Preparing learners for the new Common Core assessments can seem daunting at first, but there is a way to feel confident about the road ahead. With a step-by-step plan, provided right here in the tips you see below, and a little prep work, you’ll be able to think through the many different factors of test preparation and ultimately increase student performance.
1. Benchmark Your Learners
Even before you get started preparing students for their assessments, it’s very important to know where your learners are compared to the standards against they will be assessed. A benchmark assessment can help you identify which learners are on track, have gotten ahead, or have some knowledge gaps. You can then use this information to help determine your instructional tactics or the direction your program needs to take. For example, you could use Benchmark results to break your learners into small groups or to pull specific learners out of their individual classrooms into a different program. Learn more tips on preparing your special populations learners here.
2. Create Goals
Whether for your classroom, program, school, or district, it is important to have goals at each level. These goals should go beyond the scores you would like to see at the end of the year and should encompass the practices you plan on utilizing throughout the year to help your students master the standards. Clear communication about these goals will help everyone be on the same page and will keep them accountable for their part in the learning process. For example, include time to practice previously taught standards at the end of each week, or because the Common Core State Standards so heavily focus on literacy, include reading assignments in each subject or unit. If you have goals around the following topics, click through the links below for some great in-depth information on how to execute these strategies:
3. Practice to Ensure Mastery
Allowing students to independently practice the knowledge they have gained will help them retain the information, and eventually having it fully engrained will help learners recall it even in high-stress environments like testing. The biggest challenge in getting your students to practice is motivating them. Make sure students are engaged in practice by using multiple modalities. Additionally, small-group and game-like environments help keep students involved.
4. Get Parent Buy-In
Parents can be strong motivators for your learners. If you can achieve parent buy-in, the likelihood of students completing homework and being accountable for their work increases. Some of the best ways to get parent buy-in is to keep parents in the know of what their students are working on and how they are performing. Setting up some standard communication points can help you ensure that parents are regularly informed and continue to be involved in their child’s education. Read more about using technology to engage parents here.
5. Keep a Positive Culture
Testing can be very stressful for students, especially when there are new elements that students might not be used to, like computer testing. For educators, this year may be especially stressful, as students are being assessed on newly implemented standards on brand-new tests. With all of this stress, it is bound to leak into the classroom environment. Make sure you are continuing to put a positive light on high-stakes testing. For example, you can share books that emphasize doing one’s best or that make light of the fact that tests are stressful, like Testing Miss Malarkey by Judy Finchler.
Another strategy is to use the power of imagination. A short writing assignment asking students to envision themselves succeeding (graduating, going to college, having an awesome job, etc.) can spur positive thinking.
6. Be Consistent on Testing Day
You will want to make sure that you are testing the same way you have been practicing. Most educators and students get into a rhythm throughout the year. Daily routines and traditions should not change just because it is testing day. This will help to not put any more pressure on the high-stakes test than there already is and will help students associate the test with the practicing they have been doing.
7. Stimulate You Students’ Brains
Additionally, there are a few simple in-classroom techniques that teachers can use to keep students’ brains stimulated to help increase achievement and mastery of standards.
- Sipping water: Studies show that students need a sip of water about every 10 minutes when they are working to keep the brain hydrated. Share this tip with your students, and encourage them to keep bottled water with them in your class every day, not just on test day.
- Peppermint: Diffusing peppermint oil or eating peppermint candies helps concentration; however, be sure that you are being consistent and doing that for all tests and quizzes throughout the year.
- Seated stretching: Effective seated stretching can improve student focus. This tip is one that students can use during the test as well.
To further assist Common Core preparation, Edmentum has created a couple of solutions to help assess and advance students toward standards mastery. Edmentum Assessments can be used to assess your learners and create an action plan, and Study Island is great for providing students with additional practice on the types of questions they’ll see on test day. To learn more about how we can help you prepare your students for high-stakes testing, contact us here.