Standardized tests have been used in schools for decades as a tool to gauge how well students comprehend the curriculum, and how each student measures up to one another nationwide. It’s only been in the past ten years or so, since No Child Left Behind, that parents have really begun scrutinizing the reliability and need for such tests. And there is no doubt good reason to be wary of these tests–we’ve heard too many horror stories of schools “teaching to the test” instead of teaching to the students. There is also the controversial method that many school districts employ of evaluating teachers based on student test performance. But there are also many reasons why standardized testing is a good thing. It’s all in how you use it!
Next week, our students in grades 3-8 will be taking the Stanford 10 (SAT 10) assessments. These are different from the Maryland State Assessments (MSA) that public school students take; the MSA rewrote some items of the SAT 10 to include them in the testing, and excluded others. But both measure essentially the same thing. The tests are one tool that our educators and the administration use to determine individual students’ proficiency in grade-appropriate subject matter, as well as evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum and determine if changes should be made. The operative phrase here is one tool. In conjunction with regular course assessments, meaningful class projects, and observed learning behavior, the tests help provide an accurate measurement of a student’s knowledge and capability. By participating in standardized tests, we can compare our students with other students across the nation to see how they measure up, and by extension, see if we are doing our job in teaching the students what they need to know to be competitive with their peers elsewhere.
Standardized test results also give parents a tangible measurement to help them compare schools. But never should test results be used by themselves to evaluate a student, school, or educator. There are too many external factors to consider, as well as the temptation to limit coursework to only that which will be on the test in order to achieve inflated results.
This is not the sort of test that students can cram for. However, there are steps that you and your student can take to ensure the best possible result:
- Get enough sleep. This may be the most important step that a student can take. Being well-rested will improve their memory and performance. They should aim for at least 10-11 hours of sleep. (See “10 Tips for Helping Your Child Fall Asleep“)
- Eat a healthy breakfast. We all know that eating a healthy breakfast is a good way to start any day, but during testing week, it’s a crucial way to start the day. Hunger can impede concentration, so a filling breakfast full of protein and complex carbs will go a long way to helping your student keep their mind on the test and not on the rumbles in their belly! (See “The 6 Best Breakfasts to Eat Before the SATs“)
- Snack on “Brain Food”. You may have received a note from your child’s teacher asking for healthy snacks to be sent in during the testing week. Cheese sticks, fruits, granola bars–healthy snacks can give a boost of energy to the students (test-taking can be exhausting!) and stimulate their brain power. (See “6 Foods That Are Good for Your Brain” for a few more ideas.)
- Get them out and moving. After a day at their desks, kids need to re-energize. Encourage them to go outside and get some physical activity. If the weather is bad, consider taking them to an indoor play area, like Pump it Up, or roller skating. Or try these “18 Get-Off-the-Couch Games” for some at-home family fun.
- Be their cheerleader. Send your child off to school with positive reinforcement. Let them know that no matter what, you love them and you’re proud of them. Pack a note in their lunchbox or book bag to remind them you’re thinking of them. Even a simple “I know you can do it!” can help boost a child’s confidence. (See “Help Your Child Improve in Test-Taking” for general tips on helping your child prepare for tests)
We wish all our students GOOD LUCK on the SAT 10 assessments next week!