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What About Your School’s Test Results?

Let’s address HOW to deal with the test scores that you get.

Why?

It turns out that the way school leadership, as well as the staff, thinks about, discusses, and frames the conversations about test scores actually affects future scores.

How does this happen and how should a staff debrief the testing?

The Research

The way that your staff frames their results and frames their work is critical to the ongoing success at your school.

A “framing effect” is usually said to occur when varied, but usually equivalent descriptions (of a product/experience/decision or problem) lead to very different decisions. We’ve all known this as, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”

New research done at the University of Michigan by Juth and Helgesson (2012) suggests that your expectations and predictions shape your future efforts via the “framing effect.”

If we started a hypothetical group of elementary children, all earning the same letter grades (ex. A, B, … F), here is how their expectations matter. In those children expecting to become a teacher, an engineer, or a nurse when they grew up, this study successfully predicted that they’d work harder in school.

In this same study, nine out of ten children expected they would attend at least a two-year college, but less than half saw themselves as having an educational degree-dependent job. This is why it is so important to tie their dreams to an actual job, not just to college.

At the secondary level, researchers presented two different options of information to two groups of students. They heard about either: Read more

What Research Can Help Your Students Score Higher on the Upcoming BIG Tests?

School testing

This month, we’ll focus on how to prepare for existing state and national tests. I’ll focus on three things that can help your students improve their chances to score up to their potential. By the way, kids never score above their potential; they’re just not going to randomly make enough lucky right answers time after time after time (in statistics, it’s called regression to the mean).

But, they often underperform for a host of reasons, even when they should perform much better. While we could focus on dozens of variables that influence standardized testing, we’ll focus on these three: 1) brain chemistry, 2) priming, and 3) episodic memory triggers. Some of these suggestions got so many rave reviews that they are reproduced from an earlier bulletin!

The Research

Ten Minutes to Better Scores

Two laboratory and two randomized field studies tested a psychological intervention designed to improve students’ scores on high-stakes exams. These simple ten-minute activities can raise test scores. One well-designed study showed that writing about testing worries prior to taking the exam boosts exam performance in the classroom.

The study authors expected that sitting for an important exam leads to worries about the situation and its consequences that undermine test performance. What the authors tested was… whether having students write down their thoughts about an upcoming test could improve test performance. Read more

Summer Teacher Workshops – The Deadline is Sunday, April 15th

Workshop EarlyBird Special

The clock is ticking. Poverty is not going away, testing is not going away and accountability is not going away.

Our summer sessions are filling up fast. Right now, the location with the most openings (so far) is Jacksonville, Florida. Book your staff for Jacksonville (or San Antonio and Charlotte) as soon as possible. In Jacksonville we are offering “Teaching with Poverty in Mind” or “Tools for Engagement”, but you’ll have to move fast.

WorkshopThe early bird discount expires on April 15… so don’t miss it!

May I suggest “Tools for Maximum Engagement”… CLICK HERE.

When I talk about student engagement, teacher’s heads typically nod up and down as if they universally agree how critical it is. Yet, when I go visit classes (elementary, secondary or college level) the actual % of students being engaged is typically low.

Listen, I can’t make you take a program. But I can tell you that once you take this summer’s special 2-Day “Tools for Maximum Engagement” workshop, you’ll have a lifetime of tools.

Every day, you’ll feel proud, knowing how well your students have learned. Each week, you’ll see happy students who enjoy the learning process. You’ll be admired by your peers and your students will look forward to every class. On top of that, your test scores will improve because kids who are engaged daily, learn more. Plus, every night, you’ll sleep well, knowing that your class is pretty awesome.

I never know if I’ll EVER do any particular workshop again or not. This summer could be your last chance, ever. Whether your school will pay for it or not, go do it. You can’t afford to be less than amazing in your job.

To find out more about this amazing 2-day summer experience CLICK HERE.

By the way, sometimes it makes better sense to have me come out to school and work with the entire staff. You may want to browse the menu of my presentation possibilities for your school CLICK HERE. I’ll show your staff exactly how to teach with the brain in mind.

Can We Raise Test Scores (Again)?

Let’s explore how you can boost test scores by making small interventions and simple changes at the last moment.

First, a simple disclaimer: I don’t support 95% of all the testing being done on kids. I love accountability, but not crazy-making testing that gives self-serving data; data that helps you do better on the next test, instead of in real life where the tests should be targeting. Having said that, things are what they are. Let’s focus on the here and now.

Here is a plan that will help you maximize testing for your students.

Research: Recent Discovery on Testing

You have only five variables you can tweak in the days, hours and minutes before the actual test time. The biggest variable is how well kids have learned what will be on the test. If you haven’t taken care of that variable all year long, you have fewer options. It’s too late to add much content when you get real close to test time.

The single best thing you can do in the weeks and days before the testing is…have students take tests. Testing produced better overall recall than did restudying (Roediger and Karpicke, 2006). Give them small chunks of “mock tests” that will mimic the real ones. But the research gets a bit more complicated from here out.

What about getting feedback on the mock tests?

When tests are NOT accompanied by feedback, some items (i.e., those that were not correctly retrieved) might not benefit from testing (Pashler et al., 2005).

This tells you feedback has two sides: if you get it wrong, you NEED feedback. If it’s right, it’s less important to get feedback.

The debriefing should begin as a social event with the teacher and classmates involved. Then shift it to a personal assignment. Let students improve their “mock” test cores with a reflective test analysis. Here, students write about each question they got wrong: 1) what was their approach, 2) how they came up with the wrong answer, and 3) what they would do differently next time. Give students partial credit for each debriefed corrected answer. This empowers students by helping them become more thoughtful tests takers and reduces their stress by putting more of the process in their control.

Read carefully to what a team of cognitive psychologists says;

“Information that has been tested will be remembered better over time than information that has been restudied. This test-induced benefit is apparently stronger when repeated tests over the same information are provided. These results suggest that tests should be utilized often in educational contexts to maximize retention of information over long time periods.” (Carpenter, et al., 2008, page 446).

Encourage (even mandate) the asking of questions in the weeks and days leading up to the test. Students who are struggling academically are rarely asking the most questions in class. Researchers have found that low-achieving students are often the most reluctant to seek assistance and that a negative or fearful perception of “help seeking” is to blame (Ryan, et al. 1998).

The Ryan study involved 500 students and 25 teachers in 63 sixth-grade math classes throughout 10 Michigan middle schools. The researchers found that low-achieving students tend to perceive question asking as a sign of inability and associate it with feeling “dumb.” Conversely, high achievers with greater confidence are less likely to worry about what others think and tend to focus on the benefits of seeking help, notes the study.

Advise learners to take inventory of their projected goals, time-management skills, and study habits; and to reorganize them appropriately. Students who give their academic concerns top priority and allow ample time for studying (including exam preparation) often perform best (Yaworski, 1998). If help is needed in establishing a personal study schedule, or if chronic procrastination persists, encourage learners to seek the advice of a guidance counselor or related professional.

Next, in the days coming up to the testing, students often get stressed (the teachers are, of course, totally relaxed!)

The three best ways to get kids more relaxed are each about control (it’s the counterbalance to stress.) First, help them take more control over the process of making choices for when, what type of, and where to prepare. (You pre-select the options.) For example, let them choose which content sections they want to prep for first. Second, teach them self-regulation strategies such as slow deep breathing to relax. Third, teach them how to reframe the testing experience, to help them be more in charge of it. Tell your students, “Tests are a school’s way to assess their schooling success. We want to find out what we’re doing well and what we need to do differently. The tests tell us what changes we can make to develop your brain as best as possible.” Read more