How 2 Talk 2 Ur Kids About Testing

It doesn’t get better…
That smell in the air can only mean one thing: it’s pre-testing time, which means that the real deal, high-stakes testing season, is just around the corner. But how should parents explain to their kids that these tests are really important, and also that the tests are hard because life is hard and if you think that filling in bubbles with a #2 pencil is hard, just wait until you get your first 21st century job with your new skillz? Fortunately you and your young test taker are not alone. The New York City Department of Education has helpfully prepared this helpful guide so that you can help your elementary school student prepare for the intensity and excitement of test time. Note: this is a sample of actual helpful tips merely copied and pasted from the helpful guide.

How should I talk with my child about the new standards? [Cue ominous soundtrack…]

  • Begin a conversation by asking your child about what he or she is doing in school. What subjects or assignments are most interesting? Which ones seem harder this year? What feels different from the work she has done in the past?
  • Explain to your child that most of the jobs she will want when she grows up will require her to be a good reader and writer. She will need to be able to do math problems that come up in the real world and use evidence to make strong arguments that convince others.
  • Let him know that when he faces schoolwork that seems really hard, it is important to keep trying and not give up. Reassure him that it’s okay to struggle and that you believe he can rise to this challenge. But continuing to work hard, he will be prepared to do this more difficult work and be successful in life.

How should I talk with my child about the new State tests?

  • Explain that this April, all students in New York City in 3rd through 8th grade will take State tests in reading and math that may be more difficult than tests they have taken in the past.
  • Let your child know that these tests are meant to be really hard. That’s because they are designed to measure whether students are on track for college and a good job when they finish high school.

How can I help my child do his or her best on test day?

  • Make sure your child has a healthy dinner and a good night’s sleep the night before the test and a nutritious breakfast that morning.
  • Ensure your child pack her bag the night before the tests so that she isn’t scrambling to get ready in the morning.
  • Suggest to your child that during the tests, if he feels nervous, he should:

Close his eyes and quietly count to 10; take deep breaths and try again.
Think about what he has learned throughout the year; consider how he approached similar questions he encountered in class.
Remember that you believe in him and that you know he can take on this challenge.

The complete collection of helpful tips can be viewed here. Note: while these tips were created with New York in mind, they can easily be adapted to any state where students now spend the majority of their time either preparing for high-stakes tests, taking high-stakes tests or assessing how they did on said high-stakes test. And now for a few additional helpful tips from EduShyster.

What NOT to tell your child about testing.

  • Best not to mention that President Obama’s children don’t take standardized tests.
  • Also, you should probably leave out the part where your child’s teacher gets fired if he or she fails to do well on the test.
  • And skip that business about how a growing number of 21st century employers are now requiring their would-be-employees (of which your child is hopefully on track to become) to take arbitrary standardized tests as a condition of employment.
  • In other words, the dreary hell that is now the “new normal” of their school day is the ideal training for the work world they will someday enjoy. Best to save that part for later…

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  1. My 3rd-grader is being prepped for his first go at the the Massachusetts test (MCAS). Our advice: “Try your hardest, then forget about it.”

    1. Fantastic response to a super creepy letter, Chris Leibig!
      We too tell our kids that the test has nothing to do with them and is only about the school and it is not important. And oops, I’m afraid I’ve done nothing to ensure our home is less stressful than usual.

  2. I’m so glad my children grew up decades before all this nonsense. What advice would I give them today? First choice, bring a favorite book to the test and read while the other kids are sweating over the bubbles. Of course, the book will probably be confiscated, so second choice is: fill in the bubbles to make pretty patterns. Or fill them all in.

    The only way to bring an end to high-stakes testing is for parents to refuse to allow their children to take them.

    1. Or have them duct tape their shoe to the bubble test so it clogs the grading machinery. Yes, that old trick.

    2. The public school district where I teach doesn’t allow students to read or draw or even put their heads down after they’ve finished bubbling. The fear is that other kids will rush through the test to join in the reading/drawing/resting and we can’t have that.

      None of the private schools in my city use the state test and all of the private schools in my city have graduation rates of 99% (they won’t say 100% for confidentiality reasons).

      It’s barbaric how these testers and test corps use poor kids like slaves to make money.

  3. I strongly urge parents to OPT OUT and take their kids to the zoo, or go to a museum or do some other real, educational activities instead of having them waste their time during the testing sessions. With a little bit of early planning and looking at the calendar, parents can figure out which mornings will be wasted on bubbling and BCRs, and pool together a few friends to take care of several students. When the children come back to school around lunch time, they should bear a note explaining why you decided to opt out.

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