“… these tests are unable to measure all of what it is that makes you the valued person who you are.” – Principal Len Christie
In Chapter 17: Re-evaluate Value of the The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, I discuss the high stakes associated with standardized testing:Standardized testing is stressful for students, parents and teachers. You might feel like me that they are detrimental to learning and a plague on the education system. Even though I’d like to abolish them completely, I realize standardized testing is part of the education system and not going away anytime soon. Therefore, teachers need to help students learn strategies and tips to help them pass tests. The strategies below not only help students cope with the stress and inequality of standardized testing, these strategies also help students cope with stress in their lives. These strategies are also included in a slide presentation you can download as a pdf. Click to access the bookmarks.
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Strategies and Resources
Write students and parents a letter letting them know students are worth more than their scores, such as this inspiring letter written by Principal Len Christie.
Provide students with information on any accommodations given to them and how they can apply for these accommodations.
The Americans with Disabilities Organization provides information about these accommodations here.
All parents should be given this information early, because sometimes students, especially in the primary years, haven’t identified learning disabilities.
Make sure students apply before any deadlines.
Let parents and students know how to opt out of standardized testing and alternatives. The National Center for Fair Testing provides important information on how to write letters and alternatives to standardized testing in the US.
Much research shows standardized testing doesn’t fairly assess students and associated with unfair high stakes. To help students achieve higher scores you will need to familiarize students with the format and procedures, time limits for each section, materials they are allowed to bring, scoring, what is included in each section, requirements, and any general information (location, times to take the test, the temperature, etc).
Get students to practice taking the test with no penalties so they can become familiar with the test format and procedures as well as identify areas of confusion, low scoring areas, stressors, and base knowledge.
The Khan Academy website and iOS/Android app has excellent resources for prepping for the SATs, GMAT, MCAT, CAHSEE, IIT JEE, and NCLEX-RN.
I especially like the Khan Academy SAT prep resources which include practice tests, identifying problem areas in conjunction with College Board, and specific feedback on written essays.
Find many different practice tests and test prep help with the following web tools and apps- Shmoop, Accuplacer by the College Board, Prep Factory (get help with SATs, ACTs, PARCC, and SABC exams), and Exam Elf (free website and mobile app to help with STAAR, PARCC, and Test Taking Strategies for Adolescents).
Get students to develop and jot down strategies for addressing any confusion, sections that trouble them, and dealing with stressors in a personalized and colorful test prep playbook. Find examples of test prep playbooks here.
Include ideas, such as get a good night’s sleep, eat a good breakfast, and believing in themselves.
Help students come up with strategies for when they don’t know the answers, don’t understand the question or instructions, are running out of time, get tired, lose focus, or are unmotivated to continue. Strategies in their playbooks might include doodling, stretching, breathing exercises, or give themselves pep talks.
Familiarize them with Growth Mindset Strategies. Class Dojo has excellent short animated videos to help students develop confidence with Growth Mindset.
Help them deal with the stress with humor! Create memes.
Testing in a native language can often help students get higher scores in English. They should of course practice in both languages. Practice tests in different languages can be found at Shmoop.
Try test prep stations where students take turns completing different tasks. Find this activity here.
Make it interesting! Take a look at this amazing Pinterest board with fun ways to prepare for tests.
Assess with the same scoring guide as the tests so students are familiar with the scoring system.
Quizlet (iOS/Android/Web) is a great study tool for learning vocabulary with digital flashcards and games to help learners with vocabulary common in various types of exams.
Also check out Scholastic’s Standardized Test Prep Lesson Plans full of ideas.
Challenge: Try one of these testing strategies this year to prepare students.
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