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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Tests and more tests

April 29, 2009

The end of the school year usually means one thing for kids: TESTS! In Virginia, our 3rd and 5th graders are gearing up to take the Virginia Standards of Learning tests. Other grade levels are preparing for end of unit tests, spelling tests, math chapter tests, tests to inform placements for next year, and tests just because teachers like to grade (just kidding).

As the Mom of a daughter who frets about tests, we work overtime this time of year helping Molly keep things in perspective. In addition to the usual early bedtimes and healthy breakfast, we do what we can to keep her stress level low. With a little help from the school, parents and schools can work to keep everyone calm and prepared to do their best.

Here are some things that help at our house:

Know what's coming. Thanks to a good school staff, we usually know what's coming. Our weekly school newsletter and homework packets usually alert us to upcoming assessments. This gives us a chance to talk about them at home.

Know the tests. I'm not recommending that parents teach to the test, but I am recommending that parents ask about it. What does it measure? How are scores reported? How are the results used? With standardized tests, teachers cannot deviate from the written instructions, which is so different from everyday interactions! Help your child understand that testing often means that the classroom is usually different for a day or two.

Know that cramming won't help. Most of these end-of-year assessments are designed to test material taught throughout the year. Last minute prepping and quizzing will have little effect on your child's score, but may have a big impact on her stress level.

Know how to help your child relax. For us, that means encouraging her to do her best, and not putting any pressure on the situation. We plan for extra outdoor time on test-day afternoons and, oh yeah, a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice-cream.

That's what works for us, what works for you?

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