High-stakes testing. When you read that phrase does your blood pressure start to rise?

Studies show that many teachers experience higher amounts of stress around test-taking time. In some states this year that anxiety could be compounded with the first round of testing that will assess progress toward the Common Core State Standards.

Why do teachers get so stressed? The research cites many reasons, including pressure for students to perform well, the difficulty of aligning instruction to standards, and feeling that by “teaching to the test” teachers are going against their own experience of what constitutes best practices and instructional strategies.

Preparation = Less Test Stress

Preparation can help ease a lot of this stress. When teachers have the time to get organized, focus on objectives, and work with students to practice essential skills, they feel a lot more confident about testing outcomes.

But how do teachers find the time? And what kinds of preparation activities actually reduce stress instead of adding to it?

Quick tips for high-stakes testing preparation

The best advice is to make high-stakes testing a well-planned, all-school endeavor. This includes:

  • Getting support from the top. When high-stakes testing is a school priority, school leadership needs to provide teachers with the time and resources to prepare.
  • Pairing veterans with new teachers. Have teachers who feel confident about the testing process mentor newer colleagues.
  • Building in networking time. Teachers need time to collaborate about test preparation strategies. For specific tactics, see how these schools find time for teacher collaboration.
  • Providing small student incentives on test day. Some teachers allow items they normally wouldn’t –mints, gum – on test-taking day. It gives students something to look forward to and takes the edge off nervousness.
  • Taking time to celebrate. High stakes assessments take a school-wide effort. Since students, parents, and teachers are involved in making testing a success, let them know you appreciate their efforts by planning a school-wide celebration when the tests are over.

Does your school have a systematic approach to high-stakes testing? How are you planning to approach CCSS testing?