Preparing for High-Stakes Tests: Insights from 350+ Educators, Including Administration Support
Proactive planning is essential to efficient test preparation because it sets students up for success and ensures they are calm and confident. How exactly are educators getting their students ready for testing? And how can administrators better support educators as they support students during state testing season?
Edmentum surveyed educators between November 22, 2022, to January 10, 2023, and asked for feedback on testing preparation practices and strategies. The purpose is twofold: 1) To help educators learn (and potentially adopt) best practices their colleagues may be using and 2) To help administrators better understand how they can support their educators during testing season.
369 educators anonymously shared their insights in four multiple-choice questions:
1. Where are the majority of your students as far as grade-level performance?
2. What tools/classroom resources do you think are most effective to specifically help prepare students for high-stakes testing?
3. What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge when it comes to preparing students for high-stakes testing?
4. Do you feel you have the resources you need to adequately help your students prepare for high-stakes testing?
Additionally, participants were asked a few demographic questions—such as job title, years of teaching experience, and the grade levels in which they work—to provide more insight.
Let’s look at what educators who responded had to say, along with some key takeaways.
Note: Many respondents who selected "other" for their job title typically identified themselves as a school support role, such as a school counselor, academic coach, tutor, etc.
Where are the majority of your students as far as grade-level performance?
Educators were given seven options for answer choices and asked to select only the one answer with which they most identified. The graph above represents the distribution of answers across the respondents. The majority of educators indicated that they find their students are performing below grade level.
It’s not surprising that many educators do not feel their students are performing at grade level. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also referred to as "The Nation's Report Card," released in October 2022 by the U.S. Department of Education, indicated that a majority of states had lower scores for 4th and 8th graders in mathematics and reading from 2019 to 2022. The cause of this decline is widely attributed to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, although achievement gaps have been a longstanding issue. A survey conducted by Edmentum in 2022 revealed many educators remain optimistic that their students will make up for missed learning during the current academic year.
Administrators must continue to provide support for educators and students. By addressing the learner needs, educators can have confidence in their students' abilities to succeed.
What tools/classroom resources do you think are most effective to specifically help prepare students for high-stakes testing?
The top three resources educators use to effectively prepare students for high-stakes testing continue to be similar each year, including:
1) teaching test-taking strategies
2) conducting practice tests or quizzes to simulate the exam, and
3) review sessions.
Stress & anxiety management followed closely behind.
To help educators better prepare students, we’ve gathered some of our top resources on teaching test-taking strategies, including getting the most out of practice in class, in our Educator’s Ultimate Guide to Preparing for High-Stakes Testing. Our blog post on Marzano-validated best practices for online practice also includes tips on how educators can get the most out of test prep in the classroom.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge when it comes to preparing students for high-stakes testing?
Educators were asked to select their primary challenge based on six potential options. Of the 369 educators who participated, most indicated that keeping students at all levels engaged and motivated was the biggest challenge they encountered during test prep.
The ability to differentiate instruction, the amount of content that needs to be covered in preparation, and addressing unfinished learning also proved to be key challenges for educators.
Preparing for high-stakes assessments is a time-consuming and demanding task for educators. They need to ensure that important material is covered and understood, that test-taking strategies are taught, and provide support and encouragement to their students. However, test preparation can only be successful if students are engaged. That's why it is important for educators to have strategies in place to motivate students for assessments and help them feel confident and motivated in the classroom every day.
Do you feel you have the resources you need to adequately help your students prepare for high-stakes testing?
Nearly half of all educators who participated in the survey indicated they have some resources to help them prepare students for high-takes testing, but they could use more.
The right resources can help educators create a comprehensive, effective test-preparation program that addresses the unique needs of students and increases their chances of success on high-stakes assessments. Adequate preparation can help reduce stress and anxiety for both students and educators and increase students' confidence in their abilities. But too many resources—or resources that take too much time and effort for educators to use—can deprive students of valuable instructional time.
Having the right resources also allows educators to focus on the learner, addressing not only the academic aspect but also the emotional and motivational aspect of the students, which can have a big impact on the student performance during high-stakes testing.
To help save you time and energy as you put together a test-prep plan this year, Edmentum has complied its best resources in one place. Put together a foolproof plan this testing season to catch any blind spots and prepare students to successfully show what they know. Check out free guides, blog posts, and downloadables in Edmentum’s new Test-Prep Toolkit.