April 16, 2013

ON CAMPUS: Schools spring into testing

State testing is springing up all over. Schools offer tips to get kids ready.

In the school calendar of seasons, spring means increasingly wiggly kids and state testing.

This week in classrooms around the county, teachers will be taking down all those helpful hints posted on the walls and taking out freshly sharpened Number 2 pencils.

Experts expect this year’s test results to drop as a two-year shift kicks in, changing standards from long lists to a focus on basic skills and deeper understanding.

Educators generally approve of the change, but the tests won’t shift until spring 2015. The mismatch will be kind-of like absorbing a great chapter in history, then being tested on the footnotes.

Schools ask families to pitch in, making sure students arrive at their best each day. Get to bed early. Eat breakfast. Make time to move around and have a good laugh to de-stress after school.

Modesto City Schools is promoting a list on its Facebook page that adds some tips to those basics.

1: Explain stress happens and they have to learn how to handle it.

2. Tell kids the results will help pick their classes next year.

3. Get a good night’s sleep.

4. Get some exercise and eat healthy, especially a good breakfast.

5. Allow time to get to school without rushing.

6. Dress comfortably and arrive on time.

7. Send children off with a compliment and praise.

8. Teach deep breathing exercises to relax before the test.

9. Remind kids to follow directions carefully.

10. Tell them to check their answers.

11. After school, talk about positive things that happened that day.

Tips 1 and 2 likely won’t lower kids’ stress, but might address the schools’ top test stress, student apathy. Administrators say some kids they know could do better just don’t try.

Getting kids 7 and up to sit still for hours, reading text and coloring in little circles, is doubtlessly a tough sell. I’m not sure explaining their future depends on it will help.

But turning the test into an interactive computer program might. That’s the plan for spring 2015 -- online adaptive testing that checks if they really got it, not if they memorized the footnotes.

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