Essential Solutions 2-MIN. READ

Maintaining a Positive Perspective during Standardized Testing

By: Heidi McKnight 04/09/2024
Discover three strategies to maintain joy and perspective during high-stakes testing.
Students hold props for a celebratory photo together.

Standardized Testing Season—the Superbowl of Education

If education had its own equivalent of the Super Bowl, standardized testing could very well fill that role. All year, educators strive to increase their students’ knowledge, expand critical thinking, and foster a love for learning, and standardized testing serves as the culmination of these collective efforts—a way to measure progress on an even playing field.

If you’re anything like me, testing season can feel overwhelming, prompting a range of emotions and heightened stress levels among teachers and students.

Regardless of our own feelings about high-stakes testing, viewing testing as an opportunity to showcase the growth and achievement of our students—a reason to celebrate—and a testament to the dedication of both educators and teachers alike can change our perspective and that of our students.

Here are a few “game plan” ideas to transform feelings of testing dread into feelings of triumph.

  1. Focus on the Journey of Growth
    It’s important to remind both yourself and your students that education is an ongoing journey of skills development and growth—not just in this moment but throughout life! Take a minute to reflect on where your students started this year and where they are now. Without specific details, I’m confident both you and your students have made substantial strides. Remember, standardized testing is merely a snapshot of your students’ abilities and does not define their overall potential or your potential as an educator.

  2. Foster an Environment of Celebration
    Student eyes are on you, the “coach,” regarding how you’re feeling about the “big day” and whether you believe in them as a “winning team.” Conveying that you recognize all the work they’ve put in this year and that you’re confident in their abilities is crucial. Cheer them on with words of encouragement and messages of confidence!

    I love a good theme, and my colleagues and I aim to make the testing experience truly unforgettable. Notable themes we’ve embraced include Testing Olympics, Superheroes, and Game Day! Consider decorating your hallways, elevating your test prep/review, and centering student goal setting around a memorable theme. Don’t let the festivities stop post-assessment—celebrating at the conclusion of testing is equally important. Acknowledge and commend students for their accomplishments, whether it's growth, academic achievement, or their resilience during testing.

  3. Nurture Well-Being
    A healthy, cohesive team is a winning team, and it’s critical that both teachers and students prioritize their mental and physical health during testing season. As an educator, modeling and encouraging healthy habits such as obtaining adequate sleep, engaging in mindfulness and relaxation exercises, and maintaining a balanced diet not only helps enhance focus and critical thinking but is also likely to foster a more positive outlook. Chances are you’re not the only educator on your campus experiencing a spectrum of emotions during this crucial time of year. It’s vital to cultivate a community spirit of encouragement, support, and celebration with those around you—sharing ideas, strategies, and having some fun together!

    Similarly, open communication with families can help yield positive outcomes for your students. Consider providing families with scripts they can use to encourage their children and reduce testing anxiety. Distribute educational materials regarding hydration, sleep, and nutritional foods’ impact on cognitive functioning, clearly communicate the testing schedule, and share celebrations. When everyone is healthy and focused on the mission and vision, it adds up to a big win for the entire educational team!

It’s All about Perspective

The arrival of standardized testing season used to evoke panic, self-doubt, and feelings of inadequacy for me as a new teacher. However, shifting my perspective has transformed my outlook, and I now eagerly anticipate witnessing the ways my colleagues and students showcase their achievements. Like those famous teens in High School Musical once sang, “We’re all in this together.” I’m rooting for you! Together we will celebrate every success, every growth point, and yes, every achievement not measured by a test.