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March Testing


March Testing


March is here and the testing begins! The Digital SAT Assessments are being given to every junior in early March. The Spring administration of the IREAD-3 is given to every third grader in early March. The ILEARN Assessment in grades 3 – 8 will be given starting mid-April. The I AM (Indiana’s Alternative Measure) will be administered in April through early May. The Advanced Placement assessments will be given to students taking AP classes from May 6 – 20, 2024. High school students will be taking final exams the last couple of weeks of the school year in late May and early June. All these high stakes assessments, along with the routine quizzes and tests that students take on a regular basis, are activities parents need to know about and help with the preparations of students. What have you done to prepare students, parents, and all other groups that might be involved?


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Being prepared

This is a follow-up to my February blog “Don’t Assume, Be Sure!” In that blog, I talked about all the things you can do with students to make sure that they are ready and prepared for the high stakes assessments they are about to take. I wanted to follow-up with a key component I failed to discuss. What has been done to prepare parents for all the high stakes assessments their kids are about to take? I walked around our neighborhood and called a few friends of mine who have kids in grades 3 – 12. I asked them to tell me what important tests they knew their kids were going to be taking in the next 3 months. Less than half of the parents I spoke with named the important assessments I listed in the first paragraph of this blog. This took me a little by surprise as most of the people I spoke with are good caring parents who are actively involved in their children’s lives and education.


This led me to ask a few more questions about what they knew was happening in their kids’ classes. Most said that their kids did relay the important things, but usually not until just before they were about to happen. This made me think of our own two sons and how much we knew about the important high stakes assessments they were taking. I taught in the school district our sons attended so I had a pretty good idea of what was happening but even then, I wasn’t always aware of everything that was going on. Parents who do not work for the school district where their kids attend may have even less awareness of all that is going to be taking place over the next three months. Even more importantly they may not realize all that they can be doing to help their kids succeed and get through this extremely busy and sometimes difficult time of year.


Inform parents

What are teachers and schools doing to assist parents? How have we made them aware of the methods and techniques they can do, to help their kids do their best on these important assessments? Have parents been given ways to help their kids get over test anxiety and deal with the stress of all these high stakes assessments? Are parents given ideas for discussions they can have with their kids to help them navigate this very busy and difficult time of year for students? I know as a parent myself I welcomed any good ideas and suggestions how I could help my sons do better and succeed. How are we communicating these ideas to parents?


About 10 years into my teaching career in the early 1990’s, I realized just how vital and important keeping the parents informed. I went out of my way writing letters and arming parents with ideas on how they could talk to and assist their kids about the work being done in their math class. The work I was doing was written up in a national math journal for the American Mathematics Project sponsored by the Mathematics Association of America and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The more I communicated with parents, the more the students were succeeding in the math classes I taught. I realized that some of the most important lessons I was teaching were not necessarily in the math classroom. The most important part of what I was doing was keeping the lines of communication open and working between school, teacher, parents, and the student! I feel we are trying to do this, but we can always do a better job with what we are doing. 



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Parent communication

Can you honestly say that the parents or guardians of most juniors in your school know the exact date when the Digital SAT Assessment will be given in March? Are the parents of elementary students aware of when their child will be taking the IREAD-3 and ILEARN Assessments? Do parents of students in AP classes know which date each of the different Advanced Placement Tests will be given to their child? The more advanced warning that the parents are given, and the better communication of what parents can do to assist their child in being prepared and having the ability to best approach the testing.


The basics

We need to remind parents of simple, yet proven things they can do to help their child succeed. The age old, tried, and true staples like; Get a good night rest the night before the test; Eat a good breakfast the morning of the test; Be prepared with all necessary devices and materials like pens, pencils, calculator, Chromebook/computer/tablet, and any other necessary items; Turn your phone off or leave it on the kitchen counter the night before the test. All these simple things can be easily done to increase the chances of students doing their best on any test they are taking.



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Reduce test stress

Parents who know their child gets stressed or anxious when they are taking high stakes tests like these, they can discuss ways to relax and deal with their anxiety. Have schools and teachers shared the best ways to deal with the stress from taking tests and/or test anxiety? If not, share these excellent resources my colleague Tiffany Creager, a licensed social worker, has created. Tiffany has written blogs about Reducing Test Stress. She has also created videos like Reducing Test Anxiety- Tapping Method, Reducing Test Anxiety, Expressive Movement and Journaling, and Reducing Test Anxiety, Prep the Space. Giving enough lead time for parents to have these discussions with their child is extremely important. Teachers can share these ideas or similar ones with the students directly a week or two before testing. Use school colleagues like guidance counselors, school social workers, or resource teachers who have expertise in dealing with test anxiety to help you impart wisdom to parents and students.


Many of these ideas not only deal with the state required high stakes assessments but also with so many other tests students are taking on a regular basis. They even apply to routine quizzes and tests the students take as a part of their normal classes. Whenever you have the chance to inform parents and let them know what is happening at your school and in your classroom, you must seize the opportunity. The more and better informed the parents are, the better the outcomes will be for your students. Including and informing the parents helps you gain another ally to help you get students to do their best. 


Conclusion

Finally, after the testing, when the results for all these different assessments are available, make sure the students and parents understand and know exactly how the students did on the test and what that means and what opportunities or ramifications there are for the student. Here is a simple yet very effective technique everyone can easily do to keep all parties informed. I would give students the opportunity to earn 2 – 3 extra credit points after every test by having them fill out a test report! It was quick, easy, and not a lot of extra work but it did keep all parties informed. I would also call and congratulate parents of students who performed at the highest levels on all high stakes testing. I was always amazed at the parents who would say that it was the first time anyone had ever called them from the school to say their child was outstanding and did a superior job on their testing. We MUST remember to recognize those students who perform well on these tests they are required to take.


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I hope everyone understands what this blog is about. It is about making sure we utilize one of our biggest and sadly often under-utilized assets in the parents and guardians of the students. The more we keep everyone involved the better everyone will be, and the better students will do! It does not take much but it does take a little planning and a little effort to make sure we include, inform, and ask parents to work with their children, doing their part in educating their child! This is an often overlooked but an imperative part of the educational process!







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