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[High-Stakes Testing] How Parents Can Help

Friday, December 18, 2015 -- Sarah Cornelius

Testing season is right around the corner. With the current focus placed on state-specific and Common Core exams, it can be a stressful time of the school year for students. Do you know how best to help your child prepare—and keep a healthy mindset while doing so? Read on for eight simple tips to help your child perform his or her best on testing days.

1. Prioritize attendance and homework

Tests are ultimately intended to be a measure of how well students have learned the material being taught in class. So, what is the best (and most straightforward) piece of advice for parents? Do what you can to ensure that your child is fully engaged with his or her classwork throughout the year! Set aside homework time to make sure that your child is completing their assignments consistently throughout the year. If you’re responsible for transporting your students to school, make sure your own commitments aren’t making students late to class. Or, if it’s their responsibility to catch the bus or drive themselves, make sure they are sticking to a schedule that gets them to class on time every day. When students arrive late, they miss important announcements, review, and new concept introduction. These crucial minutes have the ability to set them off track for rest of the day.

2. Talk to your child’s teacher

Regular communication with your child’s instructor provides insight into his or her progress. Make a point of meeting or talking with your child’s teacher on an ongoing basis to understand what your child is working on, what he or she will be tested on, and the areas that he or she is exceling and struggling in. Your child’s teacher is a great resource for test-preparation activities or strategies you can use with your child at home. They can also keep you up to date on group study sessions or other opportunities for additional review that your child may benefit from.

3. Talk about test taking

Sometimes, the purpose and goals of testing are difficult for children to understand. Without that understanding, it’s easier for children to be intimidated by testing or simply not have the motivation to put forth their best effort. Have open, ongoing conversations with your child to explain that testing helps them, their teacher, their school, and other educators understand their strengths and weaknesses and figure out the most effective ways to teach. Knowing the “why” behind testing can help instill a drive to succeed in your child. 

4. Offer positive reinforcement

A little encouragement can go a long way in helping students walk into testing days feeling confident—which, in turn, can have a huge effect on their performance. Praise your child for the work that he or she does to prepare for testing, and share in his or her excitement when he or she has success with a new concept or skill. Similarly, when he or she is struggling with a topic, point out the progress that he or she has made and encourage him or her to continue working. Having already experienced success with the material that he or she will be tested on will help your child avoid test anxiety and perform to the best of his or her ability on testing day.

5. Support healthy habits

Sleep and nutrition can have a huge impact on your child’s ability to focus and retain information. One of the most helpful things that you can do as a parent is focus on supporting these basic needs. Well-rounded meals and a regular sleep schedule will help your child succeed in the classroom on a day-to-day basis. On testing days, it’s especially important to make sure that your child gets a good night’s sleep, starts the day with a filling breakfast, and goes to school with a water bottle to help stay hydrated.

6. Give your child a study space

A comfortable, dedicated space for homework and studying can work wonders for your child’s productivity. Make sure that your child’s space is quiet, well lit, and stocked with the right materials, like a writing surface, pens, pencils, highlighters, scratch paper, a calculator, and any other tools that he or she might need.

7. Keep testing in perspective

No single test is that important. Avoid putting too much emphasis on your child’s test scores—doing so can make your child feel pressure that will ultimately only affect his or her performance negatively. It’s also important to not be upset by a single test score. Low test scores can occur for any number of reasons; it may have just been an off day for your child.

8. Debrief after the test

After testing day has come and gone, talk with your child about his or her results and how he or she felt about the test. By discussing his or her answers, thought processes, and feelings, you can gain further insight into what he or she is struggling with and excelling at and then help him or her better prepare next time. Talking about testing can also help your child process the experience and overcome any anxiety that he or she might have had.

Looking for additional resources to help your child prepare for a successful testing day? The U.S. Department of Education has put together this informative list of do’s and don’ts. You can also check out Study Island for Home, Edmentum’s engaging solution to help your child catch up or stay ahead and reinforce what has been learned.