Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How Standardized Tests Help Teachers Do Their Jobs Better

This is a Computer Fundamentals class taking a...Image via WikipediaBy Jo Karabasz

As teachers, we all too often feel powerless in the face of the many factors that hinder our students' achievement. Family problems, peer pressure, relations with the local community, demographics, even the weather, can all get in the way.

The only thing we CAN control, however imperfectly, is what happens within the four walls of our classroom.

So how can test scores be useful in view of the limitations placed upon us? Here are a few thoughts on how test scores might be used.

1 - Get to Know Students

Even before the opening of school you have the opportunity to get to know your students. You can review grades, discipline records AND test scores. Remembering that, with children, the past NEVER fully paints a picture of the future, there is still a lot to be gained from a review of test scores.

As you look through student scores, be SURE you know if a test is standards-referenced [scored on a percentage correct basis] or norm-referenced [scored in comparison to other students].

Be aware, at this point in the year, of the factors that affect scores OTHER THAN the student's knowledge of the subject. They include things such as motivation, emotional state on test day, and distractions inside and outside of the classroom.

2 - Student Progress Review

If your school does mid-term and/or mid-year testing, these scores can be especially valuable. They can be indicators of the effect your teaching is having on the students. The progress of an individual student should be discussed with the parents and with the student himself. Always remembering the uncertainties inherent in testing, there is still good information here to examine and discuss.

3 - Teacher Collaboration

Teachers can collaborate even without test scores, of course, but these scores can provide an excellent starting point, especially when viewed in terms of the progress of each class as a whole. Comparison without competition can be difficult to achieve, but the opportunity to share lesson plans and teaching methods makes it worth the effort.

4 - Self Assessment

OK, I say this often, but when those numbers are before me, they DO, in part, paint a picture of me, much as I don't like to admit it. Not in such a way, perhaps, that they could be used to make a fair evaluation of my overall performance, but they do tell something about what I have been able to accomplish with my students.

We teachers do so many things that could never be quantified and reported for administrative use. These unquantifiables may very well be the most important things we do. There it is - I see ME in the scores of my students.

I look at the various standards that have been tested. Yep! The things I love, that I designed great lessons around, THOSE things my students know and test well on. I'm crazy about characterization, writing, and poetry, and, I must confess, not as thrilled about narrator point of view and subordinate clauses. Guess what my students test well on?

There is value in testing if teachers are provided with the data AND THE TIME to analyze the results. The results can help us identify more clearly an individual student's strengths and weaknesses, and thereby help us focus on the areas in which he or she needs support and practice. They can also help us determine for what topic areas we may need to develop improved teaching methods. Finally, we can become more motivated to infuse emotion and energy into even those less-than-favorite lessons!

Jo Karabasz
Managing Director
Overlook Tutorial Academy

As my thanks for reading this article follow this link for a copy of the 29 page report NetCetera - Chatting With Kids About Being Online.

As a professional teacher and tutor I can answer other questions or concerns. Check our Info Base on the web site - there are a number of articles there on related topics - or feel VERY free to call ANYtime.

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