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NYC Helpline: How To: Work with Students' Families

Preparing for High-Stakes Standardized Testing

ELA Parent Workshop  Lamson Lam

(see also: Preparing for the ELA in December)

By familiarizing your families with the test and what is expected of their students, you can build a seamless partnership towards success.

Promoting your Workshop

Promoting your workshop and getting a high attendance rate is crucial.  In my school we often have very low attendance at parent events.  We have given school-wide Math workshops that have been attended by only 3 or 4 parents.  On the other hand, I have had very high attendance rates at my test preparation workshops, including one workshop on a Saturday morning which was attended by 22 out of 25 students and 21 out of 25 of their families.  Here is my "secret:"


  1. Get the Word Out Early and Often 

  • Remind students about the workshop every day for a week before your workshop. Do this during morning meeting or your time for announcements.

  • Put a reminder in your student's homework every day the week before the workshop

  • Put up notices in the school (on the door, the PTA bulletin board, etc.)

  • Send out a letter about the workshop's importance and request that the parents sign a confirmation of attendance. (Sample Letter - PDF Format)

  1. Phone Calls

Written communication often never reaches parents and/or is often disregarded. [Parents are inundated by paper throughout the school year]. Call every family either two days before the workshop or the night before (if they have already confirmed in writing, I reconfirm; if they did not confirm, I try to convince them to come).

  1. Communicate the Importance of the Workshop.

In the notices and the phone calls I remind parents how crucial this test is to their child's promotion and middle school placement.

Preparing the Workshop

  1. Get student work ready to distribute (preferably test prep work to  distribute to families).  I like to have a mix of class work and homework so parents can see some work that they might have seen before and some work that they have not.

  2. Prepare a fact sheet on the ELA like this. (PDF Format)

  3. Prepare a sheet like this. (PDF Format)

  4. Prepare a mini practice test.  I usually try to use one reading passage with accompanying multiple-choice questions, and one text with accompanying short and long answers. (the whole mini-test should be finishable in at most 30 minutes).

  5. Prepare a handout like this.

  6. Try to have some form of refreshments available.  Tell your principal or PTA president what type of workshop you are doing (it helps to give them the agenda), they may be happy to contribute approximately $20-$30 to buy some bagels and juice.

Best of luck!  



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