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Testing can be stressful for parents and students Some of the best Chicago educators offer advice on testing well By CARRIE RODOVICH


hether your children are in public school or private, few words inspire such a visceral reaction in parents as these two: “standardized testing.” But no matter what tests a school administers, there are things parents and students can do to make the process as stress-free as possible. The main thing is to maintain good study habits all year round, says Colleen Cannon, principal at St. Josaphat School in Chicago. “You can’t ramp up for the test,” she says. “At our school, we try to be low-key about testing because it can be so stressful.” Stress levels increase as the grade level does, with testing helping to determine what high school your child might attend. “We tell parents there are high schools for everyone, and the test is only one component of who (the children) are as the student. They are not the test. It’s just a way for us to see, over time, how they are doing,” she says. St. Josaphat now administers the Aspire test online, recently switching from the popular Terra Nova exam. The test, which looks at math, reading, soSpecial Advertising Supplement

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cial studies, science and English, is based on the Common Core and is a good way to challenge students and gauge where they are academically. Even though there is no way to perfectly measure a student’s readiness for college through a standardized test, there are things parents can do to help their students get ready for the tests, says Jimmy Kim, co-founder and education consultant with More than Scores and Tests, an education consulting company that helps combine tutoring and college consulting. For example, as your child studies for any tests, help them focus on reflecting their own understanding and misunderstandings, Kim says. That means helping them understand not only what the right answer is, but why it is right. “For example, as they practice solving an English or math problem, focus on why the right answer is the right answer, why they could eliminate other choices, and then focus on what they need to learn so you could make the right answer choices next time,” he said. Also, standardized tests should be used as a checkpoint in seeing where your students are

and where they could further improve, Kim says. A word of advice: “Be sure not to neglect their academics and their activities for the sake of the standardized tests,” he says. “Don’t treat the standardized tests as measuring sticks of your children’s value as students. Instead, treat them more like maintenance checkups with your car mechanic or health checkups with your doctor.” Testing should be used proactively to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses, says Janice DiVincenzo of Holy Cross School in Deerfield. Parents and teachers alike can work together to help students see tests as nonthreatening and non-stressful. “When students know that this is an opportunity to show what they know as well as show what they need, and when they then receive what they need on a consistent basis, test anxiety can be diminished. Approaching all testing as a normal part of life helps students put classroom assessment into perspective,” DiVincenzo says. Bennett Day School in Chicago focuses on hands-on learning, not testing, but its leaders continued on page 30 MAKING THE GRADE 2016 29

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Chicago Parent Making the Grade 2016