Getting Your Students Ready Now for the State Test: Part One
I have to tell you, this is my favorite time of year. This is the time of year when you start getting students ready to take the end-of-year assessment. I am so excited, and forgive me, but I love it.
I love it because I know so many students have used the strategies I’m about to discuss to help them excel. I love it because so many teachers have been able to see the fruits of their labors by using these strategies when teaching their students.
I designed these strategies because I sympathize with teachers who spend the entire year teaching all to have the students be unable to demonstrate their knowledge on the end-of-year assessment.
I’m fired up today to give you the following suggestions regarding testing to prepare your students and ensure the knowledge they gain in your classroom during the year can be demonstrated on state tests!
Use Regular Tests as a Model for the State Tests: The ABC’s of Testing
First, realize that it’s critical to use your regular weekly or bi-weekly assessments as practice for the state test at the end of the year. It’s something I hope you did all year, but if you didn’t, now is the perfect time to double down on what you want the kids to do while they take that test.
Immediately instruct every student to write three critical strategies in the margin of the test or on scratch paper they can use while taking the test. I like to call these three strategies the ABC’s of testing.
A might be, always take my time.
B might be, be sure to circle keywords in the questions before answering them.
C stands for carefully check and double check all answers before turning in the test.
You can make your own strategies based on the mistakes you see your students make when taking an assessment. This strategy is critical and has to be done on every test you give until the end of the year. Practice helps strategies such as these become automatic.
You want these methods to be ingrained in your students so that on test day they don’t panic but do what comes naturally, which is writing down the strategies and using them.
Watch the Clock: Prepare Students by Conducting Longer Tests
The second important suggestion I would like to give is to make sure your tests and quizzes—especially your regular assessments—are longer than usual.
Lack of endurance during testing is one of the most common issues teachers see from students during the end-of-year test. Now is the perfect time to make sure your students are able to sit for long time blocks so they’re accustomed to doing this on state test days. You cannot give 20-minute tests all year and think students can sit for an hour or an hour and a half on state test day without becoming exhausted.
Add more questions to your weekly or bi-weekly assessments. Add more open-ended questions to these assignments. Give extra credit questions at the end. Whatever you do, make sure that the students are sitting for longer periods of time now and it will pay dividends at the end of the year on your state tests.
Utilize Questions That Mimic Those on the State Test
My final suggestion in this part of the testing strategies series involves preparing your students for the rigor of state assessments.
Immediately begin using as many released state test type questions and items as you can with your students in every capacity possible. These items contain the same rigor, nomenclature, and structure your students will see on the state test.
You don’t want to teach and test one way all year and have the questions on the state assessment look completely different at the end of the year. That’s not fair to your students and it’s definitely not fair to you. I recommend using these items, as long as they aren’t copyrighted, on your quizzes.
I especially urge you to use as many of these types of items on your weekly and bi-weekly assessments as possible. During this time of the year, 80 to 90 percent of your questions should be released state test type questions.
Like many educators, I was also a coach. Every coach knows you make practice more difficult than the game. You want your students to walk out of the test on test day saying that your assessments were more difficult than what they took on state test day. Consistently and repeatedly using released state test type items will help you accomplish this.
Encouragement for Teachers
I want to leave you with these words of encouragement.
When you prepare students for the challenge of the state test, they will perform better.
If you use the strategies I’ve outlined here and you use them consistently, you will give your students a better opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they’ve learned throughout the year.
If you peruse my website, you will see many examples of schools that made tremendous gains in their test scores. These schools used many of my strategies including those mentioned in this article.
Start by implementing the strategies discussed here and see the results. Teachers—you can do this!