Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Test Prep the whole year through...

Now is the time in Louisiana when teachers begin to focus on LEAP Test Prep or LEAP review. Some schools do LEAP Blitz and shut down instruction for two weeks before the test to focus on comprehensive review lessons.

Focusing on LEAP for just two weeks before the test is like going on a crash diet to go to an event. You crash diet for 3 - 6 months. Drop drastic weight to go to the event and within 3-6 months after the event, have gained the weight back and maybe even increased it. It does not make you healthier. All research shows you should make healthy diet choices and get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days a week in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and appropriate body weight. Intensive LEAP reviews stresses kids and teachers out and gets kids focused for two weeks on things that are not connected to real world learning. The process does not create lifelong learners or teach kids how to think. So what should teachers do to insure "healthy" learning?

Teachers should design their instruction from day one to incorporate the types of activities and assessments necessary to guarantee student success on standardized testing. If students are exposed the the types of assessment questions they will experience on the LEAP in their daily instruction, they will be comfortable and confident when LEAP test time comes. Bell Ringer sample LEAP items or a weekly LEAP enrichment are appropriate. The biggest payoff is by getting students in habit of reading a content related passage and answering questions that require an analysis or extrapolation of what was read (i.e. teaching them to think).

The Constructed Response, Short Answer, and Task sessions are the most challenging for students on the test. Writing Across the Curriculum is a key school improvement activity that can improve student performance in these areas. Writing is a learned skill, and it is a different process in different content areas. Teachers should provide weekly or bi-weekly writing activities in the content areas that simulate the types of writing sessions the students will experience on the LEAP. These activities should be part of the teachers assessments. The teacher must provide feedback and model correct responses. Initially, this will take a lot of time, but by mid-year the students will be in the swing of things. They'll be pros by testing time.

If teachers begin with the end in mind and incorporate the necessary assessment strategies into real time instruction, not only will students perform at higher levels on standardized tests, but they will learn a skill that will serve them well throughout their life.