Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels,
each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels,
and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Teaching in a World of Standardized Testing, Part Two

Last week, I talked about the pressures of standardized testing, and more importantly, what success really means.  Today, I want to answer a question I received via email.  How can I create a motivating
classroom environment in a high-stakes testing environment?
The first and most foundational action you can take to create a motivating classroom environment is to minimize your focus on testing. I’m not recommending that you ignore the test; the stakes are simply too high. But you can shift the spotlight away from test scores and back to a broader view of learning. I prefer to use the word learning, rather than achievement. They may mean the same thing to some people, but I find that most teachers and students associate achievement with the test. So, changing my language emphasizes that I’m talking about more than test scores.
The next step is to refuse to be limited by testing. Teach your curriculum standards, but remember that you always have flexibility in how you teach them. So much frustration stems from teachers' perceptions that they lack control. You always have a choice in your lessons; you can present them in a way that is motivating and engaging and opens students’ minds to the world of learning, or you can teach to the test in a boring, mundane way. It’s your decision.
Finally, take a broader view of success. Celebrate every student success, not just the scores on benchmark testing. Look at the opening quote from Albert Einstein. What “counts” in your classroom? Define your view of success, and share it with your students and their families. Post it in your room, send it home in a parent newsletter, and make it a visible reminder of what you and your classroom are about. In a discussion related to test scores, a parent asked me how I would define achievement. I explained that achievement is simply your view of success. And for me, success is broader than a test score—it’s about every student:

Achievement is...
Showcasing the
Competency and
Capabilities of E Every

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