Written by Assistant Principal, Dr. Jamie Rodriguez
St. Margaret Mary prides itself on having consistently high standardized test scores. Just last year, we had the highest 8th grade scores in the Diocese of Orlando. Our junior high math scores are through the roof, not to mention ELA and 6th grade computation. We are proud to say that this occurs because our teachers prepare students year-round for the material covered on the tests.
As part of that preparation, students in multiple grade levels do “spiral math” each morning to practice math problems based on material covered in the past and to preview upcoming material. They also complete “Daily Fix-Its,” which are regularly occurring English Language Arts tasks that strengthen grammar skills. In addition, iXL homework gives students the added practice they need to support previously taught concepts. These daily exercises keep student skills sharp.
Because we do all of this and more, parents are left will little academic responsibility in preparing their children for standardized tests. This is a good thing. Your job is to spend quality time as a family playing board games, going to movies, or just talking at the dinner table. Leave the test prep in these early years to us. You’ll have plenty of time for this in high school when it comes time to get ready for the ACT and SAT.
For now, the best things you can do for your children to prepare them for standardized tests are:
- Get a good night’s sleep. Start your bedtime routine early if you know your little ones will try to delay or linger in the family room. If your children are accustomed to going to bed late, send them to their rooms early with a book. Make sure electronics are turned off by 7:30 PM to avoid “blue light” close to bedtime. Lowering the lights throughout the house will prime their brains to think about sleep instead of TV and video games.
- Feed them a high protein breakfast. High carb breakfasts do not stick with the children long enough. They may suffer a sugar high followed by drowsiness and hunger. Instead of sugary cereal and juice, opt for eggs and milk. No time to cook in the morning? Yogurt with a side of nuts is a great alternative.
- Keep the morning stress-free. Set your alarm a few minutes early to give yourself extra time to prepare for unexpected morning delays like traffic or locating that missing come-and-go folder. If mom or dad is rushing to get everyone out the door, the children are guaranteed to feel your stress and carry it with them into the classroom.
- Pack properly for the day. Give the test takers an extra snack, make sure their water bottles are ready to go, and remember those #2 pencils.
- Most important of all, if your child is worrying about the upcoming test, reassure them that their value is more than a number on a test. The tests are simply tools for teachers to know what their students know. Educators use the data to direct their future teaching. The most important thing is to try your best. That’s all anyone can ask.
To the parents who really want to prepare your kids for test success in an academic manner, the best way to do this is throughout the year by reinforcing good study habits and a love of learning. Finding joy in books, science activities, historical events, and how things work are indicative of future test taking success. A child who loves learning will develop the attitude necessary to take tests with ease.
Regardless of your approach, remember that tests are teacher tools. They are not an evaluation of the value of your child. Each SMM student has value beyond measure, and we love them all!