So much more than just a number

Published 7:20 pm Friday, May 4, 2018

This time of year, anyone with a child in third grade or above is thinking about End of Grade tests, or EOGs. Kids get nervous when they hear constant testing talk, and parents get anxious when they don’t fully understand the process. We know, however, that worry only interferes with performance, so it’s important to keep fears under control. Here’s what you need to know.

First, as most parents and teachers realize, EOGs are not the end-all, be-all markers of a child’s academic skills. They are just one of many measures schools use to determine your child’s progress. Because EOGs are also used to judge the school’s overall performance, they loom larger, and everyone feels the pressure. When it comes to your child’s individual situation, however, the whole picture is always more important than one test score.

Also, remember that final decisions about retention, or whether the child has to repeat his grade, are made at the school level. There, those who know the child can take into consideration all of the factors at play. Principals and teachers can consider overall classroom performance, performance on benchmarks along the way and improvement with tutoring; then, they can make a recommendation for your child.

This late in the school year, most of the learning is already complete. Although it never hurts to brush up on facts or skills your child has had more trouble with, now it’s time to focus more on your child’s mental preparation. Sometimes parents, who may disagree with testing, find it hard to encourage positive thinking about EOGs. Nevertheless, these tests are mandated, meaning your child still has to take them, regardless whether you think they’re useful.

No matter how concerned you are, try to put aside your personal fears or frustrations about these tests, because when your child forms his ideas about EOGs, he’ll take his cues from you. Remain calm and help your child do the same. Encourage a good attitude, just as you would for any other test or assignment. If your child is worried, however, you will need to reassure him.

Sometimes it’s the strongest students who worry the most. If your child tends to be a successful student and has done well all year, remind him that he knows the material. Help him understand that worry will only get in the way. If he would like to review things he’s less confident about, feel free, but keep it short, light and low pressure.

If your child has struggled, however, he already knows his worries are valid, so he may be harder to reassure. Again, you can review specific topics if you’d like, but overall, he needs to know that things will be okay even if he doesn’t do well. Remind him not to get flustered or bogged down on questions he doesn’t know. Most of all, let him know that you will love him no matter what. If you’re truly afraid that your child may not pass the test, talk with the teacher or school administrator to learn more about your options.

Finally, in all the mental preparations, don’t forget the basics a child needs to do well on any performance measure. Remember to provide a good breakfast with adequate protein that will sustain energy through several hours of testing. Avoid sugary carbohydrates that might cause him to feel sluggish or sleepy soon after he eats. Furthermore, not only does he need good sleep the night before testing, he also needs plenty of rest in the weeks leading up to it. Consistent bedtimes will help avoid a sleep deficit that could interfere with concentration and efficiency.

Overall, EOGs are stressful for everyone — students, parents, teachers, administrators. As with any other stressor, the key to managing anxiety is to keep the situation in perspective. Remember that those working with your child want him to succeed. Regardless of his score, your child will always be so much more than just a number.

Tamara Stevens, MA, is a child psychologist with Washington Pediatrics and can be reached by calling 252-946-4134.