Expect your child to spend hours a day feeling antsy and filling out bubbles with a No. 2 pencil to start the month.
It’s ISAT time-aka Illinois Standard Achievement Test time, and Illinois state law requires all students in third through eighth grade to take this reading and mathematics-focused standardized test. (Students in fourth and seventh grades are also tested in science.)
With schools being held more accountable for increasing student achievement relative to state learning standards, more classroom time is being devoted to test prep and test-taking strategies.
In return, many children are feeling the pressure to succeed.
While the effectiveness of the ISAT’s ability to measure individual student achievement is debatable, the results do offer teachers, and schools, one way to measure student learning and school performance. Your child’s scores will be compared to those of his peers, both within the school and throughout Illinois. Finally, the ISAT is used to monitor school and district adequate yearly progress.
“Schools who meet these state standards become competitive amongst each other to do even better. This creates an environment where teachers are can become overly concerned with how their students score on tests compared to other teachers and schools within a district and with each other,” says Leslie Kovich, director of admissions for Quest Academy, a comprehensive test prep and tutoring center.
Since the material covered by the ISATs is material that should have been covered by your child’s teacher in the classroom, parents can help their child “study” for the ISATs by simply helping out with homework, encouraging reading for fun and working to extend learning beyond school and at home throughout the year.
Help your child “prep” for the ISAT by reducing stress and anxiety and reinforcing basic test-taking techniques with these five tips:
- Make sure your child is in bed early on the night before any standardized tests. Study after study has shown that well-rested kids make for successful test-takers.
- On the morning of the big test day, have a healthy breakfast ready to go. Protein at breakfast time-think peanut butter toast, scrambled eggs, yogurt with a protein-rich cereal-will help your child sustain her mental energy. Avoid sugar at breakfast, which produces a frenzied high followed by a deep dip in energy levels.
- Remind your child to Read, Skip, Spend. Read the directions and each question to the very end. Skip any questions that stump you and come back to them when you have time at the end. Spend any extra time checking over your work when you’re done.
- Help your child battle sudden anxiety by teaching simple, on-the-spot relaxation techniques. Discover together what method works best: for some kids, it means closing your eyes for a moment and visualizing a happy, peaceful place, like the beach or a favorite park. For other kids, it helps to take five deep breaths. These techniques will come in handy during other stressful moments in life, so work together to find out what works and practice stress-reducing techniques with your kids.
- Finally, let your child know that you’re proud of her no matter what her score is on a standardized test. Remind her that she’s smart and has the power to focus and succeed. “Parents should also have a positive attitude about the tests so that their child feels confident and wants to do his or her best,” Kovich says.