By Robbie Owens

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DALLAS (CBS11) – Sick with worry. That’s how some students across North Texas and the state greet each round of the high stakes state school assessment dubbed STAAR: State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness.

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Students in 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th grades are testing on Tuesday and Wednesday. Depending on the grade, the STAAR scores could determine promotions to the next grade–or in some cases, if a student will graduate high school.

“They do, they get very anxious,” admitted Michael DeLucia. DeLucia is a history teacher at Dallas’ Franklin Middle School.

Franklin Principal Joe Sotelo said he prefers that the campus by-pass the pre-test pep rallies and instead focus on learning, year round—calling preparation the campus’ anti-anxiety plan.

“I never walk past a student in the hallway without asking them a question,” said DeLucia. And he quickly makes good on his threat and grabs a passing student who moments later is explaining the Monroe Doctrine. Teachers at Franklin say they work to focus on the material, rather than the test.

“You know what your teachers have taught you all year long, just apply what you know—no big stress—and you’ll do just fine,” said DeLucia.

Of course, that’s easy to say from the teacher’s seat, right? Perhaps.

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“I don’t want them to feel that anxiety,” said Leia Altieri, now an instructional coach at Franklin. Still, once upon a time, Altieri was that sick-with-worry student.

“I was that honors kid, AP student, and I failed the math portion of the TAAS, which is what it was back then,” recalled Altieri.

Now, the former teacher is an instructional coach—helping staffers use data to determine exactly which STAAR objectives are roadblocks for students.

Then teachers provide tutoring and/or look for different ways to present the material in a way that the student better understands.

Altieri said she shares her story often with students—to provide encouragement, empathy and compassion. All three come in handy at home: she’s also a mom of a student preparing to take the STAAR. She said she helps at home, by managing her own anxiety.

“You can’t let them know you’re worried about them,” said Altieri. “Focus on the test, and not about what happens if I don’t pass this test, because the sun’s still going to come up tomorrow.”

Parents can help students perform at their best by making sure they get a good night’s rest, eat a good breakfast, arrive at school early, and are sent on their way with a little extra encouragement and reminders that they’re ready.

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“Prepare, prepare, prepare,” said DeLucia.