Standardized testing is simply a part of educating students in the world of data-driven instruction. For a student that typically schools from the comfort and security of their own home, as the majority of our students do, that task can be a bit overwhelming. Having been a test site coordinator at LAVCA, I have seen this on our students’ faces often as they entered our testing sites. While we have always strived to make our students feel safe and secure, this year our team truly refined our strategies.
Our children come to us for so many reasons. Traditional school settings have not worked for them and often the reasons relate closely to the testing environment that we have to create during state testing. Students are required to arrive on a schedule, work in large groups and complete tasks with, in some cases, strict time limits. Additionally, our children sometimes face challenges that include not knowing the person that is administering the assessment for their group, not knowing any of the other students in their respective groups and they may have previous experiences that cause additional fear or anxiety that brought them to us initially.
LAVCA staff strives to ease all of these anxieties by creating a feeling of safety and security from the first morning of testing. This year we initiated “LAVCA Spirit Days” for our students each day and our staff joined right in! The first day the students joined us was mismatch day. Staff greeted the students with a smile on their faces and their array of colored clothing. We continued the week this year with team day, “school clothes “day (pajamas for many), and school color day where we all wore our purple and green! We also worked to use our first names with the families to again, create a sense of safety and relaxation. Our final day included special treats for all students across the state that included a variety of items from local coupons to school t-shirts!
Some may think that this minimized the integrity of the testing environment but that was not the case at all. Our families recognize that we are indeed professionals and we are a step better: we are focused on our whole student; not just their academic strengths, which are certainly important! Our week ended with many families that had met heading out for picnics after pulling the kids from the open gym where they were playing games with their classmates, exchanging phone numbers and emails and even carpooling during the week and getting hugs from as many staff members as they could locate. Our staff also gets tons of hugs, photos with students and often special treats that in Louisiana often means incredible food! Have you ever heard of homemade olive salad with a fresh loaf of French bread?
Virtual students face many additional challenges when state testing time rolls around each year but our schools validate that and truly work to help make it a safe and secure zone that everyone desires. As each year passes, we will continue to address concerns that we see and strive to improve. It is one of the most positive attributes of virtual educators; no stagnation!