March 30, 2013

Sometimes You Have to Teach to the Test

I'm linking up with Stephanie over at Middle School Matters Blog for her Favorite Finds linky as we head into our last week of preparation for the big, standardized test!

Okay, don't tell my administration this, but one thing I think they did well was provide our students will several practice assessments to gauge our readiness for the state test. We took our first test in the first weeks of school, and then we re-assessed them again at Midterms (end of first semester) and at the end of February.

Our practice tests are released from the state, and they've been very helpful in learning how my students will be assessed. It's one thing to know what standards I'm supposed to teach, but it's another thing to know how they will have to demonstrate that knowledge.

For the last practice test, I asked my administration to break up their scores into the following five areas: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, using information resources, and proofreading. Using their data, I was able to see where we needed to do the most review: Using Information Resources.

This is the part of the test my students always think they master and are shocked when they see their low, low scores. So, we spent the past week discussing the different types of questions and how to best answer them.

OK... here's the part of my post where I admit that although it goes against every fiber of my being, I have completely succumbed, in the past couple weeks, to teaching to the test.

BUT

It worked. When we took the post-test on Wednesday, every single student in my class scored mastery or even advanced on this section of the test.

My lesson here?

Sometimes, when the stakes are this high, good teaching is kinda thrown out the window in order to give our students the skills they need to pass the test. Whether or not I agree with the standardized test will not change the fact that my students have to take them. Nor will it change the fact that their scores impact their ability to move on to high school as well as my salary (and bonus).

So, do my students know how to write beautiful bibliographies? No. But, they do know how to use the sample page as a guide to answer a question about which of the four provided citations is correct.

Can they tell you which resource is the best for learning X information? Maybe not. But they do know to check the four resources listed and look for that specific text.

My advice to teachers is to check the department of education's website for your state. Here's a complete listing of released state tests. Sometimes, the problem is that students aren't familiar with the testing format, so I definitely see the value in giving your students practice answering questions that are aligned to your state tests.

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