Spring signifies the beginning of a new baseball season, new gardens to plant, and longer days. For educators, parents, and students across the U.S., spring also signifies the time for standardized testing. The merits of these standardized tests are constantly debated, but like it or not, they are certainly happening this year and your child's testing date is rapidly approaching. Because standardized tests can affect classroom placement for the following academic year, parents are usually as anxious about the process as the children taking them. Here are some tips for helping your child get ready for the standardized tests in any state.
- Leave your child a detailed to-do list of activities around the house. For example, Make your bed after you brush your teeth. When you are finished, underline this sentence. Following written directions are an important part of testing, and your child needs to attend to the order and specificity of directions, or his or her answer could be marked incorrect. Attending to written language will support them in all content areas being tested.
- Find ways to bring the curriculum to life! Show your child the way the skills he or she attains in the classroom can be applied in the real world.
- To bring math to life, include your child in the weekly grocery shopping and have him compare prices, calculate savings, or find the average cost per item from the total bill. You can take notes on these items in the store and do the work at home where there are less distractions and you can guide your child through the mathematical process, if needed.
- To support reading skills, cut out an article of interest from your local paper and have your child read it. (Remember to read it first so you can help him answer questions he has trouble with!) After he has read the article, ask a series of comprehension, or "wh" questions such as "Who participated in that event?" "Where did the event take place?" or "What time was the event finished?" The skill of recalling basic information from a reading entry is an essential building block for success in this area. In addition to the basic comprehension questions, ask your child to infer things from the article, such as "Why do you think that person enjoyed the event?" The skill of drawing a logical conclusion from the information presented develops his abstract thinking skills, which comes into play frequently in the open-ended question portion of standardized tests.
- Remain an active participant in your child's nightly homework, even as she gets older and gains more independence. Keeping abreast of the content area throughout the year makes it easier for you to remember the material come testing time, and also establishes a comfortable routine between you and your child. She will be more open to your assistance if you have been offering it all along.
Make sure your child is well-rested and eats a well-balanced diet throughout the year. This is especially important the week of testing. Your child's biological needs must be met as a pre-requisite for optimal focus and energy. Translation: Children cannot do their best if they are tired and hungry! Make sure your child has a protein-packed breakfast, such as eggs and whole-wheat toast. Stay away from sugary cereals and breakfast bars, as the sugar will wear off around the start of testing and your child will experience a "sugar crash," leaving her jittery and/or lethargic.
Stay calm! Your child will undoubtedly pick up on your anxiety and stress related to the test. Reassure your child that no matter what a• you are proud of his or her hard work!
You and your spouse may be raising your child, but clearly it takes a village to educate her. Educators, administrators, and parents must work together to ensure each child has the greatest success possible in their standardized testing experience.
Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.