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Preparing Students and Parents for PreK-12 Math Assessments

4 Ways to Reduce Test-Induced Student Stress

Most educators and parents have watched a child suffer from assessment-related anxiety. For some children, the reactions can be extreme and physiological. For many others, the stress may be less intense, but it does affect their performance on those tests. In small doses, stress triggers and drives higher performance. But all too often in the classroom, high-stakes PreK-12 math assessments bring students overwhelming anxiety— which can ultimately result in a mismatch between ability and performance. When suffering from anxiety, students will actually weaken in cognitive reasoning skills, and forget information that they already mastered. Quite simply, emotional distress is a roadblock to learning. So, in thinking about best practices for math test prep, it’s important to consider not just what teachers can do to help students master material, but also how they can teach them to manage stress. The effects of this support will be evident in both student’s emotional well-being and in their assessment results.

To empower teachers and support students, we’ve put together a guide that details four key best practices in teaching assessment-induced stress management, entitled “Ready, Set, Win: Preparing Students and Their Parents for PreK-12 Math Assessments”. You can download the full guide in the link below. Read on for a general outline of the guide, and for a preview to the practices and tips you’ll discover:

4 Best Practices to Teach Assessment-Induced Stress Management

Acknowledging the Stress of Math Assessments

It’s important to be aware of and acknowledge the experiences some students have in the weeks leading up to a test. These learners need support, and confirmation that they aren’t alone in what they’re feeling. Then, teachers need to focus on what they can do to manage this experience, and translate it into productive, confident energy. In many ways, this translation comes down to a shift in mindset. Teachers can work on fostering confidence and perseverance in problem solving in their students, and actively provide students with stress-management techniques. In the guide, you’ll get over fifteen specific, tangible tips for practicing the following student empowerment strategies: setting the pace for preparation, sharing strategic test-taking tips, and teaching self-care. You’ll also learn how the research of Carol Dweck, Ph.D., can fuel and inform your efforts to acknowledge and curb the stress of math assessments.

Managing Expectations

Poor results on a high-stakes assessment can have intense consequences for students, families, teachers, and districts. But teachers have to protect students from feeling the full scope of those pressures. Instead, encourage self-focus. Students should be reminded that the assessment is about their own learning experience and growth, and progress according to their personal abilities. Teachers should keep in mind what they can realistically expect from their students, and differentiate their assessment expectations. It’s important to be mindful of the connection between student and teacher, and remember that what a student understands his teacher’s expectations to be for him will often be mirrored in his performance. So, when possible, teachers can work with this relationship by setting individual goals for students, and communicating their belief in each student’s abilities. In the guide, you’ll find a practical framework for setting these goals called SMART.

Implementing Group Review and Digital Practice

Consider the difference between test-taking skills and mastery of the content itself. Stress and a lack of test-taking skills can cause a student’s performance on a high-stakes assessment not to match with their abilities. So, educators can empower students to reflect their true abilities by proactively teaching test-taking strategies. In the guide, you’ll find two major methods for test prep: group practice and review, and digital practice and review. Group practice can be useful because social learning activities can promote supportive environments. The guide will also provide you with physiological research, and three specific strategies for using group practice to prepare for assessment. Digital practice and review can be useful since testing is switching a to digital format — instructors should be mindful of the differences between traditional and digital test taking skills. The guide will elaborate with online test prep resources, details about Technology Enhanced Questions, and practical skills for taking digital assessments.

Providing Testing Guidance to Parents

Parents play a significant role in student stress. So, educators can reduce student stress by opening up a dialogue with parents. The parent-teacher test prep conversation should focus on three subjects: preparation, expectation, and implications. Essentially, teachers should let students know when the assessments are throughout the year, what parents can do at home to help students study and relax, and what parents can realistically expect from their young learners. This is a good time to reference the individualized goals for each student, and what the parent can do to help their children reach these goals at home. See the guide for research and over ten specific strategies for integrating parental conversation into your assessment prep strategy.

Download the guide to preparing students and their parents for PreK-12 math assessments here:



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McGraw Hill

McGraw Hill

Helping educators and students find their path to what’s possible. No matter where the starting point may be.