Teaching Profession Opinion

3 Ways to Help Make Testing Season Less Exhausting

May 31, 2016 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By Allison Riddle

As a teacher, May is a polarizing month for me.

On one hand, it signals the final lap in the race to complete the school year. My students and I are like family now, and I enjoy watching them work smoothly together on the last few projects of the year.

On the other hand, May marks the end of an exhausting month of intense standardized testing and directed test prep.

Wait... did I say exhausting? Intense?

Unfortunately, yes. I don’t aim to challenge the validity of standardized testing. I value the information these tests provide, and I use these results each year to inform and improve my own instruction the following year. My issue with testing isn’t the purpose of it. Rather, I am troubled by the climate that is set up within the classroom, school and educational community during these testing windows. I say exhausting? Intense?

It’s ironic that during a time when we expect students to demonstrate mastery or progress on critical skills, educators, whether aware of it or not, actually place a great amount of stress on our students to perform. Test anxiety for students increases unnecessarily when we intentionally treat ‘testing ‘season’ as a markedly different time in the school year.

Talk about fixing the mindset...No pressure, kids, but do your best... NOW!

Although standardized tests are a more formalized educational experience, we should be preparing students for this event in equal measure throughout the year. For example, we prepare students for problem solving in math by embedding opportunities to analyze mathematical situations with partners each week. In that way problem solving becomes a familiar process that students will approach with confidence, even independently on a test.

As educators, we can improve our approach to standardized testing windows by viewing test prep as an integral part of the school experience all year:

1. Make A List of Breaks to ‘Pepper In’ All Year

As the school year comes to an end, it is the perfect time for teachers to make a list of the ‘testing season’ stress breakers we have just used so that we can implement these strategies all year long! Why not begin as early as September and ‘pepper in’ test-taking strategies, brain breaks and confidence builders into our weekly instruction?

Teachers use familiar testing season breaks such as: walking laps, eating treats, taking musical brain breaks, doing breathing exercises, coloring Mandalas, drawing symmetrical shapes, exercising across the body exercises, and many more. Each of these is easily integrated into our own weekly classroom experiences. Modeling these breaks consistently would help students build a ‘tool kit’ of strategies that build student perseverance and confidence. By using these tools all year, students would begin to view testing as a time to “show what you know,” rather than achieve a high score.

2. Share Suggestions with Parents All Year

Administrators and teachers traditionally emphasize the importance of attendance just prior to testing windows. However, it is equally as imperative that students are in class consistently during the instruction of tested concepts! The same is true for encouraging parents to help their students get plenty of exercise, rest, and a substantial breakfast. Healthy kids learn more, and, in turn, perform better on assessments no matter what time of year those tests are taken.

3. Build a School Culture of Positive Thinking All Year

Many schools host test week assemblies and class parties. While the intent may be to boost student morale and confidence, the result is often an increase in test awareness and intensified anxiety. How about peppering in these kinds of assemblies and celebrations periodically as opposed to just before testing windows? We should appreciate our students’ efforts while they are learning content as much as while they are demonstrating proficiency.

Certainly all educators would prefer less time is taken for end of year assessments. Ironically, we know that during the time students are testing, they are not learning. Nevertheless, as an educational community, we must purposefully communicate the message that we care about students performing their best all year long - in all academic endeavors - not just on standardized tests.

Allison Riddle is the 2014 Utah Teacher of the Year and a member of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY). She teaches 5th grade at Foxboro Elementary School in North Salt Lake, Utah.

The opinions expressed in Teacher-Leader Voices are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Teacher Perspectives: What is the Future of Virtual Education?
Hear from practicing educators on how virtual and hybrid options offer more flexibility and best practices for administrative support.
Content provided by Class
Reading & Literacy Webinar How Background Knowledge Fits Into the ‘Science of Reading’ 
Join our webinar to learn research-backed strategies for enhancing reading comprehension and building cultural responsiveness in the classroom.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession It Could Get a Whole Lot Easier to Teach in a Different State
The Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact would grant full licensing reciprocity to incoming teachers who move to a participating state.
5 min read
Illustration of a 3D map with arrows going all over the states.
Teaching Profession Opinion I Quit Teaching for Ed Tech. Here's How It Turned Out
Before you leave the teaching profession for another career, here are some things to consider.
Amma Ababio
4 min read
Illustration of a professional woman at the door opening to a bright exterior with computer code in the air.
Teaching Profession In L.A., Teachers and Parents Raise Money for Striking Service Workers
Many service workers cannot afford to miss work during the three-day strike. Teachers and parents are stepping in to help.
Delilah Brumer, Daily Breeze
3 min read
Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of United Teachers of Los Angeles, with Max Arias, executive director of the Service Employees International SEIU Local 99 union, speak to thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District teachers and SEIU members rallying outside the LAUSD headquarters in Los Angeles Tuesday, March 21, 2023.
A crowd of attendees at a joint rally by United Teachers of Los Angeles and SEIU 99 gathers in front of City Hall on March 15, 2023, in Los Angeles, Calif.
Damian Dovarganes/AP
Teaching Profession Q&A Los Angeles Educators Are Set to Strike. Will Teachers Elsewhere Follow Suit?
Unions in cities have become more aggressive—and low wages coupled with a demand for talent are giving them leverage.
6 min read
Thousands of LAUSD education workers calling on LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho to use the district’s $4.9 billion in reserves to invest in staff, students, and communities rally at Grand Park in front of Los Angeles City Hall in Los Angeles on March 15, 2023.
Thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District educators call on Superintendent Alberto Carvalho to use the district’s nearly $5 billion in reserves to invest in staff, students, and communities at a rally at the city's Grand Park on March 15, 2023.
Keith Birmingham/Pasadena Star-News via TNS