Schools statewide will begin the process of TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) testing on Tuesday, and many Stephenville ISD students will join in, too.

Students must pass the state-mandated TAKS test in order to advance to the next grade level, and the pressures placed on them to do so has school administrators and teachers encouraging students that it’s simply another test and to do their best.

During the week, all grade levels beginning with the third grade and excluding sixth, will be tested in Reading, English/Language Arts and at the EXIT level for local high school students.

Across Texas, some school principals will attempt to motivate students with promises of dyed-hair and pep rallies, but Stephenville ISD is taking its own approach to get students ready for the big exam, says Dr. Joyce Anderson, SISD’s director of testing.

“This assessment is what we call a ‘summative assessment’ and we like to approach it from the standpoint that teachers have been preparing the students throughout the year,” said Anderson. “We’d like for the students to demonstrate how much they’ve learned this year, rather than saying it’s the biggest test of the year. We feel that by focusing too much on the test causes more stress.”

As TAKS testing has become more and more serious, with student promotions and school ratings dependent upon test performance, Anderson says local campus administrators have stuck by their year-long mantra: do your best all the time.

While stories of students failing to meet the standards circulate around some campuses, and others becoming so nervous it causes young children to get sick, Anderson says it’s the goal of teachers and principals to ease the anxieties and provide the most comfortable testing environment as possible this week.

TAKS testing usually consumes entire campuses, even for those grade levels not filling in answer sheets. School bells will be silenced and non-test takers will be reminded to remain quiet on the way to the restroom.

“We strive to provide the most positive test environment we can. We’ll test some students in small groups and some individually for the benefit of the student,” said Anderson. “We’re always focused on what we can do to make the test situation more comfortable.”

Throughout the year, local students have been subjected to benchmark TAKS tests to familiarize them with the real deal, says Anderson. “When we are training our students by giving them an answer document that is bubbled in like the real TAKS answer document, we hope that when they see these on test day, it’s no big deal to them because they’ve seen these forms before.”

Anderson says the majority of SISD’s students are “regular test takers” and the number of students in a test room is kept to a minimum - usually 22 per classroom. “We train additional test administrators so that we can offer individual or small group administration to make them feel at ease.”

Local educators knowing the importance of the test also remind parents to help ease test anxiety at home, says Anderson. “Teachers have talked to the students about test-taking strategies, but for parents, we ask that they make certain their child comes to school in a good mood about the test. Reassure the student that everything they’ve learned, they will be able to demonstrate on the test.”

Some campuses will prepare snacks for the students prior to testing so that the test-takers are comfortable about being at school, said Anderson.

“To me, progress is what we’re looking for and we do continue to make gains every year,” said Anderson of the upcoming TAKS.

“When you think about it, it’s like preparing for a game. This test is your competition and you’ve worked out, you’ve practiced and done everything you can do for your performance on game day to beat your competitor. And here we are. You’ve practiced well and you know what you’re doing. Just settle in and show everything you’ve learned and you’ll do well.”

Stephenville ISD provided the following tips for parents and their students to be ready for this week’s TAKS testing:

Physical Readiness

• Get a good night’s sleep.

• Eat a healthy breakfast.

• Wear comfortable clothing, as long as you follow school dress code.

• Do not forget to take medications as prescribed by your doctor.

• If you are supposed to wear glasses or contacts, wear them.

Reduce Anxiety

• Be on time to school.

• Pace yourself during the test. Remember you have as much time as you need.

• Don’t worry about the whole test at once - tackle questions one at a time.

• Don’t “score” yourself as you take the test.

• Don’t look for letter patterns of correct answers.

• Don’t panic if you have a memory lapse or mental block. This is normal. Go on to the next item and come back to the trouble spot later.

• Don’t expect to know the answer to every question. Expect some items to be too hard. Just do your best.

• Avoid unnecessary clock-watching, but do be aware of the time.

• Ignore other test takers.

• Think positively.

• Don’t give up!

Follow Directions

• Read all directions carefully.

• Do the sample questions even though you think you understand.

• If you don’t completely understand what to do, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.

• Sometimes you will need to re-read the directions or the questions to be sure you are answering what is being asked.

• Don’t assume that all the questions in the same section follow the same pattern. One question may ask for a true statement, the next may ask which statement is not true.

• Don’t guess wildly on a question. Try to eliminate one or two choices to a question. If you guess, make an “educated guess.”

• Make sure that your answers are on the answer document.

Test-Taking Strategies

• Read the questions first. Then read the paragraph.

• Understand that reading to answer specific questions is a different task than reading for content mastery.

• Answer the easiest questions first.

• Skip over the more difficult items and come back to them later. List these numbers on scratch paper and be sure to skip that row on your answer sheet.