Now that the No Child Left Behind Act federally mandates and regulates state testing for elementary and middle school students, standardized tests play a major role in today’s schooling. Your child may take one or more standardized tests each year and his or her teacher may devote a significant amount of class time to preparation exercises. Several states administer “high stakes” tests, which can have a significant impact on school assessment and funding, determine your child’s class placement, or even prevent grade promotion. No matter how you feel about this controversial assessment tool, it’s important that your child do her best.
How can you help your child prepare?
Teachers tell us that successful test-takers tend to be students with good attendance, homework, and study habits; therefore, your daily assistance with homework and attitude toward school have the biggest impact on your child’s performance. However, there are key ways you can develop his test-taking ability.
- Optimize brain power. Teachers say the students who struggle the most on testing days are the ones who didn’t have enough sleep or a good breakfast the day of the test. Also, students who are physically or mentally unprepared often encounter problems. If she isn’t feeling well on the test day, it’s better to keep her home and let her make up the test later rather than risk poor performance.
- Encourage good study habits and challenge critical-thinking skills. Reviewing test-taking strategies is important, but monitoring overall academic progress and staying in good communication with the teacher will help you ward off potential problems. Good reading skills factor heavily in a timed test, so encourage reading (consider magazines, newspapers, or even comic books if he shies away from books) as much as possible. Testing also measures critical-thinking ability, so ask him to discuss ideas or voice his opinion often to stimulate these thought processes.
- Know what to expect. Most teachers will send home information about the test schedule and class preparation plans well before the test date. However, if you don’t hear from your child’s teacher you should contact her and find out:
- What is the name of the test and what will it measure?
- What’s the format? (multiple choice, essay, short answer, etc.)
- How will the class prepare in school?
- How is it scored? Will students be penalized for incorrect answers or should they guess randomly when stumped on a question?
- When will you receive the results?
- What are the test’s implications? Will it affect your child, school, or both?
- Are there any specific ways you can help your child prepare?
- Relax and remain positive. The best test-takers are confident, committed, and at ease. Even if you are nervous about her performance, be wary of transferring that concern to your child. You never know, some kids actually enjoy tests! If she is likely to get nervous, practice a few relaxation techniques, such as counting from one to ten or taking deep breaths, which can help her relieve tension during the test.