Spring is the season of new beginnings, of flowers and sun, and, of course, high stakes testing. TAKS has been replaced with STAAR in Texas, which means a higher difficulty and more information will be included on the exams. For families with children in STAAR testing grades, this can be a very stressful time of the year. Both parents and students feel the crunch and weight of performing well.
In an effort to help alleviate some of the angst around STAAR testing, below are 5 tips to help take some of the pain out of a high stakes Spring. The acronym READY can be used to easily remember the tips.
1. R – Rest is essential. This is just not the “go to bed a 9 o’clock the night before rest”. This is a cumulative rest. A decent bedtime the night before is a must, but just as important is the student building a steady sleep pattern over a period of time. This will aid the body in actually being able to rest through the anxiety the night before.
2. E – Eat healthy. Again, this is not the “fish for breakfast because it’s a brain food” type concept. Eating healthy on a consistent basis allows for betting brain functioning and allows the body to deal with stress much more easily. Shy away from refined sugars (read high fructose corn syrup) and lean heavy on the fruits, veggies, and whole grains. A good vitamin and Omega 3 fish oil supplement would be beneficial as well.
3. A – Attitude is everything. Change your child’s focus from doing “the” best or “just passing” to doing “their” best. Encourage this throughout the school year by not emphasizing the grade as much as emphasizing their effort. High stakes testing is more about effort and being able to follow through with a difficult task than it is about intelligence.
4. D – Decide ahead of time what to wear, eat, and pack on the day of the test. Take all of the morning decisions out of the equation for that day. Lay clothes out ahead of time and pack a lunch the night before, this will lower stress for everyone the morning of the test. Also decide to have tough conversations with your child (or spouse or other child) at a different date than the night before a big test. Nothing distracts a child more than distress at home.
5. Y – You! Most of all, the need YOU! A parent who spends time working over the strategies, relaxing with their kid in the yard, and discussing school anxieties greatly improves the likelihood of them performing well on test day.
Being READY for a high stakes exam takes months of preparation. The most important thing to remember is that what happens in the home directly affects a child’s performance at school. Parents who are loving, accepting, and realistic with their children are building a foundation for success.
Here are a couple links to resources for parents and students preparing for the STAAR test.