July 15, 2011

ROLE students outperform peers on standardized tests

People who understand a Results Only Learning Environment know that it abandons traditional teaching methods -- lecture, homework, worksheets, multiple-choice tests and grades. Still, many wonder how students in this progressive system will perform on standardized tests.

Teaching in a results-only classroom, abandoning all test-preparation practices, 84 percent of my students passed the Ohio Achievement Assessment last year. Although this may not be seem impressive at first glance, my ROLE students outperformed their peers in traditional classrooms, and I never taught to the test or used test-taking strategies.

Minority students in the ROLE performed far better than in previous years, when I used traditional methods. Seventy-seven percent of African Americans in my class passed the test – 13% more than the prior two years combined. Even more astounding is that 62% of the black students at my school who failed the OAA were taught in traditional classrooms by traditional teachers, who spent a good portion of the school year teaching to the test.

These comparisons are in no way meant to create a competition. I have no interest in winding up on top of a standardized test numbers game. The statistics only serve to illustrate the effectiveness of results-only learning.

Most teachers spend day after day deciding how to apply state standards to activities, so they can get their students to pass a high stakes test. Many teachers use parts of dozens of class periods throughout the school year teaching test-taking strategies – a fruitless endeavor. Although most will say that teaching students how to take a test helps them do well, there’s very little empirical data to support this supposition. And, of course, there’s my own data against teaching to the test. During the two years prior to creating a ROLE, I labored feverishly on test-taking strategies with my students, only to see 26 percent of them fail the test.

The best of both worlds

The central point here is that students in a Results Only Learning Environment will perform at least as well on standardized tests as their peers in traditional classes; they will do better, if they try, in most cases. What’s most important, however, is not the correlation between results-only strategies and test achievement; rather, it is that students in a ROLE will learn far more than students in traditional classes, while performing at least as well on standardized tests.

The results-only classroom presents the best of both worlds – real learning coupled with the state’s misguided perception of achievement, as demonstrated by high stakes test results.

As long as the insidious test exists and school administrators are forced to see it as the be-all and end-all of learning, teachers have to get their students to pass it at acceptable rates. Real learning no longer has to be lost in the process, though. The Results Only Learning Environment has proven this.