I've been giving the MCAS test at elementary school for a long time. Over the years my scores have varied, yet they tend to hover around the 1/4-1/3 to 3/4-2/3 differential in both ELA and Math. There's been that rare year when everyone scored in proficient and advanced in a subject, but mainly there's a larger group in proficient/advanced and a smaller fraction in Needs Improvement/Warning.
Our students generally come from highly educated, loving families who have the ability to care for their children well and support our schools with care. Obviously, those are significant reasons why our students generally score well at all grades.
As I looked at the scores today, I was reminded of the following points to help our students do well on these standardized tests:
- Make sure that all children complete daily, meaningful practice in reading, writing and math.
- Strategically match students with teaching assistants and specialist teachers to support growth.
- Monitor progress regularly with formative assessments and adapt instruction when needed to promote growth.
- Nurture a positive, student-friendly learning environment.
- Embed standards in meaningful, engaging project base learning whenever possible.
- Provide regular feedback to students and hold students to high standards.
- In math, provide students who fall well below the grade level standards a chance to strengthen their mathematical foundation skills.
- Create short term, challenging and realistic goals with students and strategize with children as to how to met those goals.
- Collaborate with the teaching team regularly to share successes and challenges as a way of promoting the best possible collective program.
- Implement PLC (professional learning communities) and RTI (response to intervention) to promote targeted student growth.
- Regularly provide feedback and don't let anyone "fly under the radar" by not completing assignments in class or for homework.
Good teaching matters, and there are many strategies we can employ to help students learn well. What would you add to my list? What would you take away?
While some do not support standardized testing, I continue to be a fan of streamlined testing at fourth grade. Since testing I have noticed greater attention towards those who are challenged by reading, and greater investment by all parents. Also, testing at fourth grade focuses on essential skills; skills that every child will need to move forward in their academic lives so these are standards I can live with.
The key is to take these standards and make them a part of lively, meaningful student-friendly projects that also build 21st century skills of critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. Onward.