Raising Test Scores: What Teachers Can Do

Posted Date: 1/6/2011

Raising Test Scores:
What Teachers Can Do

Suggestions from Missouri NEA's Teaching & Learning Committee

Greet your students at the door when they enter your classroom. Be at the door when they leave. Say goodbye with a positive comment.
Put a "word for the day" on the board. A word which is in the lesson. Give the meaning and have students use the word in a sentence. Everyday.
Create a "mental set" for your students by having an exercise, or maybe a question, pertinent to the lesson for the day on the board when your students enter your class. With this "mental set" the students can start work immediately and can be learning something while you are taking roll. You’ll save 5 to 10 minutes of "down time." This is also an opportune time to do D.E.A.R.!
Give your students lots of in-school reading practice. Research clearly shows there is a direct correlation between in-school reading practice and gains in reading comprehension and gains on achievement tests. Students who receive an hour each day of in-school reading practice achieve comprehension growth at twice the rate of national norms…particularly among students who have below average reading ability. Reading is the single most important academic skill a student needs to be successful in school.
Do D.E.A.R. (drop everything and read) for at least 15 minutes everyday. Let your students read what they wish. Be sure your students read with their hand. You, the teacher, should read along with your students. The longer each day you do D.E.A.R. the higher your test scores.
A student who reads for recreation 15 minutes a day will increase 2 NCE points on an achievement test. Your students should always have a library book in their possession and should read one book every week for recreation. You’ll see an increase in academic performance in social studies, language arts, science and math! Sell recreational reading!
You, the teacher, should be a reader. You should read at least one book a week. Talk about what you read with your students and show your students the book you’re reading. Show excitement and enthusiasm! This one single act, alone, will raise test scores.
No student is born wanting to read. You must instill the love for reading by example and by seeing that your students read. This technique is crucial to increasing achievement test scores.
Expect success from all your students. All kids can learn and all kids can learn at much higher levels than they do now. Never be afraid of teaching over their head. Never be afraid your tests are too difficult. Stretch their comfort zone!
Commend a different student everyday… for some accomplishment, even though it may be small. Have a "special student award." Categories may include: "most improved," "most caring," "student who read the fastest on the speed drill," etc. Have a special student award daily, weekly and monthly.
Start an open door policy.
a.       Encourage staff members, parents and administrators to walk into your class unannounced, anytime, and participate in class activities.
b.       Put a "welcome" sign on your door.
c.       Your students will work harder and perform better when they perceive of themselves as impressing a guest.
d.       Student energy and enthusiasm will continue long after the guest has left.
Give YOUR students this comprehension and recall drill everyday:
a.       Using text material, select a manageable part, a titled or subtitled paragraph of at least 200 words.
b.       Using the hand as a pacer read the paragraph or section in 30 seconds.
c.       Stop, write down what is remembered.
d.       Repeat steps two and three above in the same material.
e.       As a class; brainstorm what students have read.
f.         Repeat entire drill in new material.
Vocabulary Drill
a.       Using subject area material teacher chooses a major section or chapter.
b.       Teacher should first read material choosing most important vocabulary terms.
c.       Using the hand as a pacer, have students quickly preview entire chapter and mentally identify some of the significant vocabulary (about 30-45 seconds) use headings, or sub heading, bold face words, italicized words, words in margins, pictures, charts, graphs.
d.       Preview same material again for 30-45 seconds. Stop…write down words chosen – students should recall the words from memory, not copy them.
e.       As a class, brainstorm all the words the students identify as important to unit. List all words on board so students can see and learn all words.
f.         Go to a new section or chapter and repeat above drill. Note: A very beneficial exercise is to combine the recall and comprehension drill (#12) and the vocabulary drill.
g.       This vocabulary drill actively involves students in thinking about their vocabulary plus they can transfer these "search" skills to other reading material. All students will succeed at some level with this drill.
h.       Do this drill as often as possible.
Give your students this drill to increase their reading speed. As often as possible:
a.       Select recreational reading material.
b.       Using the hand for a pacer, read for comprehension for one minute. Students must keep their hand moving smoothly under each line.
c.       After one minute, stop, mark where they stop, compute rate. Write down rate.
d.       Re-read same section in 40 seconds.
e.       Re-read same section in 30 seconds.
f.         Re-read same section in 15 seconds.
g.       Turn to new material, read for one minute for comprehension, stop, compute rate – compare first and second scores.
h.       Repeat drill in new material.
Note: Use a stop watch to time students. After a few days, let a different student conduct drill each day.
Give homework everyday. Five minutes of homework a day for each grade level. (i.e., 15 minutes a day for third graders, 60 minutes a day for twelfth graders) We recommend that in addition to subject area homework you direct your students to:
a.       Read a story you have provided them.
b.       Do a slash recall pattern on that story.
c.       Bring recall patterns to class the next day.
Write a blank recall pattern on the board. Fill in the recall pattern as the students give you the information. Discuss.
Never allow "down time" in your class. If you’ve completed the lesson for the day have your students read. If they’re waiting for the last bell, or to go to lunch, have them read. Don’t ever let them just sit there and do nothing. Have them read. Do D.E.A.R.!
Students learn by "doing" something for themselves. Reading, writing, math. They learn very little by listening. Be very conscious of time management. Increase, dramatically, reading and writing time in your class.
Practice test taking all year. Give frequent achievement test type short tests. Increase drill time in reading instructions for taking tests.
Never let up on Mondays or Fridays. Education takes place from the first bell on Monday until the last bell on Friday. Assign reports and quizzes on Mondays. Tests and long homework assignments on Fridays. Never let up.
Phone your parents. Especially phone the parents of students who are doing well in your class or who accomplished some very specific task. Increasing achievement test scores involves parents too. Emphasize their involvement is crucial in three areas:
a.       Get them to school on time after a nutritious breakfast.
b.       Turn off the TV.
c.       Have lots of books around the house.
Sit at your desk as little as possible. Education does not take place at your desk. When you walk around your class you not only see, but you are seen.
Dress for success... Research clearly shows that teachers who dress up have fewer discipline problems and get higher academic performance from their students.
At the end of the day... close your door, sit down, prop your feet up, congratulate yourself on a job well done, and think about what you could do better and differently to continue to provide quality experiences for your students.


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