There are not many professions in life that do not require some kind of certification. And what is the purpose of these various certifications? To demonstrate knowledge and retention of skills necessary to complete a job. Testing is no different from that. When I teach, I make sure that I am hitting the skills that I know my students will be tested on and I will let them know that these skills will be assessed in their standardized exams. Yet I have never been accused of teaching to the test. How is that possible? I continue to teach the skill in an engaging way, catering to the needs and interests of my students. Yes, I create summative assessments that model the standardized assessment that they will encounter at the end of the year. Yes, I openly tell my students what to expect from the exam and often remind them of the skills they will be tested on, but I have never seen this as a road block in my creativity as a teacher.
I have also found that the educator’s attitude toward a standardized test is often the attitude the student will adopt. I see the test as an opportunity for my students to shine and I do my best to make my students feel this way about it, too. I remind them that they are prepared and that they are completely capable of doing well, so all they have to do is relax and show how awesome they are (and if you have to resort to your old cheerleader ways, do not feel ashamed—I never do). One of my colleagues encourages all of his students to wear the same color on the day of the test. I love this idea and how it creates a sense of camaraderie. Suddenly the test feels like a team effort and a bit like a game. If a student goes into an exam with confidence, they will perform better.