It’s that time of year when educators spend hours preparing for the “test”. Dating back to the
From the 1800s to today, with the Every Child Succeeds Act, there is a long history of standardized testing used in our school systems. These tests are developed to provide a snapshot into the learning and teaching that occurs in our schools and Districts, so basically, we use the results to analyze student growth which allows districts to determine the curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Therefore, there is a lot of pressure on schools, students, and teachers because these are big budget items for schools. By learning about different groups that are affected by testing, stakeholders can help reduce the stress they feel by offering support.
School improvement plans are designed around the concept of improving student learning. Many schools administer multiple tests to have various data points. Often given at the beginning of the year, mid-year, and lastly, the end of the year. At the end of the year, this may be SBAC or state-mandated tests. The data will be used as a factor in funding and can help districts receive grants to help improve academic areas like reading. Districts should consider intentionally scheduling these tests to ensure students do their best and reduce the stress on students and staff.
Students are keenly aware that these tests are important. With growth charts scattered around the halls to “motivate” students to do their best are often seen as visitors enter a school. This is an indicator to the community that testing is important. Frankly, some students don’t care, care too much, and some even have test anxiety. Setting goals should be a year-long process to help motivate, prepare, as well as reduce stress on their students. Preparing students to do their best is an important conversation for any high-stakes testing. Soliciting parent support is a crucial element in reducing their child’s stress. Some districts provide free breakfast and snacks to help boost engagement during these tests. Many schools hold end-of-testing celebrations as a reward. These creative events are a fun way to highlight the hard work of students and staff.
Teachers and Administrators
Merit-based systems are designed to reward educators with improved or high test scores. These incentives can increase stress because the connection between test scores and a teacher’s instructional abilities is scrutinized. Teacher burnout and “teaching to the test”, are fueled by the pressure that teachers feel about improving their students’ scores. These same pressures can often be felt by administrators who may unintentionally pass on their anxiety to their staff. Working together is vital for the success of each teacher and student. Grade levels should be given guidance and resources to help buffer the stress of these tests. Educators should be allowed to offer input on testing schedules and rewards. Additionally, they should be involved in the data analysis and offer suggestions for improving preparation, reducing anxiety, and engagement.
How stakeholders can help
The pressure is real because the reality is that test scores are there to ensure students are learning and schools are doing their job. All stakeholders can help reduce the pressure by having a clear understanding of why testing occurs and can offer support to those taking and administering high-stakes tests Support can come in the form of encouraging educators to provide resources that are aligned. As we work together, not only will we increase student achievement but reduce the stress associated with these upcoming tests.
Written by: Teresa Marchant