Friday, October 1, 2004

Educators take steps to reduce test stress



[photo]
Third-grade students Joseph Townsend (top), Mahalah Rogers (bottom left) and Makila Gentry study at a reading loft at Frost Elementary in Mount Healthy.
The Enquirer/CRAIG RUTTLE
The Enquirer asked educators about their strategies for relieving stress among students. Here are some of their replies:

"Test stress is a reality for our students in high school. The 'high-stakes' nature of all of these tests makes that inevitable. ... We spend a fair amount of time trying to demystify the process by teaching test strategies for handling trick multiple-choice questions, pacing oneself through the test, reading for key words and concepts, and quick outlining for essay questions. We also try to provide a more intimate testing environment for tests we administer. Because many of our students do not get a breakfast before they come to school, we also provide fruit and other nutritious foods before we test."

Tim Kraus, educational technology teacher, Hughes Center, Cincinnati Public

"We do a lot of practice with old proficiency tests. We present different scenarios that may happen - actual test questions and/or problems that may occur. We go over good strategies to use when taking a test. We include just basic reading (of) the test, as well as how to work through difficult questions. ... We stop and do a few exercises during set breaks. We practice relaxation techniques that the kids can do on their own when they feel nervous."

Angie Ryan, language arts and math teacher at E.H. Greene Intermediate School, Sycamore Schools

SPECIAL REPORT: TEST STRESS
Schools grapple with test stress
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Did you know?
Some Views on Test-Taking and Stress
Educators take steps to reduce test stress
Parents can ease stress of tests
"We do an interesting activity before any given set of tests. Relative to Third Grade Achievement Test preparation, we do an activity called Brain Gym. It is a video that asks students to do certain physical activities, which requires them to use different body parts in different positions. The activity lasts for about five minutes, and research suggests that this stimulates brain function."

Erick Cook, principal, South Lebanon Elementary School

"We just work hard to be very confident and kind and just comfort them as much as possible. ... We really try to build their confidence. 'You can do this.' 'We are the smartest class.' 'We are the best class.' 'This is our chance to really shine and show people just exactly how smart we are.'"

Lisa Kayes, third-grade teacher, Frost Elementary, Mount Healthy

"Everyone gets stressed about all the testing that's being done in education now, not just kids. I teach gifted elementary students who usually ace proficiency and other tests without a second thought. Yet, I've had parents make their gifted children do practice tests over holidays and weekends and the children become more anxious because the parents are so overly anxious. ... And, because parents are so competitive - your child's test scores reflect how good of a parent you are, right? - and teachers are so pressured - your test scores reflect how good of a teacher you are, right? - it all filters down to the kids. ... So, my advice is: Parents, cool it. Your child, your teacher, you will not benefit from building and then having to deal with all this test anxiety. We are creating our own monster. Let's let it die."

Jane Payne, gifted intervention specialist, Little Miami School District




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