April 5, 2018
What's Important to Understand About Standardized Testing
For many of our children, spring is the warm light peeking from the end of the tunnel that is summer vacation. However, our children know that there’s one major hurdle before they’re free; that hurdle is the end of the year standardized testing. Testing of this caliber can be stressful. Many of us have experienced knots in our stomach and other feelings associated with being stressed. As a school, COAST hopes to alleviate some of the stresses related to testing and make sure our students are prepared.
Standardized tests play a major role in our schools. Students generally take more than one “major” test per year and spend a fair amount of time on test preparation. While parents, educators and lawmakers differ on many aspects of testing, it is critical to remember the most important aspects: being supportive of your child’s efforts and helping them do their best. We all hate to see our children struggle, so we at COAST thought we would share some strategies for parents to help their children throughout the coming test sessions.
In the case of testing, knowledge is power. To make sure you’re as informed as possible, try to answer the following questions: Which test(s) is/are my student taking this year? What day(s) is/are my student taking these tests? Can this test affect my child, the school or both? Are there ways to help my child when there are only a few weeks left?
Being informed can go a long way for both students and parents. In the case of our school, we have sent out specific information for each child as well as having general testing information on our school’s website. This leaves us with only one question: Are there ways to help my child when there are only a few weeks left? As always, the answer is YES!
If you know your child is particularly weak in a subject area you can always help them overcome struggles by providing extra practice. Finding time to ask questions can often be difficult, but making a game out of asking your 3rd grader to recite multiplication facts during a car ride can make a huge difference. You could also allow your child to take a practice test at home. The FSA website offers practice tests for parents to administer and go over with their child. Using the comfortable environment to taking a test similar to what they will be doing in school can help ease testing anxiety and stress. This also gives you, as a parent, the chance to see what your child does and doesn’t know.
As always, if you have concerns about the test or a testing situation, you should speak with your child’s teacher. Many times teachers can provide you with insight into your child’s abilities, tests in general and even help you create a plan for academic success. As a teacher myself, I enjoy having parents show their child that education is important, and often there is no better way to show this than by having a parent discuss their child’s successes and missteps with the teacher.
Days Preceding the Test
Though it may seem like a no-brainer, teachers often report that students who do not perform well the day of a test usually have not received enough sleep or have not eaten breakfast that morning. COAST offers free breakfast and lunch everyday to students. On test days, we go above and beyond with providing food that can have brain-boosting effects such as berries, tree nuts and even dark chocolate. This isn’t always enough if students don’t also eat a healthy meal the night before, and the morning of, testing. An article published by the BBC reports that their research shows that those students who perform well on exams eat breakfast. The best types of foods include in a testing breakfast are slow-release carbohydrates and whole grain breads because they provide slow-release energy. You should also add in some proteins such as milk, yogurt or eggs to give your child the feeling of being full for a longer period of time.
Along with eating a proper meal or two before testing, make sure that your child receives enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “school-aged children” should regularly receive between 9 and 11 hours of sleep. Similarly, Forbes Magazine recently featured an article highlighting issues that can be caused by lack of sleep. Some of the issues associated with inadequate sleep include: lack of cognitive capabilities, reduction in creativity and even possible brain development issues in young children. Sleep and food are things that we as parents can control and should be especially aware of when important tests are on the horizon.
There are two more vitally important things that parents can control: making sure that your child is prepared for the day and remaining positive about your child’s ability. Try to have clothes laid out the night before and a hearty breakfast planned. Let your child know how much you trust in their ability to do well. Overall, just stay calm. Parents who remain in a calm state often help their children stay calm as well. If your child is nervous about the test you can teach and practice different relaxation techniques that they can use not only before or during a test, but anytime they feel anxious about situations in life. Some examples of these relaxation techniques can include deep breathing, meditation, music, aromatherapy and even art.
Testing results can often be difficult to decipher. However, your child’s teacher and school should be more than willing to go over testing results with you and your child upon request. Test results by no means tell the story of who your child really is, but can be important tools for teachers to use when planning for their success. At COAST, we find receiving standardized test results to be a great opportunity for parents to come in and learn about their child’s specific strengths and weaknesses.
When results are in, teachers and schools will often create a game plan for your child; parental help and input is always warranted. Test results are also a great time for parents to show positivity and praise hard work. Even if a child does not perform to their expected level, reaffirm that working hard as they move forward can yield the results they desire. Show your child that these ‘big bad tests’ are often just ways to help improve their individual learning. This, along with giving your love and support can teach your child that, while testing is important, the stress and worry usually associated with it is not necessary.
**COAST Charter School is a tuition-free public school serving the entire Wakulla and southern Leon counties.