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What Can Test Preparation Teach You About Data Driven Instruction?

The second semester of the school year is absolutely the worst part of the school year for me. You’d actually think that I’d be excited because school is close to being over, but nope that’s not the case.

The only two words that I can ever think about from January to May are TEST Preparation. If you’re not an educator or don’t teach a testing grade level the second semester of the school year is when all the craziness begins.

What I mean by craziness is administrators are constantly in and out of your classroom, teachers’ patience become thin, and the students are sick and tired of the constant cycle of test prep worksheets.

Even with all that takes place during the second semester there are three valuable lessons that test preparation can teach you about using data to drive instruction.

1. Use Re-Teaching Cycles Throughout the School Year

It’s pretty much the norm for me to incorporate reteaching cycles into my daily teaching routine however, there are some teachers who don’t think twice about reteaching content to mastery until a few months before testing. This is counterproductive. Your student data should move gradually over time. When reteach cycles aren’t a part of your normal routine it will be reflected in your standardized testing data.

2. Analyze Data and Use Data to Drive Instruction

I’m sure your administrator is NOT that different than mine, because most administrators think that analyzing data is a natural process for teachers. To analyze data and then use it to drive instruction means that you know the prerequisite skills from at least two grade levels before. And truth be told most teachers that have less than five years of experience won’t even be concerned with what skills their students are lacking, because it takes at least three years to master one grade level.

Test preparation exposes this weakness, because if you don’t know what the students are supposed to know before they get to you, how are you going use your data to drive your instruction when you don’t know where the gap is or how to close the gap. Unfortunately, more test preparation worksheets won’t help the students. You actually have to teach the missing skills to close the gaps.

3. Use Data to Create Small Groups

It’s amazes me how some schools can find all kinds of budget money to hire extra personnel to help with preparing students for testing. Right before testing all hands are on deck. Administrators and district personnel (who never had time to pull students) miraculously have enough time to pull students for small group instruction. This is also counterproductive, because only raw data is being use to attempt to close achievement gaps. These people understand the power of small group instruction or they wouldn’t be pulling students before testing. Sooo….if it’s a good idea to pull students right before testing, why isn’t it a good idea during the school year? The lesson that is taught here is that data should be used to drive your small group instruction. Don’t wait until right before the students take a test.

If you’re a teacher in a testing grade level and you haven’t really been paying attention to what goes on during the crazy part of the school year just watch and observe how your colleagues, district personnel, and administration spring into action. And by all means please have pencil and paper to take notes. Because there will be lessons that can be learned!

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