Strategies for Surviving All Types of Assessments
Whether you are a first-year teacher or a veteran teacher, classroom and system-wide assessments can be a time of high anxiety and stress for everyone involved. In this recent edWebinar, Vernice Y. Jones, a candidate in the M.Ed. in School Counseling Program, Freed-Hardeman University, TN, lays out strategies and ground rules for what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to assessments.
Preparing for the classroom, system-wide, or state-mandated testing requires organization, training, a great attitude, and patience. Be prepared and unrushed by arriving early on assessment days, wearing comfortable clothing and shoes, making all your test copies ahead of time and having a stash of snacks for the students. For high-stakes testing, attend all scheduled state-mandated meetings and trainings, take notes and ask questions. Much like what we tell our students, there are no dumb questions and only by understanding the roles and expectations can teachers and test proctors meet or exceed those expectations.
The common practice of communicating with parents and guardians is even more important during the testing session. Newsletters that highlight classroom test prep, test guidelines and expectations provide parents and guardians with valuable test information. Because of the high level of anxiety and stress caused by testing, Jones suggests explaining to parents how they can connect with their professional school counselors to support their students’ well-being. Friday and Sunday night phone calls, and even home visits are a few other ways for teachers, test administrators, and building principals to remind parents and guardians about upcoming test schedules and how best to prepare their students for testing. In many districts, students may not live full time with the same parent/guardian, so these test reminders ensure that students get a good night’s rest, have a substantial breakfast and show up to school on time no matter where they spend their time leading up to a test.
Test review and mock tests done in the week or two leading up to a test are vital for student test performance. Test review does not replace the excellent instruction that teachers give throughout the school year. However, when teachers attempt to reteach months’ worth of content by providing students way too much to review, the unintentional result will be anxiety and stress. Jones said that test review should not be tedious, so this is the time for teachers to think outside the box. Instead of handouts and worksheets, try incorporating engaging activities using software such as BrainPOP and Kahoot! and create opportunities for students moving in and out of their seats. One side effect of class movement is that through a student’s demeanor, teachers can identify high anxiety and test-taking depression and provide mediation to alleviate the negative connotations associated with testing. While content is king when it comes to testing, teaching students test-taking skills and strategies for questions such as multiple choice and open response can go a long way to ensure students are confident in their answer selections. In some states and districts, it feels like students are constantly being tested, so teachers have a legitimate concern that the weeks leading up to the test is lost curriculum time. Students do need to keep learning and working, but increasing the workload will make students and parents anxious and grumpy.
We don’t want students to feel anxiety during times of high-stakes testing. The very nature of the tests can bring about mental health issues such as depression and panic attacks. Tests like the SAT and ACT can cause unease in high school students applying to colleges and scholarship opportunities. It can create concern in elementary and middle school students that if they don’t perform well, they are in danger of being held back or not graduating high school. Jones points out that teachers who see their students daily know them well and have taught them everything they need to know to pass the test. She recommends that teachers consistently reinforce how proud they are of students’ progress and that they have total confidence in their students’ ability to perform well on the test. Teachers should get excited as that type of mood creates excitement in students. Teachers want their students to be ready to rock and roll, so Jones cautions teachers to keep their opinions and feelings about testing to themselves as these transferrable feelings can create a negative atmosphere and decrease motivation and effort in students. As a cheerleader, your final assignment happens when testing is complete for the year. Create a theme-based party and celebrate your students’ accomplishments and commitment to their education.
This article was modified and published by eSchool News.
About the Presenter
Vernice Jones received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Lane College in 2003. She obtained her master’s degree in education from Grand Canyon University in 2009. She then began teaching in 2006 at Airways Middle School as a 7th-grade science teacher. Vernice became a candidate in the M.Ed. in School Counseling program at Freed-Hardeman University in December 2017. Her goal is to become a professional school counselor and obtain a doctorate in counseling and serve a vital role in maximizing student achievement to ensure that the whole child is being served.
About the Host
Dr. Monte Tatom received his Ed.D. in educational administration at Auburn University. He has been in K-12 education for 26 years as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and coordinator of staff development. He retired from Mobile County Public School System in December 2005. He began working at Freed-Hardeman University (FHU) in January 2006. He is an associate professor of education within the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences at FHU. He currently has over 13 years in higher education. He has actively been involved in educational technology since taking his first computer course at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, AL during spring 1983 (EDM 510: Micro-computing Systems in Education). You can follow Dr. Tatom on Twitter @drmmtatom
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