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8 Last-Minute Steps Districts Can Take to Improve Test Scores

8 Last-Minute Steps Districts Can Take to Improve Test Scores

There comes a point when a district has done all it can to prepare students for end-of-year testing, but that time is the morning before the test. There are many things district personnel can do right up until test day to ensure that students have the best chance of success.

Benchmark your learners

Before going any further, you need to know where your students currently stand. Many districts invest in benchmark testing services to see educational progress well before the end of the year. Even at this late date, one more formative assessment won’t hurt. There’s plenty of time to iron out any shortcomings students may still have, but you won’t know they are there if you don’t benchmark.

Prepare students for the test itself

Tests change even more often than standards based on such things as contractor changes, technology upgrades, and other factors. The testing services provide demos for a reason. Make them available to your teachers, and make sure that everyone knows how to navigate any software that is needed. Set the expectation that this practice is a key part of test preparation. This is particularly true in math, where helpful tools like calculators may be hidden under a button or setting.

Get parental buy-in

In every district, there are parents who didn’t know testing was taking place until hearing about it from their child the day after. This is a missed opportunity to leverage a great partner in the test-preparation effort. Parents need to be kept in the loop about scheduling, expectations, and ways in which they can best help their child at home. Also bring home the point that breakfast on testing days is crucially important.

Create a positive culture

Positivity starts at the top. If you expect a lot out of people, they tend to do their best to deliver those expectations. That goes from the administration down to teachers and students. No matter the challenges your district has experienced this year, make it known that you believe this testing season will yield great results.

Leverage your data

Make one more pass at wholesale data study to make certain that there isn’t something missing from your teachers’ toolboxes and students’ skill sets. In fact, help teachers bring in the students so that they understand the skills they need and learn where they must progress in order to score well on the test itself.

Provide students with incentives

There may or may not be much room in the budget to celebrate student success, but incentivizing students to do their best work doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Ask high-performing schools for their wish lists of celebrations and rewards, and do what you can to make them happen. If times are tight, instruct someone to gather a list of free or low-cost celebration ideas, and rally support wherever you can find it.

Be the students’ “catering manager” 

On testing day, students’ minds are in their stomachs. Research has proven repeatedly that hungry students perform more poorly on tests than those who are well fed. If your schools have a breakfast program, testing day is the time when that program needs to run without a hitch. Look into ways of offering breakfast to students who, for whatever reason, have yet to utilize the opportunity. Partner with local restaurants to offer breakfast deals to busy parents who may think that a banana is all the breakfast their child has time for. 

Keep students healthy

Just like a rumbling stomach, an aching back or neck can drag down a student’s score. Share some proven seated stretching techniques and breathing exercises with your teachers, and make it clear that they are available for use during the test. When the test offers a break period, allow students to use it to move around, not stay seated in the same place they’ve spent the past hour or more. And, explore as many options as you can to keep students hydrated during the test.

We also wrote a version of this post for your teachers. Feel free to share it with them as another way to ensure testing success!

Looking for more ways to support your schools in preparations for testing season? Check out this resource on Preparing Students for Next-Generation Assessments!

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Scott Sterling

Scott Sterling is a former English teacher who worked in Title I middle and high schools in St. Petersburg, Florida who is now a freelance writer who focuses on education. He is also a stay-at-home dad to his 4-year-old daughter Lily, who will soon be starting her own educational journey.