Last week we shared important information about changes to the NY State ELA and Math Assessments that will make the tests much more challenging, as well as advice about how to approach them without freaking out. This week, we're highlighting specific resources to help parents and elementary public school students prepare for the new NYS English Language Arts and Math standardized tests this April.
Keep in mind that nobody knows what will be on the new tests this year—not even publishers of test prep books. Old tests are not representative of the format or the content of the 2013 test. So the most effective test prep is to focus on the reading, writing and mathematics skills children are learning in their classrooms. Some familiarity with basic testing formats and situations can also be helpful so kids are comfortable with the experience in general.
Most schools provide some amount of test prep, information, free tutoring and practice work. If you haven't gotten any information from your kids' school, ask your children if they have done any test prep or what they know about the tests, and then follow up with their teachers.
The New York State ELA and Math Assessments are designed to test public school students' mastery of the new Common Core State Standards. You can learn more about these standards on the NYC Department of Education website and find resources to help you understand the new Common Core Standards.
Have your child do some sample test questions (there are more here) to familiarize them with the test format and content. (Just make sure your kids' teachers aren't planning on using these questions in school.)
Hiring a tutor or going to academic enrichment classes can be expensive. But there are some FREE online resources that you can use to prepare:
The website ixl.com lets kids practice math basics in short timed sessions and scores them at no cost. You can also print out free math worksheets from education.com.
If you haven't heard of Khan Academy, it is definitely worth checking it out. The site offers free lessons on many topics including math, science, history and computer science. Students watch short instructional videos and then test their learning with an online program. As they master skills, Khan Academy advances them to the next level. It's a revolutionary system that is already being used in some schools and you can try it for free from any computer.
Some NYC schools are also using the i-ready program, which offers both workbooks and an online system that is reportedly aligned with the new Common Core Standards. Schools can buy a license for the entire grade, but if your school hasn't done so, you can also purchase the workbooks yourself for about $15 each.
This year I decided to start my daughter's practice in February which helps take the pressure off for her. I also implemented an ELA countdown which she loves since it's an excuse to mark up her calendar. Whatever prep method you choose, there are some tried-and-true habits that remain highly effective for kids such as maintaining good attendance (especially during the weeks leading up to the tests), enjoying a big healthy breakfast and getting enough sleep. Of course encouraging words from us parents is also important!
Do you use other resources for standardized test prep? If so, share your favorites in the comments.