The State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness can cause stress for students. The rigorous test covers a year of learning and can determine whether a student moves forward with the next grade or not.
There are changes to the STAAR test this year — like moving the test from pencil and paper to online — but the stress and anxiety remains the same. Hubbard Heights Elementary School counselor Jennifer Medina said there are steps parents can take to help students.
Start preparations early
Schools start sending out communication about the test weeks in advance. The school sends home pamphlets about testing dates and asks parents to make sure that students come to school with their laptops charged.
Parents also can review material with students and try to find fun educational activities, she said. Talking to students about what they’re learning can help the review process, too. Medina recommends asking questions like “what did you learn today?” instead of just “how was your day?” because it can help students recall what they went over in class.
Since the test is online, parents are encouraged to practice signing into the test with their students. Medina said practicing can help ease anxiety on the days of testing because students already know how to do it.
Students also can take practice tests online, Medina said.
Identify and fight testing anxiety
Parents receive a pamphlet with some signs of test anxiety and tools to combat it, Medina said. Some signs of test anxiety include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Negative self-talk, such as already thinking they’ll fail
- Not wanting to come to school in the weeks before testing
- Feeling sick or saying they feel sick in the weeks before testing
Third-graders are especially vulnerable to some of this anxiety because the test is new to them, Medina said. Breathing techniques and yoga or other movement can help the students.
One technique is the five-finger breathing trick, which is touching a thumb to one finger and thinking about a loved one, then another finger while thinking about a good smell. The next finger could accompany a good memory, all while breathing until the child calms down.
Another example is making a fist into a ball for five seconds before releasing, or lifting their shoulders and slowly relaxing them, Medina said. All the techniques are ones that can be done quietly during a test and aren’t distracting to other students.
Students should get between eight and 10 hours of sleep the night before testing days, Medina said. They also should eat a full breakfast. Schools provide breakfast for students, and families can qualify for free or reduced meals.
Preparation can help students feel better about the test, too, so Medina suggests even small actions like laying out their clothes the night before so it’s less to worry about on the morning of the test.
An encouraging note in their lunch or backpack can go a long way, too, she said. During the weeks leading up to the test, Medina said, she and her colleagues are reminding the children they can do hard things well.
“We’re going to encounter difficult things,” she tells students. “This test is going to be different this year, where you’re going to have to write in some parts that we haven’t done, but we can do hard things and we are more than the test score. You’re going to do your best, but it does not define who you are.”
Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.