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Principals Diary

Impress your management with the task list in principals diary. An Exclusive Diary especially designed for Principals / Directors / Head of Schools / Coordinators / HOD's

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May 2011
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  1. Preparing your students for standardized tests


    When students score high on standardized test, it’s the school districts way to say, “Our teachers are the best.” It’s a way to evaluate teacher’s performance more than it is to test the kids, but no one thinks of testing as fun. It’s a stressful experience for everyone.Teachers are placed under tremendous pressure of making sure that students measure up by the school administration, the parents, the community and the stare, but when a teacher is stressed, she can’t do her best. She feels responsible for her student’s scores and even more, so how do we alleviate the stress when it comes to tests? It’s been my experience that in school, the teacher’s stressful mood rubs off on the student’s too, so if testing seems to be nerve wracking, maybe we need to re-evaluate why that is true and make some new testing rules.

    1. Let’s learn to think of testing differently and make it fun for everyone.

    If we in our society could find a way to evaluate without making a score on a test determine who is the best, it could be that a standardized test won’t be seen as the ultimate test of each student’s and teacher’s worth and value in our schools.When kids are tested throughout the school year, they learn early on that the score determines if he or she will pass the class, so why wouldn’t they be anxious when it comes to the most dreaded day of the year when the standardized test is faced with dread and fear?If a child fails any test, it’s more of a measure of the teacher’s ability to teach than it is a measure of the student’s ability to learn. In the best case scenario, all students would make straight A’s. There is no child who simply, “chooses,” to make a bad grade. It could be the teaching style that has failed, instead of the child who doesn’t learn well because of that style.One way to alleviate this issue is to reduce our classrooms to student-teacher ratio’s which are more reasonable than thirty learners to one instructor. Are we placing our students in classrooms where the teaching style is comparable to the individual student’s learning style? Are we asking teachers to do the impossible? Are we limiting our students learning by teaching through out the year, only those things that will be on the standardized test? What about the rest? The truth is that it’s all about money. It would cost too much to provide these things for more effective testing.If we, the parents, teachers, community and state can find better ways to evaluate our own performance, maybe we’d find better ways to evaluate our student’s performance too. Testing should not be a dreaded thing, but something that gives us insight into what we are doing right and what we need to change or rearrange. Instead, we see testing as the ultimate test of ourselves, and in the process we terrify the students.We get so stressed out about that one testing day that we might as well say, “Who knows what will happen to you or me if we don’t score high on standardized testing.”Through out the school year when we evaluate student performance, let’s find a way to decrease the fear and dread, so we will all be at peace on the day of the standardized test.

    2. Take the pressure away on testing day.

    The reason our schools are under pressure to put pressure on our teachers, who put pressure on our students to score high on tests that are standardized is because of the income we need from the state. If we could find another way to get money from the state, maybe we wouldn’t need to dread test day.Can you imagine what a standardized test designed for, “the average student,” looks like to a school district which sits in a low income community with cultural diversity? What can we do to make testing fair for all in our public schools? If we are going to determine who gets state income from a standardized test, then we need a variety of tests which address cultural differences and diversity. The testing should provide for a variety of vocabulary, where one child might be brilliantly able to pass the test that’s best for his unique community.In the mean time, let’s use our ingenuity by preparing students for testing in fun and interesting ways. Let’s not force our teachers to teach to the test, but to teach according to the needs of the child’s unique culture and community. Let’s embrace diversity by providing our students with rich cultural experiences and exposure to the world beyond our own community.

    3. If we need to test, let’s test in a way that’s more revealing.

    It’s true, we need to hold our teachers and schools accountable for what they do, but let’s do it in ways that are more revealing than testing every student as if they were all, “average learners.” Yes, we try to modify when we evaluate by using standardized tests, but are our modifications enough to see clearly who is learning, what they are learning and who we are failing to teach? I know for a fact that there are students who will never do well on a test where they have to sit, quietly in their seats for hours at a time, filling in tiny circles to answer a hundred test questions.I believe that a child’s learning style should be the top priority when it comes to evaluating their skill, performance and ability that has come from what they were taught. It’s the only fair way to evaluate, not only the child’s ability to function well in society, but the performance of our teachers and schools as well.


    It could be that we will never find a better way to evaluate both students and teacher’s progress and performance, so if that’s true, here is a list of things to do to prepare your elementary students for standardized testing fun. Doing these things might, at least, relieve the stress of tests.

    1. Before, “The big test day,” practice by creating test games. After each lesson on each day, have the students play a testing game, where their scores will only be a way to see if you are teaching effectively. Tell the students, “This will be a way for you to test me.” If we can help our students see that a test has nothing to do with their own ability or self worth, then maybe they won’t be so filled with anxiety when the big day comes.

    2. If your students don’t do well on the testing games they play, this will be your clue as to what to do, so that your students will be more prepared to take the standardized test without being scared. On the next day say, “I failed your test yesterday, so let me find another way to re-teach what I tried to teach yesterday.”If you did well, let out a yell! Say, “Hooray! We are ready for the big test day!” In other words, let’s take the pressure off the students, so that they can see that we are the ones being tested.

    3. Play as many vocabulary games as you can. It seems to me that kids who don’t do well on standardized tests are those whose vocabulary and language concepts are too weak for the test. If a child doesn’t have a grasp of language concepts, he might have difficulty in following directions provided in written form on a test. Make sure your students understand the concepts involved in following test taking instructions.

    4. Let’s not discuss it so much. Some school districts make the big test day such a huge deal that even the parents are too anxious and scared to help their children be prepared. It shouldn’t be the most important event of the year. Are we unintentionally instilling too much fear? When we remind parents every day in the days before test day, “Make sure your child gets plenty of rest for the test. to prepare for your child to eat so that he or she will have enough energy to do well on the test,” what are we communicating to them? Are we unintentionally saying that this one day and this one particular test is a matter of life or death? Let’s try to prepare our student’s parents and teachers to be at peace on test day, and if we do, maybe the children will be at ease when it comes to testing too.

    Vicki Phipps


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