When it comes to an administrator’s list of their least favorite things to do, conducting standardized testing has to be up there. No one wants to do it, not the students, not the teachers. But there’s no real way for an administrator to avoid it. So how can you make the process a little more tolerable? By garnering standardized testing support from your staff. Part of your role is to lead teachers to effectively prepare students and skillfully administer tests. Here’s how to do that without alienating your staff.
Forge and improve important relationships.
A constructive relationship with school staff is the key to running a successful school. Cultivate those relationships so you can lean on them as you prepare for testing. One-on-one meetings with teacher leaders about testing make a huge difference. So identify those teachers, maybe grade-level team leads or veteran, respected faculty members, who can be key players in getting your school ready for testing. Set up time with them before you speak to your larger staff. Pick their brains. What do they see as the school’s goals regarding testing? What do they think the school’s goals should be? How do they think the tests should be administered? Asking for their input shows respect and will help you approach standardized testing season as a united team.
Some teachers struggle with the pedagogy around test preparation. Model positive dialogue so teacher leaders can help field questions and concerns from others. This will guide a culture of support in staff meetings, the classroom, and beyond.
Let teachers take the lead.
It’s possible that nothing annoys teachers more than administrators telling them how to prepare students in the classroom. This is especially true if your subject specialty is far from the testing topic (e.g., a former English teacher explaining to math teachers how to prepare students for a standardized math test—oy!). Ask your teacher leaders to share their best practices regarding test preparation. Allowing teachers to take the lead on test preparation and administration creates a sentiment of agency and personal connection.
Offer teacher PD for standardized-testing support.
Teachers already have overflowing plates, and preparing students for large-scale testing is a huge add-on. Open up the discussion during staff meetings to get solutions on managing the process. The goal is to reduce teacher anxiety and confusion about test prep and procedures. Professional activity days can do wonders, too.
Dedicate time to resource creation and teacher professional development for testing periods. Teachers will embrace goals if they are given adequate emotional support, time, and resources to prepare students.
Make the goal improvement, not achievement.
School populations are dramatically impacted by socioeconomic factors. We know that schools in affluent areas tend to have higher test scores than those in lower-income neighborhoods. Some teachers working in disadvantaged areas say they become anxious about test results and how their teaching ability is perceived.
Where your school lies on the socioeconomic ladder isn’t the point. Focus on student improvement rather than student achievement. A primary goal of standardized testing is to gauge student progress. Some students may never achieve “grade level” due to a variety of factors—most of which are out of the school staff’s control. They will, however, improve their skills with your dedicated teachers and positive learning environment.
Encourage your teaching staff to change their perception of testing. Remind them it’s another method of gauging student learning, not about cramming to achieve a “level.”
What are your strategies for teacher buy-in regarding standardized testing in your home school? Share your ideas in our Principal Life Facebook group!