Bernard Pierorazio

Leader, Educator, Activist

Tag: common core

Testing Anxiety and Tips to Handle It

o-STRESSED-KIDS-facebookContrary to popular belief, high achievement isn’t merely testing gains and testing results. In fact, the product of talent comes down to our internal belief about our own abilities, skills, and overall potential for succeed. While foundational skills and standard knowledge plays a significant factor for our student’s achievement, we also have to be aware of how confidence plays a role within the day-to-day operations within our classrooms.

During the wake of testing season, everyone feels some type of nervousness and anxiety about their own personal performance on an exam. Much of this can be attributed to the rising expectation and standards for the new 2016 Common Core state examination. For some schools, this isn’t a big deal. But for a majority of public and charter schools across the United States, these exams, especially their outcomes, are strong indicators for the overall success rate for the students, the teachers, and finally, the schools themselves. As much as we can press on the idea that data can have a significant impact on student achievement, we also have to be cognizant about the negative ramifications testing, especially testing anxiety, can have on our students today.

When we talk about testing anxiety, we are essentially talking about performance anxiety. Performance anxiety, by definition, this type of nervousness is the feeling someone has in a particular situation where the pressure for performing well negatively hinders his or her ability to execute. While we usually associate performance anxiety with situations like public speeches or ‘big’ athletic games, testing, especially with state mandated examinations, can also fall within this category. For many extreme situations, testing can lead children to endure negative physical and mental stressors such as lack of confidence, depression, and other various breakdowns like anxiety, crying, or worse. Because of this, it is our jobs to recognize the ever-growing problem testing can have on our student and their future.

To alleviate the pressures, we first and foremost need to understand what the pressures of testing can do for our students. Think about it. A person with a fixed negative mindset will and will always believe that his or her intelligence is static. In comparison, a person with a growing and optimistic mindset will believe that their intelligence, and performance, can develop into something greater. Understanding the distinction between these two extremes can have a tremendous implication for motivation and confidence, especially during test day.

So how can we boost the morale of our students, especially for those future leaders of tomorrow who have focused on the negative ramifications of not performing?

To prevent your students from derailing their own success, it is imperative that you continue to cultivate a positive and safe working environment within your classroom. Even if it is days before the exam, you as an educator have the power to change the overall atmosphere of how they can approach the exam. To better prepare them, be sure to plan a well-executed study review session. For many students, they automatically feel that anxiety because they feel ill prepared for the topics on the test. To ease that tension, make sure you consolidate an entire review plan that hit the main points for the state test (Note: this may require multiple days). Be sure to provide them plenty of time to review. One of the biggest mistakes you can do for your students is to try and cram every bit of material before the examination. Rather than do this and build more anxiety, try and focus on the main points. Go as far as to combine relatable Common Core standards that can be leveraged within just one lesson.

In addition to a study review, make sure you can leverage the stress of the test as a motivator for success. While stress can have damaging affects on our student’s performance, we as educational leaders can utilize that feeling as a positive motivator. For some schools they hold rallies. For others, the teachers themselves use positive speeches and optimistic discussions to build up each student’s confidence. Whatever you do, make sure you are showing your students that you are rooting for them. That support can go a long way.

Last but not least, constantly remind your students to eat well, sleep, and relax before the exam. For any test, inopportune situations such as an empty stomach or lack of sleep can directly impact a student’s performance. Reiterate to your students to get a good night’s rest and have a healthy filling breakfast.

The New Age of Teaching: Bell-To-Bell


Unlike the antiquated style of teaching where in the past a teacher can stand in front of a classroom and lecture for an entire hour, the new supportive instructional delivery has taken a more interactive stance of what is required by both the teacher and their students. A lot of this is shaped by the new Common Core State Standards that require teachers to rethink and reflect the way in which they support their student each and every day. But with this new style of teaching, we have to ask ourselves if the new instructional deliveries are beneficial to the teachers and their students.

While many educators may disagree with the style and concepts of the Common Core State Standard initiatives, we need to take into consideration that the world has changed. And with that change, we also need to view holistically the evolution of education. Where we were and what we learned five years ago, ten years ago is completely different to what our students are learning today. Because of that simple reason, we as educators need to make a shift within our system and succumb to the concept of change in order to improve the lifestyle and learning for the betterment of our students. If we do not, we are not just hurting the academic profession, but the future leaders of tomorrow.

So how does it work? What do these new teaching initiatives look like on a day-to-day basis?


When creating your lesson plan, you need to think of the overall bigger picture. Simply put it, plan out your goals. To do this, you need to look at the entire curriculum and what you want to accomplish at the end of each academic quarter. This is what we call, backwards planning. Backwards planning, also referred to as backwards mapping, is the process that an educator uses to design instructional techniques and lesson plans in order to achieve a specific learning goal. By conceptualizing and framing your day-to-day lessons as necessary building blocks, you will be able to truly transform the impact you can have on your students in just a few months. In addition, backwards planning allows you to foresee any future problems such as difficult lessons or challenging concepts that will be necessary for the growth of your students. By planning strategically, you will be able to accommodate for any speed bumps you can see down around the road. This will thus, in turn provide you with stronger lessons so that you and your students can reach your academic objectives.

Once you develop your goals (quarterly, weekly, and daily), you will be able to begin planning your day-to-day instructions. With the new instructional initiatives, you will see your day broken down into five parts:

  1. Bell Ringer: review or preview
  2. I-DO: teacher led instructions
  3. We Do: group work and class work
  4. You Do: Independent work
  5. D.I.: differentiated instructional groups

While these concepts may seem foreign, do not be intimidated. These parts, once mastered, will allow you to deliver your lesson plans and work independently with each student each and every day.

