Case Studies
September 28, 2023

Can Team Challenges Make State Testing Less Stressful? Anson ISD Thinks So.

Less stress and more success—Learn how Anson Elementary conquered exam anxiety with a House Party Challenge.

Research estimates between 25% and 40% of students experience test anxiety, and it’s even worse for high-stakes state tests. But what if it didn't have to be that way?

Anson ISD in Texas is proof that the right preparation can make testing less stressful for students–and help them perform their best. In a school pilot, Anson Elementary organized students into Harry Potter-esque houses while teachers harnessed the magic of evidence-based methods like cultivating belonging and low-stakes formative assessment. 

They called it the House Party Challenge.

Read on for step-by-step instructions to host your own House Party Challenge: 

1. Carve out planning time for teachers to prepare purposeful practice resources 

With an average of just 47 minutes of planning time per day nationwide, teachers crave time more than a fresh set of Expo markers. 

As an essential first step, Anson ISD blocked time to help their teachers prepare practice problems using released state test questions and state-test aligned digital assessments with new question types. 

2. Move from individual competition to collaboration with “House” teams 

If the significance of student belonging feels hokey, just ask John Hattie, a world-renowned educational researcher who found that fostering a sense of belonging in school had a direct impact on academic success. 

Anson Elementary created “House” teams to cultivate team pride, activate belonging, and increase student motivation. Students received team shirts with team shields and even planned out team chants. 

3. Bring your school community together for large-scale, low-stakes assessment 

Formative assessments help students practice and learn from mistakes without penalty. 

Every Friday to kick off their House Party Challenge, Anson Elementary reduced stress with a 10-minute dance, song, or SEL activity hosted by the guidance counselor. 

After warming up, students completed test-aligned practice questions for 10 minutes in each core subject. To keep team motivation high, teachers used three Clevertouch digital whiteboards to display the Quizizz Leaderboard’s live results. 

4. Use the data to inform instruction, intervention, and assignments  

Utilizing intervention blocks can help teachers target supports to students according to their specific needs. 

The Anson Elementary team used House Party Challenge results to inform full-class instruction and to establish a daily intervention period called What I Need (WIN) time. They also tracked Attendance, Accelerated Reader completion, and various teamwork challenges for each team.

So, can test prep be less stressful and more fun? The Anson ISD data is (almost) in.  

Although 2023 schoolwide STAAR reports are not released to the public yet, the elementary school cited “significant growth” from the previous year, said Amber Jobe, Digital Coach at Anson ISD

No state test prep is perfect, but implementing a House Party Challenge (or your own version) is more than a fun activity: it can truly move the needle to support your students and teachers this school year.

“When we sat down and really started to think about state test prep for our district, we wanted to take away some of the pressure and stress. We wanted to make it seem different and fun, not only for the students, but for the teachers,” Jobe said. “The House Party Challenges helped set the positive mindset for the campus about striving for growth, and Quizizz provided repetitive exposure for our students to the new state test question types. This helped ease anxiety so that the students could focus better on the content.”
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