Remedies for Test Anxiety
Mary Ellen Sullivan, WVHEA State Testing Coordinator
all part of the standardized testing experience. As the test date approaches,
anxiety levels rise and the rhythm of learning is disrupted. A normally happy
homeschool suffers as parents focus on what they havenít
done and children sense some vague suggestion of failure. Learning patterns
and enriching activities are altered to make room for test preparation. If
this sounds familiar to you, stop, relax, and recheck your priorities.
To help quell the anxiety in your homeschool, try some of these:
Consider how relatively unimportant those few hours of
testing are to your childrenís real education. Remember that the tests are
just one small window into the progress of their education. Donít cancel
other learning to meet a test score hurdle.
the purpose, proper use and interpretation of standardized test scores.
Percentile scores represent a comparison to a norm group of school
students, not a comprehensive assessment of achievement.
pressure your child or yourself to clear any particular hurdle (like the
50th percentile). Just encourage your child to make his best
effort and be confident.
that this is not a test that is passed or failed, and does not translate
to grade promotion. Fifty percent of all students in any grade are
expected to score below the 50th percentile, so being part of that 50%
does not mean you have failed. And remember, under current WV law, a score
below the 50th percentile is just a starting point for
improvement and wonít keep you from homeschooling.
the positive to yourself and your child. Used as a periodic assessment
tool, the test is likely to show a lot of progress. While it is also
useful in identifying areas in need of improvement, donít forget the
achievement it will show. Remind yourself and your children of what they
are doing well, and have confidence they will do well on the test.
Is testing the best choice?
that standardized tests are based on a traditional school model of
education. Many homeschoolers have withdrawn from school because they
donít believe that model is the best way to enhance learning for their
children. If tests are foreign to the learning process in your childís
life, donít use them. Find a better way to evaluate learning: organize a
portfolio, or be creative and convince your local superintendent to accept
your own unique evaluation.
performance of younger children on standardized tests is notoriously
unreliable. A six-year-oldís score on any given day does not necessarily
reflect what she really knows. Trust how your young child is learning,
keep samples, and get a portfolio evaluated if possible. If you do choose
to test your K-through-2d-grader, approach it as a learning activity
rather than a critical assessment.
frustrate a struggling child by insisting on testing at an age-bound grade
level. Pick the level appropriate to the work your child is doing. The
child who takes two years to finish his first-grade work may later whip
through third and fourth grades in six months.
kids (and adults!) are just not great test-takers. Use the energy spent on
testing to put together a great portfolio.
you plan to return your children to a conventional school, a test score
above the 50th percentile can document progress to a particular grade
level, but there are other ways of documenting progress and placing the
child appropriately. Keep good records and use them to make sure you help
your children get what they need both in school and out.
Keep testing in its proper perspective
anxiety is not unique to homeschoolers. The schools are under enormous
pressure to improve test scores. Standardized test scores are not designed to
evaluate quality of teaching, to award promotions or diplomas, or to decide
whether a school should close, though these misuses are common. Many educators
criticize the dependence on standardized tests because of their effect on
teaching and learning. Join the crowd of those who oppose the overemphasis on
your best defense against test anxiety is that same faith that led you to
homeschooling in the first place. Do you really think your child is doing
better at home that she would be in school? Do you and your child both agree
that home is the best place from which to base learning? Do you think your
child is learning and progressing? Do you feel your childís growth is
progressing in other equally or more important areas than just those
particular facts on this particular standardized test? If so, quit worrying!
Indulge in test-taking practice if you like, but donít let the pressure
overcome your goals. Donít make the mistake of viewing a test score as the
final word on your homeschooling.