To Test or Not to Test, What is the Answer? Plus - 4 Tips for a Successful Testing Week!

April 23, 2017

There is much debate surrounding state assessments in both Virginia (the Standards of Learning assessments, commonly known as SOL’s) and Tennessee (The TN Ready assessments). Some of your friends in public schools in either state and many others may be sharing their concerns about stressed out kiddos, anxious teachers, weeks spent studying review guides and completing released tests as homework, after school programs to ensure readiness for the test or even letters coming home advising that students may have to repeat a grade or subject if the state benchmark is not met on these tests.

At Sullins these things sound foreign - and for good reason. Our school sets high standards for academic excellence for students and uses authentic assessments to measure understanding of the curriculum. We choose to take the ERB (Educational Records Bureau) to gain insight into how our students are doing compared to students in other independent schools around the country. The data we receive helps support curriculum and guide instruction. It gives our school a clear picture of both our areas of strength and areas for improvement.  This test is not one you can “teach to”- it is a snapshot of a students’ progress that is taken into account with many others to give the school a wealth of information that helps shape the teaching and learning your student receives.  But the ERB is not the focal point of our teaching nor does it guide or direct our curriculum and instruction.

Hopefully one of the reasons you chose an independent school as a parent was because you wanted a more personalized learning experience for your child where teachers and administrators are not tied to a state mandated test. So while schools around the country countdown the days to the test and hold testing pep rallies, your kiddo was preparing for a fabulous spring musical, getting ready to highlight a country for the Passport program, working on a creation for the Spring Art Show, or completing a project based learning task - for me it is one of my biggest #whysullins!

Here are some tips to make testing week a little easier on the kiddos!

1 - Let them know what to expect!  Talk to your kids about what to expect and how testing is just a small part of the school year - it doesn’t decide if they are “good” at something or if they are “smart” enough.  Point it out if they are already making good grades and doing well in a subject.  Just a simple reminder that they have the skills and a record of success can build their confidence.

2 - Take care of physical needs.  Start each day with a healthy breakfast.  Minimize sugar and carbohydrates, and start the date with some protein to keep their energy stable.  Tests can be stressful and the kids’ normal routine at school is different.  They will need a break after sitting all day, so let them burn energy with plenty of exercise and free play after school!  Physical activity will also help them relax and be ready for bedtime!  A tired child cannot stay focused, so make sure your kids are getting plenty of sleep.  

3 - Support and praise them.  Keep it simple, and just tell you kids how proud you are of them and that you know they will do a great job.  Put a note in their lunch box just to say “Hi and I Love You”.  Send your middle schooler a text showing your support.  Don’t ask how testing is going - just remind them that you are thinking about them.  Knowing you are rooting for them can help boost confidence!

4 - Celebrate! Acknowledge your child for their effort and their success. It might help to tell them that you will go out for ice cream or for a movie or a walk in the park at the end of the week. The key here is to keep their spirits up throughout the week!

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