By Jeremy Parker
Principal of Liberty Traditional Charter School

As we close out this school year it is important to remember some things we have learned about the new state assessment and how we can prepare our students for next school year. Although, as many students suggested to me, this test was more difficult than state tests in previous years, they were confident in their performances and said it was because they had prepared and used test taking strategies they had been taught throughout the school year. I would like to make a few suggestions on how our school prepared students in hopes that they will stay sharp and be prepared for next year.

First, schools often do not spend much time preparing students for tests but instead focus only on the content that is being tested. This is not to say that focusing on the content is not important but is often the only priority a teacher looks at when planning and preparing for an assessment. What they forget to do is teach test taking strategies. This past school year I spent time preparing teachers for assessments by giving test taking strategies. For example, having students read the questions first before taking in the reading passage. This allows them to know what they are looking for when they read. Another easy strategy is to eliminate choices that are completely wrong or unrelated to the question; there is usually one per question.

A third easy tip is to read each answer choice carefully and not rush. Often students will select a choice based on their prior knowledge of a topic and not something that came from the reading passage they were given to read. All of these strategies were taught to our students this school year and we feel they were very helpful as they took the new state assessment.

Another idea our campus focused on this year was expressing to our students the importance of standardized testing, but also alleviating the stress involved in taking these tests. One way we helped alleviate the stress of test taking was the design of spirit weeks dedicated to the idea of testing.

This is not a new idea but has in years past seemed to be devalued as effective. Our week began with students wearing pajamas as a reminder to get a good night’s rest before taking the test and ended with them wearing all black so they would remember to bubble in their answers correctly. A themed week like this was fun and helpful in reminding students of how to take important tests seriously. I feel that all of these strategies will translate to better scores and more confident students.