Preparing for Standardized Tests
Standardized tests are a unique text genre, and they require readers and writers to do different things than they would normally, so teachers can’t assume that students already know how to take reading tests. It’s essential that teachers prepare students to take high-stakes tests without abandoning a balanced approach to instruction that’s aligned to state standards (Calkins, Montgomery, & Santman, 1998). Greene and Melton (2007) agree; they maintain that teachers must prepare students for high-stakes tests without sacrificing their instructional program. Unfortunately, with the pressure to raise test scores, some teachers are having students take more multiple-choice tests while writing fewer essays and creating fewer projects.
Hollingworth (2007) recommends these five ways to prepare students for high-stakes tests without sacrificing the instructional program:
- Teachers check that their state’s curriculum standards align with their instructional program and make any needed adjustments to ensure that they’re teaching what’s going to be on the test.
- Teachers set goals with students and use informal assessments to regularly monitor their progress.
- Teachers actively engage students in authentic literacy activities so that they become capable readers and writers.
- Teachers explain the purpose of the tests and how the results will be used, without making students anxious.
- Teachers stick with a balanced approach that combines explicit instruction and authentic application.
Other researchers advise that in addition to these recommendations, teachers prepare students to take standardized tests by teaching them how to read and answer test items and having them take practice tests to hone their test-taking strategies (McCabe, 2003). Preparing for tests involves explaining their purpose, examining the genre and format of multiple-choice tests, teaching the formal language of tests and test-taking strategies, and providing opportunities for students to take practice tests; and these lessons should be folded into the existing instructional program, not replace it. Greene and Melton (2007) organized test preparation into minilessons that they taught as part of reading workshop.
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