Troop: AZ Merit testing season calls for guidance and best practices

Michael troop

Standardized testing season can be a stressful time for students, even under normal circumstances.

But, during a pandemic? Students will need all the benefits they can get.

Just as schools have had to adapt and innovate over the past year, it’s important for Arizona students to strategize to pass the AzM2 standardized test this spring. Of course, make sure your child is well rested and has a good breakfast on the morning of the test. But there is much more you can do.

Consider these tips:

  • Develop a virtual study group with close family friends. It is practice makes perfect. Did you know the Arizona Department of Education sample practical tests available online? Not only does this allow students to get a feel for the format and content of the real thing, but it also provides scoring guides to allow students to understand how they will be assessed.
  • Be in the moment.We all know how difficult it can be to sit for hours at a time, especially for children. It is important that students continue to listen to their minds and bodies during the test. Reminding your child that they are in control can have a positive impact on their state of mind, attitude, and testing experience. Something as simple as a brief halfway break to get up and stretch or have a drink of water can do all of this to help a student regroup and refocus.
  • Challenge your child to explain their thought.Anyone can memorize information, but students should also be able to explain their thinking process. When interviewing your child, ask questions such as, “How do you know? Tell me how you got this answer.
  • Read, annotate, summarize and reread. During the reading test, students should read the passage with the question in mind and underline or write down key words or details along the way. Summarizing the content is also helpful and might help students think critically about what they are reading. Students should ask themselves, “If I had to tell someone in one sentence what this passage is about, what would I say?” Also, encourage your child to always reread the text, even if they are absolutely sure they know the answer the first time. Prevention is better than cure!
  • Find the “smart” answer! Reviews will generally have three types of options: the “Smarty” response, which is the correct response; the “Trickster” option, which seems to be correct, but is not (make no mistake!); and the last option, which is clearly wrong. As your student works on practical problems, have them label each answer and ask them to explain their reasoning.
  • Increase your reading stamina. The amount of content on the tests can be overwhelming, especially for young students. Practicing fluent reading before the test will help your child build stamina and improve engagement with text. Have them read a passage aloud from start to finish without stopping, and use a stopwatch to record the time it takes them. While state tests are generally not timed, it is a good way to help students stay focused throughout the testing period.

Finally, remember: standardized assessments are not a competition. Rather, they provide a valuable opportunity to assess a student’s strengths and weaknesses, and to monitor and adjust accordingly. Encourage your child to do their best, but try not to stress them out. If this is the first time they are taking the test, they will have many more opportunities in the years to come.

Good luck.

Dr Michael Troop is the Deputy Superintendent of Traditional Legacy Schools.

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