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Standardized Tests

How to Help Your Child Succeed

By E. Marcel Pourtout

Standardized tests are a fact of life for children in both public and independent schools. A standardized test is one that is administered and graded in a consistent manner, usually given to students across an entire school or school system or even nationally, as opposed to one created by a teacher for a specific class.

These tests are often used to determine whether your child passes to the next grade level, or what kind of college they will attend. As a result, they can be a source of stress for students and parents alike. Fortunately, most schools offer programs and resources to help children prepare for these critical tests.

Elementary And High School

If your child is enrolled in a Georgia public school, there are a number of tests he or she will be required to take as part of the Georgia Milestones Assessment System. Georgia Milestones spans Grade 3 through high school, and is designed to determine how well a student has absorbed the information taught in the classroom.

Students in Grades 3 through 8 currently take an end-of-grade test in English, language arts and math, while those in Grades 5 and 8 are also tested in science and social studies. High school students are tested at the end of each year in subjects including literature and composition, algebra, geometry, biology, physical science and U.S. history.

Students at independent schools may also be required to take standardized tests. Springmont, a Montessori school in Sandy Springs, administers the Iowa Test of Basic Skills to its primary and middle-school students each year.

Another standardized test independent school students are likely to encounter is the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT), which measures the abilities of students looking to enroll in an independent school.

College Aptitude Tests

Whether they’re from public or independent schools, all college-bound students are expected to take a college aptitude test like the SAT or the ACT as part of their application process. The SAT evaluates a student’s math, writing and critical reading skills, while the ACT covers English, math, reading, science and an optional writing component.

A great number of Atlanta-area public and independent schools offer prep courses or workshops, or have counselors who work with students to help them prepare for college-preparatory testing.

Atlanta Public Schools offers test-prep opportunities “which focus on content preparation plus simulation of the testing environment,” says Seth Coleman, media relations manager.

At the Lovett School, “Our counselors have stayed abreast of the recent changes with both the ACT and SAT tests,” says Courtney Fowler, director of communications and marketing. Lovett’s college counseling department offers parent webinars, meets with families individually and connects families with free resources for test preparation, she said.

At Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, “we partner with Applerouth Test Prep to provide proctored practice leading into the junior year,” says Tyler Sant, director of college counseling.

“We also purchase access for all rising juniors and seniors to a fully-online test prep platform which allows students to prepare in a way that’s specifically tailored to their performance on each specific section of these tests.”

Outside of the school environment, test preparation services like Kaplan and The Princeton Review offer instruction to help students prepare for college entrance exams. The College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, offers a number of preparatory resources.

TutorATL is a free service that provides tutoring and homework help as well as resources for students preparing for college entrance exams. It’s available to students from Atlanta Public Schools, the Cobb County School District and Marietta City Schools, as well as members of the Boys and Girls Club, and Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library and Cobb County Library patrons who are enrolled in a K-12 program.

Testing Tips

One of the most important things a student can do to prepare for these tests is, of course, to absorb their lessons throughout the school year. “Learning the critical thinking skills necessary to master the curriculum sets the student up to be able to do well on the test,” says Ken Connor, director of college advising for Wesleyan School.

But parents can implement several techniques at home to help their children prepare for standardized tests, whether they’re in-school assessments or college aptitude tests.

“Parents can help students by providing them with a space that can provide parental overview without becoming too invasive,” says Connor. “Creating schedules for students that provide breaks will also help the student learn how to develop strong study habits.”

“Test prep requires the same type of discipline and commitment to a schedule as any other course of study,” says Sant of Holy Innocents’. “Their outcome will directly reflect the work they’ve put in. Having a consistent appointment on the calendar helps to reinforce consistency. It’s important that the practice mirrors the testing environment. That means sitting upright at a table or desk. No cell phone, no TV and no other distractions.”

Above all, make sure your child maintains a positive attitude, gets enough sleep and has a proper breakfast on the day of the test. With the right physical and mental preparation, he or she will be well on their way to acing these important tests.

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