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Help Halt Test Anxiety
(Continued from EdWorld At Home)

Here they are: a list of top-5 things you the parent can do to help alleviate standardized testing pressures.

5. First of all, realize that some (but of course not all) “testiness” that goes around the house might be related to tests. While the “accountability movement” has its supporters, detractors, and experts who disagree about what it is in the first place, there’s no doubt that testing is a bigger deal than it used to be. If a kid’s showing impatience, etc., it might be worth asking (later on, perhaps) if he or she is sweating a test.

4. Okay, if you find out your kid is sweating a test, the next step is to sort what kind of test it is. A Friday spelling quiz shouldn’t cause same kind of anxiety as a state mandated standardized test, but especially with younger kids, they might not know that. They might know that there’s a whole lotta testin’ goin’ on, but not really understand that various tests are of various degrees of importance. It’s always best to do your best, but don’t inflate the importance of a Friday spelling quiz unnecessarily.

3. Deal with the “globally overwhelmed” child. In other words, perhaps test anxiety is just part of an overall feeling of losing control. Especially in middle school, kids are suddenly overwhelmed. One reason for this is that they are juggling more tasks, yet still may be depending on whatever old habits they’d developed in elementary school for keeping up. Sometimes this hits hardest the kids who are accustomed to being successful in school. They haven’t had to write down their assignments, for example, because they really have had elementary school (one teacher with a couple pull-outs, for example) mastered. Suddenly, there are more assignments, multiple teachers (who may or may not coordinate to present the child with one simple calendar), and each task is bigger than before. Sports, music, dance, etc., also become more demanding in middle school. How to deal with the swamped kid? Well, first of all, explain that it’s normal to get swamped and to have to learn techniques like keeping a to-do list. If you can pick a moment when you’re not having to reconstruct your child’s homework from archaeological layers of papers in their room, it might help, by the way!

2. Help by understanding the scope of the test, so that you can also put that in perspective for your kid. A “big history test” can be kind of an intimidating prospect, especially if a kid has been resisting the work and isn’t sure whether World War I or the dinosaurs came first. Kids can have a tendency to exaggerate (a lot! I mean, really, a million times over!), and finding out that the “big history test” involves knowing the names of the 13 original colonies can give you a feeling of confidence that you just might be able to coach your young historian to a reasonable degree of success on this one. Of course, finding out that your young Churchill has left a whole semester’s studying to the Sunday night before the semester final would be another matter, and probably would require more of a long-term approach to correcting some very poor time management.

1. In addition to reassuring your kid that test anxiety is something that everybody experiences, it’s important to link preparation and results in your kid’s mind, so that the testing does what it really should do – make your kid a more industrious student! Make sure your young test-taker knows that the more and better preparation he or she puts in, the better his or her resulting test grade is going to be. Make sure he or she understands that the next test will most likely be a more pleasant experience if he or she totally keeps up with the homework and studies hard.

That said, you might also remain alert to the possibility of asking for help from a school psychologist. Most of the time, of course, test anxiety is temporary, manageable, and your kid will get through it just fine. Severe test anxiety, however, might be an issue to get help on. Like so many things in parenting, it’s your judgment!

Here’s an article for administrators from Education World that you might find interesting.

From the Principal Files
Has Accountability Taken All the Fun Out of Teaching and Learning?
Does the accountability movement in schools force teachers to spend more time teaching to the test? Does the emphasis on testing take all the fun out of teaching? Education World's Principal Files principals share their thoughts about the impact of standards and testing on classroom teachers and students.
Click here for more!

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