A Three-Step Approach to Prepare Students for Standardized Tests

Most Michigan high school teachers understand the significance of obtaining high scores on the Michigan Merit Exam (MME.) They talk about the intense pressure from administration, frustration with apathetic students, and misinformed parents. However, preparing for the MME does not need to be a frustrating process. This article explores three steps to increase student achievement as well as minimize teacher frustration.

It should go without saying that educators, parents, students, and administrators should all familiarize themselves with the MME’s basics. Holding a public meeting for all test-takers’ families during the fall prior to the exam allows all parties a forum to explain and discuss the test. For convenience, here are some bullet points of discussion at such an event, including the basic components of the test from Michigan’s Department of Education:

* All juniors and eligible seniors take the MME exam.
* The test is administered each March.
* The three parts to the assessment include the “ACT Plus Writing” test, the “WorkKeys®” job skills assessment, and additional Michigan-created questions in math, science, and social studies. Motivation: individual recognition, set a focused goal, sign a “commitment to try” contract Self-preparation: study guides, online training, digital apps

Overall, the goal of a public MME forum is to emphasize the proactive approach and supportive environment between the district and community. It should not become a complaining session.

As the exam grows closer, students should brush up on major concepts and test taking strategies. To facilitate this process, about a month prior to the exam teachers could lead a week-long “MME prep.” The teachers at Homer Community Schools have successfully implemented such an approach. During the first half of three school days test-takers rotate through subject area sessions and take sample tests in the computer lab. Teachers discuss subject-specific strategies for the exam and review major ideas. This process reminds students of the school’s focus on helping them find success.

Finally, the MME approaches. With so much riding on the test, the school culture often becomes inundated with a bundle of nerves. Use this time to host an assembly focusing on the good academics of the school. Remind students of school rewards set up for earning high scores on the test. Also have some fun by creating some sort of educational competition, or do a school clean-up project. Put up encouraging banners in the halls such as “You can do it!” or “Rock the MME!” These projects help because laughter eases anxiety. Yet, it is a way to have students work together toward a common goal, just as they will be doing on the test.

Using these three stages to prepare students for state assessments benefits educators and students. Establishing communication early in the year with the community encourages support from home. Reviewing major concepts with students a month before the test focuses their studies. Utilizing fun, positive thinking activities a few days before testing helps ease anxiety. All in all, preparing students for the Michigan Merit Exam does not need to be a daunting process. Consistent, open communication about the test with all interested parties can be simple and perhaps even fun.

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