This time of year many schools begin to administer state-wide standardized tests in order to evaluate how their students are learning and growing. Schools and teachers utilize these tests to evaluate, on a macro level, how well the students are progressing in grade level knowledge.
The scores of standardized tests are reported as percentiles directly comparing your child's performance to their peers'. As a result, children and parents are aware of how the child performed on the test compared to their peers statewide. This can foster an environment that can increase anxiety and/or pressure.
Parents can help to alleviate this pressure by explaining to their children the purpose of these tests - that they are a tool meant for teachers and schools to evaluate how they are doing as educators. It is helpful for children to understand that these tests are not a reflection of who they are.
Parents can help children be prepared for the test by encouraging the child to go to bed early the night before and offering a healthy breakfast in the morning. Preparing for school the night before (backpack, clothes, etc.) can also alleviate stress in the morning before the test.
Once the test scores are distributed, parents can use their child's score to begin a dialogue with thier child, if they seem willing to talk about it. Parents can inquire on - How do you feel about your test and your score? Do you think you might need more support in certain subjects? Do you feel comfortable going to your teacher(s) for help? Are there ways that I can help you?
If your child is feeling badly about school and how they did on the test, take this opportunity to evaluate the past two years with your child. Discuss what school has been like for them with learning under a pandemic. Help them understand that the pandemic may have been difficult especially with remote learning and they may not feel as confident or feel like they have done as well as they have in the past when they were in-person. It's important to communicate to children that it's understandable that the past two years have been very hard and as a result many people and children may not be able to do as well as they have in the past.
Rather than focusing on grades, help your child to focus on their efforts when it comes to school and testing. Focusing on effort allows children to have more agency in their learning because the amount of effort they put in is something they can control.
After your conversation, be sure to thank your child for talking with you as this will encourage them to continue coming to you in the future. If your child needs additional support, explore options like talking to their teacher, asking questions when they are confused, getting a tutor, or coming to the parent when they are struggling. It's helpful to let them know that it will take time to get back to how things were before the pandemic and the parent can let the child know that they will always be there to help them.