Recently a school in our area reviewed last year's results for students with learning challenges. They found the students' scores had improved steadily from the beginning of the year through February. Then when the Standardized Tests were administered in March the students did very poorly. We were asked why we thought this happened and we had two words for it:
In the short term, parents, students and teachers must live with the stress involved with these high stakes tests. At 3D Learner, we have developed a 7-Step Program to Improve Test Scores and To Reduce Test Anxiety.
Students are experiencing more stress symptoms as the actual date of testing approaches.
Now that the holidays are over and these next few weeks are devoted ENTIRELY to test preparation, teachers are requiring students to complete more drill-type strategies. Their thinking is, "If we repeat this often enough, the kids will finally get it and be comfortable with the material once the test day comes."
The problem with that theory is that our kids are burnt out. True - they are not all that attentive to all of the questions because they feel they "have seen this before!" They have heard all of the conversations and hype about how important these tests are - and many-- are down right scared!!
Already we are seeing kids who are not eating, or sleeping and are in panic mode. Not only do they want nothing more to do with the test -- they want nothing more to do with school!!!
Parents too are feeling the pressure. Some are doing EXTRA PRACTICE DRILLING at home. Others are completely ignoring it and going on "mini-vacation trips" to an amusement park.
Let's put this into perspective: the tests are here to stay. There are a lot of criticisms that can be made about the tests themselves - but that is not a part of this column.
7-Steps To Test Success With Reduced Stress
1- The first step is to stop and assess what might be causing the stress in your child. If time constraints make it so that your child cannot complete the sections in the alloted time frame, then you should be discussing this issue with your child's teacher.
Meet and agree to specific actions to reduce stress and to improve test scores -- we recommend where the student has an Individual-Education Plan (an Individual Education Plan per the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for public school students) or a 504 Plan (i.e. usually for students with attention or related issues that do not qualify for an IEP) that the following accommodations be allowed:
- Extra time -- usually 150% of the normal time
- The student take the test in a quieter room with fewer students
- The student be allowed to have water during the test
- For non-reading tests, consideration be given to reading the questions to the students.
Make sure everyone - -including the student - knows what is to happen.
You will want to have this discussion with your child present so that they do not feel they are being punished for going to another room to take the test.
Having your child's teacher explain this will help.
2- In the weeks before the test,CLEAR YOUR CALENDAR. Try to have family dinners and cut down on the extra running around. Play board games or word games. Your kids are practicing strategies and problem solving -- but in a different way!
3- Instead of waiting until "test week", start now with a regular sleep schedule and well-balanced meals (NOT a BAD idea the rest of the year- but start by trying it now.)
See if you can add some kind of fun exercise into the mix. Everyone will start feeling better. Then on the day of the test make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast, takes their medication, where needed, and gets to school early.
4- Have you and your student learn breathing and other relaxation activities to do in the weeks before the tests as well as before and during the tests.
5- Create a simple check list with your child of activities to do:
- Breathe slowly - count to 5 breathing in and 5 breathing out.
- They may want to even try counting to 10-- that really slows them down!
- Drink water - It will help them to stay alert.
- Check their work. This one is a killer!!
Kids notorously DON'T want to go over what they just worked on. Sometimes they really don't know HOW.
That sounds crazy, but stay calm and sit with your child as they go over their work. Listen carefully to their thought process and guide where needed. Try not to scold - encouragement keeps them going.
Have them circle + and - signs when they are doing math calculations - to be sure they are doing the right operation.
6- Be POSITIVE and ENCOURAGING. They need help to stay calm.
7- If the stress is really intense, consider getting outside professional help.
The stress of these tests on our children is not worth compromising their mental health.
What 3D Learner Offers to Reduce Stress and Improve Test Scores
3D Learner offers a comprehensive program to reduce stress and improve test scores.
As part of our intensive training in Boca Raton, FL. we include:
- Creating a personal controller that teaches the students how to relax -- They learn to use it proactively to get calm before they start a test as well as how to 'get back' into that state during the test.
- A BioFeedback tool called EmWave ® that teaches the students to integrate their mind and heart. It has been used successfully in many schools to relieve test anxiety.
- Exercises they can do to integrate their mind and their body -- Brain Gym Exercises can be used at home and at school. Our own son used them when he froze during a test -- he immediately relaxed and did extremely well.
- The Interactive Metronome ® a computer based program that improves attention and self-control. We use it to teach the students how to recover from mistakes. Once a student recognizes that it is not difficult to bounce back, they find they are less distracted and know how to re-focus, if necessary.
- Gemstone vision Software ® that dramatically improves visual tracking skills
- Parent Training on how to coach and advocate for your child.
Gemstone vision Software ®
- Working with their teacher(s) to come up with strategies to help your child relax and recover from upsets.
We also offer the following options as part of our Home Learning Suite: the Personal Controller, EmWave ® System, Gemstone Vision Software®, Brain Gym and parent coaching.