State Assessment Time is Here
Colynn Harrison SHS Principal
March 1, 2012
Standardized testing time is upon us. At the high school this year we will have 4 different testing schedules since the State has created the new STAAR assessment for 9th graders and TAKs remains in place for 10th and 11th graders. The TAKs English and Language Arts test will be administered Wednesday, March 7th, starting at 8:05 am. The English I reading and writing tests will be administered on March 26th and 27th. Anxieties always run high during the testing months, so below is some information on standardized testing and tips you can help your child with.
Standardized tests: What do they measure?
Providing a yardstick for educators to evaluate student- and school-performance across state standards, the tests generally fall into one of two categories. Achievement tests measure subject-specific knowledge, while Aptitude tests predict your child's ability to learn by measuring his mastery of school-success skills, such as reasoning or problem-solving. These tests can provide you and his teacher with insight into his progress and identify areas for improvement, as well help schools and districts decide where they need to focus more attention.
Standardized tests: What are their limitations?
While testing companies strive to create effective evaluation tools, several factors can affect your child's performance. The conditions in the testing room, how well the school curriculum fits the material, whether she had a good night's sleep, and her test-taking ability can all affect her score. As a result, you may see inconsistencies between her grades and test scores. It's best not to place too much emphasis on a single test result.
Standardized tests: How can you help your child prepare?
Teachers tell us that successful test-takers tend to be students with good attendance, homework, and study habits; therefore, your daily assistance with homework and attitude toward school have the biggest impact on your child's performance. However, there are key ways you can develop his test-taking ability.
- Optimize brain power.
Teachers say the students who struggle the most on testing days are the ones who didn't have enough sleep or a good breakfast the day of the test. Also, students who are physically or mentally unprepared often encounter problems. Make sure she has every tool she needs — pencils, an eraser, paper, a calculator, etc. laid out the night before, as well as any preliminary paperwork filled out, if possible. If she isn't feeling well on the test day, it's better to keep her home and let her make up the test later rather than risk poor performance.
- Encourage good study habits and challenge critical-thinking skills.
Reviewing test-taking strategies is important, but monitoring overall academic progress and staying in good communication with the teacher will help you ward off potential problems. Good reading skills factor heavily in a timed test, so encourage reading (consider magazines, newspapers, or even comic books if he shies away from books) as much as possible. Testing also measures critical-thinking ability, so ask him to discuss ideas or voice his opinion often to stimulate these thought processes.
- Know what to expect.
Most teachers will send home information about the test schedule and class preparation plans well before the test date. However, if you don't hear from your child's teacher you should contact her and find out:
- What is the name of the test and what will it measure?
- What's the format? (multiple choice, essay, short answer, etc.)
- How will the class prepare in school?
- How is it scored? Will students be penalized for incorrect answers or should they guess randomly when stumped on a question?
- When will you receive the results?
- What are the test's implications? Will it affect your child, school, or both?
- Are there any specific ways you can help your child prepare?
- Look at your child's past performance.
If she scored low in a particular area, you may want to provide her with exercises that reinforce that subject. Aim for activities that simulate the testing experience, such as multiple choice geometry questions or vocabulary practice that asks her to identify antonyms or synonyms. Workbooks geared towards standardized test preparation often provide these kind of exercises. Avoid drilling her in areas where she excels; you run the risk of boring her and her losing patience with testing.
- Provide practice opportunities.
You may be able to request sample or practice tests from your child's school or find them at the library. Be sure to time any practice tests (assuming the standardized test will be timed) so he's not surprised by time constraints on test day. Start practicing several weeks before the date and keep study sessions short. Setting small goals, such as learning five new words each session, will help him measure his progress and boost his confidence. Make sure he takes the night before the test off — cramming can increase his stress level.
- Relax and remain positive.
The best test-takers are confident, committed, and at ease. Even if you are nervous about her performance, be wary of transferring that concern to your child. You never know, some kids actually enjoy tests! If she is likely to get nervous, practice a few relaxation techniques, such as counting from one to ten or taking deep breaths, which can help her relieve tension during the test.
The following tips will provide suggestions for parents on how to approach test taking with their kids.
- Make sure that your child does all their homework and reading assignments, this will help make sure your child is prepared for the test.
- Encourage your child to space out their studying and homework assignments so that they won't be forced to cram on the night before the test.
If you are anxious about your child's test, it's ok but try to keep cool around your child, you don't want them to get anxious about their tests too.
Encourage your child to do well but don't pressure him/her. You may stress him/her out. It is important for your child to stay relaxed for the test.
Keep a positive attitude about tests.
Provide a quiet, well lighted area with little distractions to help your child study efficiently.
Mark down test days on your calendar so you and your child are both aware of testing dates.
Make sure that your child gets enough sleep on the night before the test.
Ensure that your child eats a healthy breakfast and avoid heavy foods that may make him/her groggy and avoid high sugar foods that may make him/her hyper.
Make sure that your child gets up early enough so that he/she will be on time to school.
Let your child relax for a few hours before bedtime, it can be stressful for a child to study all night.
Talking about the test with your child can relieve stress about test taking.
If your child is struggling on their tests, talk to them about it and meet with their teacher to find out the best way to help your child.
Praise/reward your child when they do well on a test or for their hard work preparing for a test.
Encourage them to do better if they don't do well.
Review the test with your child after they have taken it and go over any mistakes they have made and make sure that they understand what they did wrong and how they can improve for the next test.
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