August 24, 2011

How to raise test scores

Regular readers of the ROLE Reversal blog may be shocked at the title of this post, knowing how ardently I oppose high stakes testing. Fear not, I have not been transformed into a traditional teacher or bureaucrat, who believes that standardized testing is the best way to evaluate learning.

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However, after hearing my superintendent browbeat his staff for poor returns on last year's test and subsequently listening to colleagues say we need a plan for better high stakes test scores this year, I began to ponder this issue. Even though I loathe the test, we're stuck with it, so I figured why not tell my colleagues how to raise their students' scores.

I shared how my students pass at a higher rate than their peers in traditional classes. So, what strategies do I use to prepare my students for the test, I was asked.

"Simple," I say," I do nothing. I never talk about the test. I don't teach test-taking strategies, and I don't review practice test results."

After a silent moment of astonishment, I explained that my Results Only Learning Environment is built on developing a thirst for learning. Students work on projects, they collaborate and, most importantly, they read all year. With minimal help from me, they develop the skills they need to pass any test.

So, if you want to improve scores on high stakes tests, the easiest way is to stop teaching to the test. Throw out your remedial programs and stop designating the failing students as "failures," or those "at-risk of failing." Treat all of your students the same. Get them to love learning, and they'll begin learning.

When the standardized test arrives, tell students you know they'll do well, because they have learned.

It really is this simple.