Raising Test Scores

With so much emphasis on standardized test scores, I wonder: what is the goal of the classroom teacher? I get the impression–based on the public outcry, the constant refrain from the superintendents of my district, and the questions of my administrators–that my objective should solely focus on raising the state test scores.

In fact, at the PLC conference I attended this last week, one speaker (Richard DuFour) listed the proven and undesirable ways we can raise standardized test scores:

  • increase drop-out rates (to reduce the number of kids taking the test),
  • send more kids to special education (to allow for more accommodations and possibly exceptions),
  • eliminate electives (to reduce the students’ focus),
  • redraw attendance boundaries (to ensure certain students go to specific schools),
  • warehouse low performing students (to create a sacrificial school), and
  • focus on the “bubble kids” (to try and just raise the scores for certain kids).

Now I can tell you my school/district has definitely implemented three of these sad strategies. Some of the decision-makers even seem proud of these decisions.

However, I come back to student capacity; this is what our classroom focus should be. If we overshoot the standards and refrain from just adding more to do, then we have a good shot at raising scores. But more importantly, we can increase student abilities.

My standardized test scores skyrocketed with two simple tactics: I simply reworded my questions to match the state test (took old esential questions and reworded them) and used the state test expectations to be the introductory exercises to more difficult concepts and skills. For example, I taught the summary and thesis paragraph explicitly en route to teaching the literary analysis paper. I basically reviewed old skills as I taught the new ones. When asked by my principal what I did to raise test scores, I basically said “nothing really.” I don’t think she believed me, but it’s true. I just reorganized and reworded what I did before.

Anyway, how many of the tactics listed above has your school used to raise test scores?


4 thoughts on “Raising Test Scores

  1. Melissa

    When talking to your principal, I think you should have taken credit for the work you did and explained exactly what you just told us. It may seem like nothing to you, but it would give your principal a better idea of strategies teachers can use to raise test scores, and would allow her to pass on your advice to new or struggling teachers (if she chose). As a new teacher, I found your two tactics very helpful, and I think others would too.

  2. drpezz Post author

    Thanks for the suggestion. I probably should have done so.

    We did have a Best Practice discussion at school last year, and the subject of this post was my contribution. I know my department members took my advice to heart, though I don’t have any idea about the rest of the building. I hope they at least tried out my suggestions. 🙂

  3. drpezz Post author

    I didn’t add this to my post, but having the students write their own test questions can help as well. I didn’t include this since I do it with most units I teach, but it could help the kids better understand the state test, too.

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