At Test Time, Embracing Its Measure Can Reduce Its Pressure

Apr 1, 2019

It’s testing season again.  Every April, students take a variety of standardized tests to gauge their mastery of a range of subjects.  The most commonly used assessments in Michigan are the M-STEP, the SAT and the ACT.

 


ROBIN PIZZO: 

The M-STEP (Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress) measures the students’ proficiency in, for the very young (third, fourth or fifth graders), reading, writing, science, social studies; what they've learned and their proficiency and mastery of what they're being taught in the classroom. That happens in the third through eighth grade.

Then, we move on to the eighth grade, which includes the PSAT this year for eighth and ninth graders.  That will replace the English Language Arts M-STEP for them. It’s sort of that practice test that will lead to the college admissions test that they will be taking in 11th grade and 12th grade; the SAT.

 

KEVIN LAVERY:

Why is the PSAT 8/9 superseding that part of the M-STEP?

 

PIZZO: 

I really think it’s to prepare students for what they are going to experience at the high school level with the SAT.

 

LAVERY:   

Robin, when I was growing up, sometimes I had test anxiety as a kid.  I'm the parent now and I have test anxiety again, because my daughter is taking the SAT.  What do parents really have to know about the standardized testing process at whatever grade it is?

 

PIZZO:

It’s really about balance. It is a reality for many children that they go through anxiety, whether it be at the elementary level, K-8 students who are testing, or at that high school level.  I think parents really need to take an intentional position when it comes to their children’s testing and preparing them for the test.  Not just on the test day where we do things like make sure they have a great breakfast and make sure they had a great night of sleep, and that they are well rested. But just in that everyday conversation about what the test represents and what the tests are measuring how the test is going to reflect back on to that student. So, balance without the pressure.

 

LAVERY: 

There really is a difference in the way a standardized test is perceived; sort of the gravity of that test between a young child in the third grade taking the M-STEP and a high school student taking the SAT.

 

PIZZO: 

There is.  You said ‘a young child’ and I think that's what makes it bristly for a lot of educators as well as parents and those within the community. We feel like our youngest children shouldn't be put under this weight. It does reflect more on that individual school or on that district than on the students. The disparities we see in funding and the supports that are offered to schools based on standardized tests can definitely have a negative impact. That attitude can permeate throughout schools, which can create a negative attitude in the students and parents and can do a disservice to preparing them to move on to that secondary level in high school when it does become a much more personal, impactful experience.

So, we can help diminish the negative attitudes around testing to look at it as a part of growth and development. I think we can eliminate a lot of pressures and a lot of anxiety if we begin to embrace it in a more positive way.