Bell Ringer: Review or Preview

To begin the day, start by giving your students a quick assignment that can be easily accomplished within a five to seven minute span. While essentially you can provide any type of assignment, you want to make sure you pick a task that is beneficial and strategic to your lesson and your objectives. You can do this by either optimizing a review assignment or previewing a task for your current lesson. Keep in mind, this is not your lesson. This portion should only take a couple of minutes. Any bell ringer that is more than ten minutes can compromise your goals for that day.


I-Do – Teacher Led Discussion

While we do want to move away from the antiquated style of teaching, that does not mean we want to completely eliminating it from the field. For this portion, you will be doing most of the talking. As you lecture, make sure you provide easily understood information and examples so that your students can comprehend and replicate for the later sections. To enhance engagement, try and utilize visual tactics throughout your presentation such as teacher modeling, gestures, and teacher examples. In addition, provide your students with the necessary notes that they will utilize later on in the day or course. Lastly, be cognizant of your time. The biggest mistake teachers’ make is going over time with their teacher led discussions. Try to keep this to around 15 to 20 minutes. If you happen to go over time, note that you will have to cut some of the other sections so that you stay on pace.

We-Do – Group Work – Team Work

With the ‘We Do’ portion, group your students in either pairs or table groups so that they can collaborate and discuss with one another. This is the portion where students are able to interact and learn from one another. One helpful hint is to keep your ‘teacher-led’ example up on the board so that they can reference your example if they are having any troubles. While the students are working together, move around the classroom. Sit in on some groups and discuss a variety of ideas and how they came about with that answer. Afterwards, bring the class together and give them the opportunity to share their group answers with the rest of the class.

You-DO – Independent Work

Once you have finished the ‘We-Do’ portion of the class, have the students attempt the assignment quietly and independently. Provide them with a new problem or topic. While they are working by themselves, continue to walk around the room and work with students you saw struggling throughout the lesson. This will give you an opportunity to provide them with that necessary one-on-one time to truly learn the material.


Differentiated Instructions Group

This is often the section where many teachers overlook. As much as they can cut this out of their lessons, you need to understand the importance and benefit that this can have on your students. A differentiated instruction begins with students moving into their specific groups, usually based on their statewide scores. By meeting with these groups, you will be able to work with the students who most need the help. Remember, the students entering your classroom are not all on the same level. To make that a reality, you need to provide the extra time, dedication, and support to get them to where they need to be.

Education Reform Infograph: Back to School Statistics


How Common Core Doubles Down on No Child Left Behind

common core graph

The Real Problem Regarding Teacher Accountability


For the past two decades, the standard and accountability for teacher led instructions, also known as teacher accountability, have dominated the political discourse in the United States. This movement, sparked immediately from President Bush’s No Child Left Behind act, adheres to three common principles: The first holds to the improvement and national standard for academic structure or what is required for student learning. The second is the focus on analytical and statistical tracking of student growth and data, often measured by statewide examinations. And finally the third, which looks deeply the educator’s tactics and teacher, led instructions for both student engagement and student success.

On the face of it, these three principles seem relatively logical and well intentioned for the betterment of education equity. However, like any perfect plan, there are always changes and flaws during the process. The idea of keeping teachers and students alike for unrealistic expectations has driven our education system down a incredibly misguided and unintended path. This problem has even escalated in which teacher retention rates have continued to decrease year after year where reportedly more than 50% of new educators are said to leave the classroom before their five-year mark. With this type of fluctuation and lack of consistency, we have to ask our selves if what we are doing for our educators and our children is the right thing for their futures.

When it comes down to it, the problems merely are not the standards themselves. Rather it is the teacher accountability associated with the standards. Yes, there is a specific spectrum in which teachers should be evaluated. But can we truly put the initial blame on educators who go above and beyond for our students? Are they the reasons why our education system is failing? The answer here is simple. It is NO. They are not the reason. Yes they have an impact, but the overall concept of putting them at fault for an almost impossible task is something we need to grasp as a nation.

At times, educators, and even students, have viewed the word accountability to be synonymous for the phrase “do work.” This type of negative connotation, over worked, and under appreciated phrase that “accountability” has is what is leading to the exit of both new and veteran teachers. This problem escalades quickly with disrupted systems, lack of cohesion, and long-term negative effects on both the schools and their students.

So what is teacher accountability? Why does this play a large role in their work?

Teacher accountability, by definition, is when educators are committed to provide quality programs and welcome accountable lessons that are strategic, effective, and achievable in producing meaningful results. With the new national Common Core State Standards, teacher accountability has changed. While there is some merit to the new standards such as stronger executed lessons, the overall concept and judgmental critiquing overlooks the natural and organic student engagement with these common core academic models. Many educators argue that the standards and new curriculum is merely to teach for the test than to teach for the student.

While I unequivocally agree that teachers must take partial responsibility for their student’s achievement, we also need to be aware that there are other external factors at play. Teachers oftentimes do not have any control on the lack of resources or unrealistic timing and expectation that is asked from them day-in and day-out. This burden from the local media and the national political agendas have distorted this problem to be solely about the teacher, when in reality factors such as poverty, community, the entire education system, and much more all play a part is our student’s success. When these factors do play a role, everyone seems to take a blind eye by the surrounding elements and look for a quick and easy escape goat.

To alleviate this problem, we need to move away from the blame game and look at the impacting problems educators go through each and every day with their students. While we cannot deny that we will be faced with some individuals who have taken a backseat to the field as a whole, we also need to recognize that a vast majority of teachers are in the classrooms from 6 am to 5 pm preparing, teaching, and aiding our future leaders. What we as a nation and as a whole need to do is that we have to be realistic about the problems. These problems cannot be solved simply with a new agenda or a new representative. Rather, it needs dedicated and invested individuals who are willing to put the time and effort in making this a tangible goal.




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