High-Stakes Testing: Strategies by Teachers and Principals for Student Success

Article excerpt

Principals and teachers recommend strategies to prepare and motivate students for high-stakes testing. Strategies are based on what they determine to be effective for student success.

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With the increase of testing in our schools, teachers and principals need to recognize their role and commitment to student performance relative to state-mandated testing. Teachers and principals are responsible to enhance and measure student learning within their classrooms/schools; they are also responsible to prepare and motivate students for high-stakes testing. "The number of students tested annually has skyrocketed as all 50 states have exams in operation, with even more grades--seven in all--required to administer tests" (Foote, 2007, p. 359). Further, testing of students is occurring at a time when schools are being scrutinized by federal and state policy makers based on student scores (Snyder, 2004). Therefore, teachers and principals must examine, develop, and implement strategies to help students obtain educational gains that increase their test scores.

Purpose

The purpose of this article is to note the various strategies that teachers and principals implement in preparing and motivating students for high-stakes testing. The strategies stated are based on current teachers' and principals' recommendations.

Teachers' Recommendations

Teachers need to know the complexities of the knowledge and skills their students are expected to learn for the state mandated tests. Dedicated teachers are constantly searching for ways to provide opportunities for their students to practice prior to stepping into the high-stakes-test-taking experience. They begin early (the first day of school) to provide students with practice while incorporating content and concepts into their daily instruction. Other strategies are to:

* Synthesize curriculum alignment to standards, employ curriculum mapping, and prepare curriculum benchmarks.

* Be aware of the glossary of terms used by your state. Teach those vocabulary terms so students have a knowledge base when taking the test.

* Repeat test taking vocabulary and identify vocabulary development exercises.

* Point out test prep strategies focusing on test preparation ideas (sharpened pencils, eating habits, sleep, how to read the questions).

According to McCabe (2006, p. 5) "verbal persuasion" is very effective. Verbal feedback assists and informs learners of their success. Students have higher feelings of self-efficacy relative to test-taking performance particularly when the feedback is positive, specific, and detailed. Receiving positive statements is just as important to student success as the teacher's content knowledge.

Other strategies that make practice important for the high-stakes tests are having students recognize the importance of highlighting, note tags, notebooks (used as study guides), and graphic organizers. Further, teachers suggest that it is wise to use assessment released items for the students to practice.

Make certain daily classroom assessments correlate to the state standards. It is wise to implement daily lessons citing the state standard(s) in student friendly language. Rubrics that are teacher-developed must encompass the state standards. They recommend using varied means of assessment. Of particular importance, teachers recognize the need to evaluate their classroom assessments. The results from the assessments drive instruction to deeper levels and assist with concept attainment for students.

If your state requires rulers, protractors, etc., explain these artifacts and incorporate usage into regular instruction. Teachers suggest a better quality of these items, as the less expensive ones cause challenges for the students learning to manipulate these tools.

In addition, teachers recommend illustrating reading prompts and the scoring guides used by the state. …