Motivating Students Before and After Testing

Luz Martinez

By Dr. Luz Martinez

Since the publication of “No Child Left Behind,”  high-stakes testing has become a current reality in our educational environments. In this reality, students of various grade levels are required to take standardized tests in specific areas and in specific subjects. Districts and schools receive accountability reports every school year leading to strategic changes in budget, personnel, curriculum, instruction, and programs.

Additionally, based on the results of these tests, schools make important decisions that directly affect students. These decisions include making a student repeat a grade, preventing students from graduating from high school, mandating curriculum and instruction based on prescribed interventions/remediation, rewarding or sanctioning schools, labeling students, etc.

When students don’t achieve success, they are required to participate in mandated targeted interventions before retaking these tests until they successfully pass them or until they are exempted for specific allowable reasons. One of these high-stakes test is the STAAR/EOC for students in grades third to high school.

Needless to say, many are the stressors faced by students and teachers when dealing with high-stakes testing. Click To Tweet

Needless to say, many are the stressors faced by students and teachers when dealing with high-stakes testing. The American Psychological Association (APA) surveyed teens, ages 13 to 17, living in the United States in an effort to understand how teens experience stress and the impact that stress had on their lives.

Respondents reported stress levels far above what they view as healthy, and on average, teens reported stress levels were higher than adult reported stress levels (APA, 2014).

Even though tests can cause stress and anxiety teachers and students can overcome it and achieve success. In this effort, it is standards-aligned, engaging, and rigorous instruction along with regular practice tests and/or benchmarks that can help students and teachers work together to tackle learning gaps, develop and practice test-taking strategies, and manage test anxiety/stress.

It is crucial for teachers to be intentional when encouraging and motivating students before and after testing. Click To Tweet

It is crucial for teachers to be intentional when encouraging and motivating students before and after testing. We know that teachers work very hard all year, knowing that, in part, testing results will be used to “judge” their performance.

Students are also aware of the realities of how testing results will be used to “judge” their academic performance and that testing results will be used as yard-stick to make decisions on their educational future. Hence, besides providing students with high quality instruction and appropriate and timely interventions, it is crucial to motivate and encourage students before and after STAAR testing.

Some good examples for motivating students before and after testing include:

  • Encourage students to get plenty of sleep before test day as well as the weekend preceding the test.
  • Encourage students to relax and engage in fun activities that will help them release stress.
  • Define Test Reality. Talk to students about what is really at stake with each test.
  • Set high, yet realistic expectations. Make sure to voice those expectations. Set short terms goals and celebrate when they are achieved.
  • Build a culture of success around testing, instead of a culture of fear.
  • There are certain skills that must be taught and practiced, not just for the test, but for life. Focus on engaging students on developing and mastering Future Ready Skills. Discuss with them the importance of these skills for school and beyond. 
  • Teach students that “For Success, Attitude is as Important as Ability”. 
  • Provide great Tier I instruction and appropriate and timely interventions. 
  • Work strategically and intentionally throughout the school year on building self-esteem, confidence, and personal and school pride. Telling students that anything in which they put their name, represents them and follows them for life.
  • Discuss with students inspirational messages, videos, and stories.
  • Once results are available, share them with students. Have a plan to help students identify their strengths and areas in need of improvement and support. Don’t just focus on pass/fail. Focus on students’ strengths and goal-setting to improve challenging areas.
  • Celebrate Success and effort!  Thank students for their effort and encourage them to pursue in their learning and to practice harder.
  • Encourage students who are not there “yet” to understand and embrace “The Power of Yet“. They can achieve success, but it takes work and focus.
  • Review assessment results and develop a plan based on data. 
  • Continue building students’ self-esteem, test-taking strategies, and academic knowledge.
  • Continue building a culture of success, instead of a culture of fear.
  • Provide high quality, standards-aligned, engaging, and rigorous instruction every day and every period.
  • Remember that TEACHERS are the best resource to help students accomplish their goals and experience success!

What are your favorite ways to motivate students?


1 thought on “Motivating Students Before and After Testing

  1. Beautifully written, Dr. Martinez! I cannot wait to share these tips with my teachers; what relevant suggestions for this time of year.

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