High stakes testing is nothing new, but it has taken on an increasingly significant role in our nation’s schools. While many view standardized tests as a highly beneficial accountability and measuring tool, others view it as one of the worst things to ever happen in our schools. Regardless of your opinion, tests are here to stay, and like it or not, will continue to play a huge role the education of our nation’s students.
One of the negatives often associated with standardized tests is the amount of stress it places on students and teachers. (Brain Connection.com) Stressed-out teachers are accused teaching to the test, and robbing students’ creativity and joy of learning. Stressed-out students can sometimes become so nervous and anxious about testing that they do poorly simply because they cannot concentrate on the test for fear of failure.
However, there are some things you can do to help ease your students' anxiety.
Teach concepts that you know will be tested, but do not stress the test while you are teaching them. While you do not know exactly what will be tested, you should have a pretty good idea. For instance, I know that the rules of capitalization will more than likely be on the grammar portion of the standardized test my students take. So, for Bell Work one week, I may go over the different rules of capitalization and assign some short assignments so my students can practice. They also must use correct capitalization in their writing, so they are learning the concepts that way, too. Just don’t stress too much that what you are teaching will be on their standardized test.This may increase students' anxiety about it.
Study your students’ scores from previous years and look for patterns of successes and disappointments. If you notice areas where your students seem to do well year after year, don’t worry so much about that area, just keep doing what you are doing.If, however, you notice areas where your students are not as successful, look for ways to improve your instruction in that area so students are better prepared. We all know that well-prepared students are more likely to succeed on standardized tests.
Prepare your students for way the test is given. While you may give your students extra time to finish your classroom tests, many standardized tests do not allow it. So, throughout the year, give some timed tests or assignments. You do not have to do this with every test or even on a weekly basis, but it will help your students to be familiar with the added pressure of a timed test if they have experienced it periodically throughout they year.
Be positive. Let your students know that yes, this test is important, but no, it does not measure who they are or even how good of a student they are. Make sure they know that there are many factors that go into determining their success as a person, and standardized tests are just a very small part of this. This being said, it is difficult to strike a balance between the two. These tests are important, so you want your students to take them seriously, you just don’t want them to take them too seriously.
Teach your students test-taking strategies. For example, tell your students not to spend too much time on one question. If they feel like a question is just too difficult, tell them to skip it and come back later. Learning test-taking strategies will help your students feel prepared on test day. Think about how you feel if you have ever had to start the day teaching unprepared. Students who feel ready for the test will be more confident and less anxious.
Get parents involved. Make sure your students’ parents know the dates of upcoming standardized tests. Encourage them to have their children get a good night’s sleep the day before and eat a well-balanced breakfast the morning of the test. Ask them to not schedule appointments during these days.
Standardized testing can be a positive experience.If students are prepared, and parents and teachers are positive about the experience, students can succeed on standardized tests and walk away feeling confident.
This post is part of the series: Competition In Our Schools
A 4-part-series focusing on competition in our schools today. This series will look at teaching in a competitive environment, the effects of high-stakes testing, and the influence of competition on students and teachers.