Teach Above the Test

Around testing time, when it came to be March, there started to be a real sense of urgency in my school. Are our kids ready to take this test? Have we done our best to prepare them for this assessment? And how can we figure out ahead of time, what we need to do to get them there. What always struck me as odd, is that we have all these tools and all this data that we can use…but we never have enough time. The conversation I used to have with my students before the test was simple:

“I want you all to try your best on this, just like in anything else you do. But you should not be waking up in the middle of the night because of these tests. You should not be coming to school nervous because of these tests.

You all, have been prepared for much greater things than these tests. The tests only show a smidgeon of your ability, not just as English students, but as human beings. So if you think that I’m going to stand up here and tell you how important these tests are, I’m not. Instead, you should treat them the same way you treat anything else. Do it to the best of your ability, and understand that everything you’ve been doing in my class has prepared you for this.”

My students scored well on our state tests. Not every single student, but across the board covering minority groups, low-economic groups, and all different types of students…they scored very well. I think the main thing is that I didn’t teach to the test as a teacher, but always tried to teach above the test.

The test covers specific standards and benchmarks. There is specific content and skills assessed in these tests. But they are not going to define how you do in life. Someone who gets proficient or advanced in 5th, 8th, or 11th grade on their state standardized test is not going to be a millionaire. In fact, I don’t think it has much correlation at all.

The Book

That’s why I wrote Teach Above the Test. This book is all about how we as teachers, administrators, parents, as school leaders, as people who see our students for 180 days a year…how we can go beyond the standards, and above the tests.

3dOur focus needs to change. We can’t hate these assessments. And we also can’t love these assessments. We need to start treating these tests for what they really are…which is just one assessment out of many that our students will have to take in life. Their first interview for a job…that’s an assessment. The college essay they’ll have to write…that’s an assessment. They are assessed every single day, and judged every single day, and this is just another assessment they’ll have to take in the game of life.

This 52-page guide looks at different ways we as teachers can promote learning above these assessments. It’s a lot of fun. And it’s a lot of work for the teachers and the students. But I think what you end up getting out of it (at least for me what I got out of it), was a sense of accomplishment. I always want my students to be challenged and proud of what they did in my class. Instead of going through the motions, I hoped to inspire and motivate next level thinking and creating. Many teachers are teaching above the test in their classes and this book shares how 20% projects, global collaborative experiences, project-based learning, and peace education projects can take our students beyond the standards.

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