3/18/2014

Teaching Tuesday: Surviving Standardized Tests

Contemplative kid.

Let me preface this by saying that although I believe all schools in our country need to have high standards and regular assessment of students, I am not a fan of standardized tests. I think any time students need to be taught HOW to take a test (rather than actual educational material), our educational system is screwing up. High stakes testing, wherein students, teachers and schools are judged by how kids do on multiple choice tests that last from a day to a week out of the school year, is a huge concern for a lot of people. You can check out Fair Test and the American Evaluation Association for facts, studies and expert opinions. 

Ironflower had only been in third grade for a few weeks when she mentioned the NJ ASK test, the standardized test kids take in NJ in third through eighth grades (which will probably be switched the the PARCC test next year, which is the standardized test that goes with the Common Core Standards). She was already nervous and the test wouldn't be until late spring.

Ironflower is nicknamed "Ironflower" for a reason; she looks like a delicate flower, but she's actually pretty tough. She also has an easy time with tests. She is never unnerved by the format or worried or tense. And yet, there she was, expressing anxiety 7 months ahead of time. Apparently her teacher had already started talking to her class about how important the test was, how they would be prepping for it all year (!!!) and how it would be more challenging than other tests they had taken.

It was a great way to drain the self-confidence out of kids like Ironflower and probably scared the crap out of all the kids who aren't good test takers. Not that I blame the teacher; when you're going to practice for something all year, you need to explain why to your students. So what can parents do to help their kids survive standardized tests? Assuming they don't opt out of them, of course.


  • Reassure kids that how they do on these tests has no influence on their college prospects, future jobs or lifelong happiness. 
  • Explain that teachers and administrators make a big deal out of the tests because the school's test scores are used to measure teacher and administrator effectiveness.
  • Make sure they get lots of rest and healthy breakfasts during testing. 
  • Let kids know that test taking is a skill like scoring soccer goals or playing an instrument and that these tests are not a reflection of intelligence, kindness or diligence. 
  • If your kids' school does a lot of preparation for the tests, don't push more of it at home. A burned out kid isn't going to do any better than an unprepared kid. 
  • If your kid tends to rush, remind him/her to go back and look over questions and answers when s/he completes the test. 
  • If your kid tends to agonize over uncertainty, encourage him/her to skip frustrating questions and go back to them after completing the rest of the test. 
  • If your kid is really nervous, give him/her a lucky bracelet or shirt or something to wear during testing. 
  • Even if your kid is generally terrible at taking tests, express confidence that s/he can do well on this test. Confidence really is half the battle. 
  • Send in an extra special snack on test days. Even if your kiddo doesn't normally get to snack in school, they might allow it on test days. 
Whatever the outcome, remember that the test is just one (small) indicator of how your kid is doing academically. 

21 comments:

Mama to 5 said...

This is a toughy, makes me thankful I homeschool. I think too much pressure is placed on kids with all these testings.

bxcrochet said...

Those are great tips! I remember my mom making us a special breakfast and getting us brand new pencils in a pencil case. It helped calmed my nerves over the tests.

Michelle F.

Heather said...

I am so not a fan of those tests, either...each year I see kids get really stressed out over them. That can't accurately measure what they truly know when they are so frightened over a test.

Jennifer said...

I am SO not a fan of these tests. I am thankful that we homeschool, so I do not have to have my kids take them.

Erin Slocum said...

This is one of the reasons we homeschool. Standardized testing really to me does not show anything of what the child has learned or can do and often just leaves the child feeling that they are lacking.

Kung Phoo said...

We do not like those tests either.. It really stresses the kids out, and hurts in their learning process.

Heather Jones said...

I remember those tests! No fun at all!

Cindy Batchelor said...

Wow loved reading all of these tips! They are great!

TerinAleah said...

These are great tips! I think standardized testing definitely puts a lot of stress on kids!

Sandra McCollum said...

I hated those test growing up. And only one of my five kids is old enough to take them. He is the opposite of me and cried this week when he missed it because he loves them! WEIRD!!! Got to love the book worms and test takes. xo

Jessica Bevil said...

Thank you for sharing these tips. I went from having no kids in school yet to a 3rd grader. Literally overnight, when my stepson came to live with us. And what a year to be thrown into the mix. The first year of standardized testing.

Amber Nelson said...

Thanks for all those tips. It can be stressful being a kid.

Farrah AFM said...

These tips are great for children who take the standardized tests. We homeschool, so luckily we don't have to deal with all of that. I can't imagine how much this would stress my children out.

Lisa said...

This Is Just Great For The Kids!!

Petro Neagu said...

You are so right, tests should be tailored on each kids abilities and personality, they are not some kind of robots. We've got the same problem here and although my daughter is not in school I am already worried about the time when we'll have to face the educational system. Those are great tips and I'll keep them in mind for when we'll go to school. Thanks

Bibiana Bailey said...

I swear tests are getting tougher & tougher these days. My kids are always stressed out if it is a subject they do not excel in.

Kisa Johnson said...

I;m not a fan of these tests, and even worse they've changed the tests they were doing and renamed them up here!

Cara Kueck said...

I always hated standardized testing. I get nervous when I test and it was always rough for me! These are great tips though!

Zulema Tomlinson said...

My daughter has a hard time with them. She stressed out so much last year and I couldn't do anything for her and I wanted to opt out but they told me they would fail her, yet said that she probably wouldn't pass the test and fail anyways. They had her doing tons of extra work and even stayed for tutoring. She took the test and scored above average. She didn't need any of that stress and probably would of done just as good!

Aubrey said...

These are great tips! As a former teacher, I can vouch for these. :) Glad I found you through Type A Parent. Thanks for sharing!

Ruby said...

Great list! These tests are so frustrating, but our kiddo's shouldn't sense that frustration from us.