plus, you know your child best. And knowing your son or daughter puts you in a position to tailor assistance that will optimize strengths and help build weak areas. If you are uncomfortable with helping your child prepare for the tests, consider on-line resources (such as the Lumos Learning Workbooks), hiring a tutor for more intensive assistance, or a combination of the two.
For older students, your child may wish to study with a friend: not only is the study session more enjoyable, but kids sometimes have a way of explaining material to one another in a way that makes more sense to them. Also, look into what your school has to offer. Some districts have made after-school tutoring, clubs, and study sessions available for extra practice. Finally, ask your child’s teacher what your son or daughter needs help with to assist you in pinpointing areas to work on at home. For instance, something as simple as working on basic facts (addition, multiplication, etc.) at home can make a huge difference: now, instead of your child wasting precious time on basic operations, he or she can focus on more challenging problems that require him/her to apply that knowledge in a more complex way on a math assessment.
Even if you don’t have the content knowledge to tutor your child in English Language Arts or Math, you can teach him or her the “format” of the test to remove anxiety of the unknown. Check out earlier posts on this site
www.www.lumoslearning.com/llwp/resources/teachers-speak and look at PARCC and SMARTER Balanced’s web sites for explanations of how each section will be organized, the types of questions your child may encounter, and how the questions will be scored.
Think of it this way: you could have great hand-eye coordination and athletic ability when it comes to baseball, but if no one ever taught you the rules of the game, you’d have no idea how to run the bases, what to do while fielding a ball, etc. Taking a test with great knowledge of math and English will go far, but not knowing the “rules of the game” – format, directions, or expectations – will put the student at a distinct disadvantage.
Equip your child with some simple, tried-and-true stress-reducers. The more relaxed (without being too relaxed!) your child is, the more easily he or she will be able to function, focus, and think through each question without the “mind chatter” that sometimes occurs when constant stressful thoughts intervene. Remind your child to take deep breaths and try muscle relaxation techniques to combat stress. Creating a stress-relieving environment at home helps, too, by putting the following routines in place:
• Eat a good breakfast.
• Exercise after school to burn off energy.
• Go to bed at a reasonable hour for adequate rest.
Don’t underestimate the power of everyday learning opportunities. If you encourage pleasure reading, for example, you’ll be helping your child to learn more and improve reading skills – and all of this will ultimately help your child when it comes to taking tests that require reading (directions, reading passages, etc.).
Other educational opportunities may include activities such as making change, learning how family finances work, reading a map while traveling on vacation, and so on. Many daily activities can become educational with a little bit of forethought. Even asking for your child’s opinions on a movie can be helpful, if you probe deeper and ask your child to explain the opinion, as this is a simple way to get your child to “cite evidence”, a huge part of the ELA assessment where students must provide support for their answers.
Finally, consider an idea from Donna Clovis, an editor for Scholastic. She recommends motivating students to look forward to the test with simple items like a new pencil that is “special” for the test. As a parent, you may wish to take this idea one step further and do something special after school each day. A trip to a playground, going out for soft ice cream, or renting a comedy may be all that it takes to transform test days from ones that students dread to one that students look forward to!
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