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What You Can Do

With so much emphasis on raising test scores, teachers may spend a disproportionate amount of time teaching test-taking skills. Responding to a class's particular interests is taboo; more innovative assignments like oral reports and group projects are out the door. In some schools, teachers have even cancelled recess to allow for more time for test prep.

What you can do about it: First, get informed. Find out which type of test is given in your child's school, what kind of (and how much) test preparation teachers are expected to give and how the scores are used by the school and the district. If you're unhappy with the answers, make some phone calls and write letters expressing your discontent to the school board, to the superintendent, to your state representative-not simply to your child's teacher, who's probably just as unhappy about the situation as you are. And remember that the best option for substantive change with any bureaucracy is to band together with other like-minded parents. "The school district is more likely to be responsive to common concerns expressed in a unified way by organized parent groups, like the PTA, than by disgruntled individuals," says Snyder.

At home, the best thing you can do for your kids is to help relieve any test-prep stress they may be feeling, especially in the lower grades when they're still developing their attitudes about school. So while it's smart to make sure they get a good night's sleep and eat a nutritious breakfast during test week, don't make a big deal about such things. Encourage your children to do their best, but let them know that there are lots of ways to excel aside from performing well on tests.


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