It's a long weekend and one that brings the excitement of Easter activities and plenty of sugary treats. 

But with key state-mandated testing starting next week, it might be a good idea to put away the Easter candy early and tuck students into bed at a reasonable hour Sunday night.

The No. 1 thing parents can do to help students perform well on the upcoming STAAR test is to make sure their children go to bed early the night before and get lots of rest, Tyler ISD administrators advised.

The first round of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, begins next week, followed by a second round in different subjects and grades in May.

Dr. Jamey Johnson, executive director of curriculum and instruction, said in addition to a good night's sleep, it's also important to wake them early enough so they arrive at school on time don't feel rushed. Also, give them a good breakfast at home or make sure they eat breakfast at school, she said.

Students can feel anxious about the tests, Johnson said, so a calming book before bedtime or a handwritten note slipped into their hand as they get out of the car can help ease nerves. 

"It can say something very simple, like "We love you; have a great day," she said.

For the particularly anxious child, Johnson suggested advising them to "breathe, calm down, relax, take a few moments to sit in your chair and think positive thoughts and get rid of negative thoughts." She suggested they think, "I can do this. I am smart. I am capable of doing this," and continue to encourage themselves during the test."

After the school day is over, continue to encourage children because some are taking tests for multiple days, she said. Have fun with them and find opportunities to encourage students all the way from elementary to high school level, Johnson added, and then follow the same routine of making sure they have a healthy dinner and get to bed on time.

When students step onto Tyler ISD campuses on testing days, the staff, the principal and different departments will encourage them and ensure they meet positive adults during the day to help them, she said.

That encouragement will give them the boost they need to walk into the class feeling confident and ready to do their best, said Max Gregory, coordinator of assessment and accountability.

"Their best is all we can ask from them," he said.

Staff and teachers work throughout the entire school year to prepare students, Gregory said.

The tests are aligned to the state standards, called the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, and administrators work with teachers in the classroom all year about instructing to the level the state standards require.

"The teachers are aware of what we need to teach; the assessment is assessing how we taught it," Johnson said. "Students and parents should be confident in the fact students are prepared for what the tests require of us to teach."

At the elementary level, third-graders will be tested in reading and math; fourth-graders will be tested in writing, reading and math; and fifth-graders will be tested in math, reading and science.

At the middle school level, testing is done in reading and math in sixth grade; seventh-graders are tested in reading, math and writing; and eighth-graders are tested in reading, math, science and social studies.

At the high school level, there are end-of-course exams in English II, algebra I, biology and U.S. history.

The majority of the time, STAAR tests are taken in the early high school years, although there is the possibility a 12th-grader could be retesting because of not having passed a test, Dr. Johnson said.




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