How to Survive State Testing When Pressure Is High
There’s no doubt that state testing is one of the most stressful times of the school year for both teachers and students. Weeks of testing gather information on the growth of each student and ultimately the success, or failure, of their teachers. Although teachers have been preparing students all year long, every teacher wants to know what they can do in the weeks leading up to the big test to get students ready to perform at their highest ability.
Here’s my advice on preparing your students, pumping them up, and then ensuring sanity all the way through the finish line.
Effort = Success
The culture of your classroom plays a big role in planting the seed within students’ minds that effort = success. As silly as it sounds, our students need proof that success doesn’t just come to those born with brains.
Hopefully by now they’ve gotten a taste of the significance that hard work plays in achieving their goals. State testing is a prime time to reinforce this fact and remind students of what effort looks like in the testing environment: be alert, check your answers, use good strategy.
Good test-taking strategy might look different from state to state, depending on scoring practices and question type. Here are a few tips I practice with my students:
- Preview comprehension questions before reading the passage. This helps you look for the answers as you read through the text and can actually save you time on the back end.
- Think of the answer in your head before looking at the possible choices. If the answer in your brain matches one on the list, you are probably on the right track.
- If you have to guess, narrow down the possibilities first. Increase your chances of making the right guess! And never leave a question blank (unless your state deducts points for incorrect answers).
Test prep is tedious and, unfortunately, you can overdo it. Don’t burn out your students with weeks of intense test prep leading up to the “big days.” Instead, spread it out and prepare your class without them even knowing it.
- Use language similar to that of the state exams on classroom assessments and homework.
- Familiarize students with the format of the test and, if time is a concern, set similar parameters in class. Teaching students how to navigate the format and expectations of the assessment is sometimes as critical as the content itself.
Take time in class to look at data with each of your students. Probe students to set their own goals that are rigorous, but attainable. Students need to know where they stand and will be motivated by a challenging goal they have ownership over.
Testing can be stressful and mundane. Remind students of basic practices that increase brain function and keep us on point!
- Testing-age students need between 8-11 hours of sleep a night, and sticking to their routines during test time is important.
- Food is just as important! Make sure your school has a plan to provide students with snacks in between testing sessions and encourage students to eat a healthy breakfast before heading to school.
By now you should be aware of your state’s strict testing policies – brush up on the details and brace yourself for long days of proctoring.
Think of ways to liven up the experience without breaking the rules. Because of the requirement that teachers consistently walk and actively proctor, my school once bought pedometers and created an all-staff competition to see who could get the most steps in. It sparked some friendly competition and motivated us to keep moving like the rules required!
When the time finally comes, think positive and remind your students that you believe in them. It will be a long journey but you will be proud of them when it’s over, and when the data is released months down the road you can reflect on your practice and set goals for next time!