TestSMART: Teacher Toolkit
Check out these success stories about how our administrators, counselors and teachers are helping students do their best on their tests.
- Free for all: Many of these great strategies cost little or nothing.
Millennial Tech gets near perfect attendance by running contests with kid-friendly prizes, like a pass to play electronic games during lunch, and tickets to the head of the lunch line.
Golden Hill K-8 rallies parents and teachers to write little personal stickie notes of encouragement to their student – a big confidence booster.
- Get financial help: Despite district budget woes, there are untapped federal funds for programs aimed at raising student achievement, including performance on standardized testing, when schools use the proven method of involving parents.
- Speaking frankly: At Millennial Tech, teachers make students their partners in boosting test achievement by discussing testing results openly, having students review scores and learn to analyze strengths and weaknesses, and helping them set goals and list what they need to do to reach those goals. "Testing is something that"s for life," says Principal Helen Griffiths.
- One on one: At Memorial Prep for Scholars and Athletes, counselors meet with each student, while teachers review test-taking strategies.
- Something to cheer about: Madison High holds a pre-test pep rally. Mann Middle and the Language Academy hold special assemblies honoring academic stars to motivate students right before testing. It's a powerful reinforcement for these students who"ve reach proficient and advanced levels. "They get a certificate, an academic pin and we display a large banner with their names on them. The parents love it, and the kids love it," says Principal Veronika Lopez-Mendez. Edison Elementary hosts assemblies each month recognizing students who reach benchmark achievement levels. Millennial Tech"s motivational assembly features kids cheering as the principal announces prizes to be awarded after testing for perfect attendance and other categories.
- What's the angle? Many schools teach students how to analyze sample standardized tests like a separate literary genre, complete with its own peculiar vocabulary. Edison Elementary breaks it down for students at each grade level, and films the basic lesson demonstration on the easy-to-use iMovie on the Macintosh computer so teachers can quickly see the concept in action. Correia Middle also works on test-taking vocabulary, especially on phrases and concepts that confuse children because of multiple meanings, like the word "angle" which means one thing in math, and another in language arts.
- The big picture: De Portola Middle Principal Listy Gillingham takes the long range approach to raising academic achievement, a multiple-phased strategy that has also yielded higher test scores across all student groups. One success has been to take select struggling students and put them in accelerated classes, with generally happy results. She finds, "If you push kids, and make them believe they really are brilliant, they"ll rise to the occasion."
- The power of snacks: Many schools serve healthy snacks each test day. But Millenial Tech staffers go one better with a snack theme: they serve SmartWater -- designer water with a fun and inspiring message. Millennial gets its parents involved not just to help prepare their children but to gather enticing prizes that reward hard work during testing, kid-favorites like flash drives and tickets to the High Tech Fair. Madison Principal Richard Nash provides the parent-approved granola bars to give his students pre-test energy, but he also has been known to reward perfect attendance for the High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) with the nutritional opposite -- doughnuts -- with the financial help and approval of the high school's parent group.
- Timing is everything: At Wilson Middle, they start teaching test-taking strategies in mid-February in advance of the tests in April. When students return from spring break, they practice using test-taking strategies during their weekly assessments for the five weeks leading up to STAR testing. The school provides extra tutoring before and after school for students, and officials meet with parents to discuss both the importance of tests and how they can help their children set ambitious goals on their achievement tests, and reach those goals. That, the principal reminds us, is the key to success in school and beyond.