Parenting Perspective: PSSA tests

March 17, 2011 12:07:24 PM PDT
This week, students in my sons' school district are taking PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) tests. These are standardized tests that are used to measure how well schools are imparting knowledge to students so that they meet certain standards. The results of these tests can determine funding, staffing and many other important decisions.

The tests are controversial to say the least. But they are a reality. And there are ways we as parents can help our children do their best on these tests.

According to a Guidebook to the PSSA's published by Temple University, parents can help their children do well on these tests by following a few simple steps. First, make sure your child eats well during the testing week. That means a well-balanced diet including protein, carbohydrates and vitamins and avoiding caffeine.

It's also important that your child get plenty of sleep. According to the Temple guidebook, "Students who have had a good night sleep can pay better attention and handle the demands of a test."

It's also important that when your child isn't testing, they get plenty of exercise. Here, the Temple study says, "Exercise also increases the flow of oxygen to the brain, which helps people keep alert. Any kind of exercise helps but exercise that is enjoyable and that will continue will have the greatest result in helping students remain healthy. Exercise is said to sharpen the mind and is a great stress reliever."

According to a tip page provided by Radnor Township's Ithan Elementary School here are some more tips for parents:
*Send your child to school each day of the test with a water bottle. It has been proven that water aids brain activity.
*Make sure your child has taken any needed medication.
*Ensure that your child is present during testing (children generally perform better when taking tests in their groups rather than at a make-up time).
*Get your child to school on time each day of the test.
*Remind your child that the test is important. Encourage him/her to do his/her best.

My fourth-grader's teacher has also told the children they can bring in Tic Tacs to suck on during the tests. This policy may vary from classroom to classroom, but some teachers think that having peppermints can help children concentrate. So, it might be worth it to ask your child's teacher if treats such as these are permitted.

It can be a thin line between encouraging your child to do well on these tests and stressing your child out. But I think the Ithan Elementary site said it best here: "Wish your child good luck each morning of the test. Tell your child that he/she is special and that you believe in him/her!"

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