How to Improve Test Scores

Sandra Burns
Sandra Burns
Elementary School Principal; M.Ed. in Educational Leadership
Two older teachers sitting in a classroom together reviewing data on a laptop.

There is absolutely no doubt that teachers at all levels put countless hours into preparing phenomenal lessons with desired outcomes in place. Passionate and engaging teachers tend to bring their instruction to life by pulling in resources outside of the textbook. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how great a lesson is if it is not standard aligned.

The reality starts to set in for all educators when test scores are a leading force that pairs up with school districts’ missions and vision statements. The pressure of improving test scores hangs over teachers year after year, regardless of how many years you have been teaching. With this being said, the question is: how do we improve test scores?

Begin with Mapping

Time after time administrators may witness amazing delivery of content during their classroom walk-throughs and formal observations, but if teachers do not know what to teach, their passion and energy will only take them – and their students – so far. Teachers come equipped with skills of “how” to teach, but we need to make sure they are aware of “what” to teach. When districts implement curriculum maps, this gives teachers supports, tools, and a framework to follow.

Curriculum maps are a must as our teachers need an outline of what the expectations are for our students to learn throughout the duration of the school year. Once a map is in place, teachers can build their knowledge of resources for their classroom that extend outside of just the textbooks and what the school provides.

Digging deep and gathering resources that include community involvement, technology, real life experiences, and opportunities for growth for our students are all obtainable as they are aligned with instructional outcomes and goals. The curriculum map guarantees direction, continuity, and alignment that should be delivered to all of our students during their core content instruction from grade level to grade level.

Collaboration

Once maps are in place, educators must understand what the map’s purpose is, as well as follow it. All too often new initiatives are thrown at teachers without any type of training, explanation, or time to really collaborate and grasp the material and task at hand. Maps should be created as well as reviewed with team members. This is when true teaming and collaboration can take place to ensure that students’ needs are all being met with the curriculum that is in place.

Pulling in beneficial resources, discussing, and sharing what is working inside your classroom and what you need support with is what makes collaborating beneficial. One cannot overlook the importance of collaborating, and just knowing that the team is in this together can be a support for the teachers as they go through this process.

Common planning times and being creative with the building schedule is imperative when it comes to collaboration. Professional learning community (PLCs) meetings can be held to help foster communication between teachers and the supports that are in place to help students be successful. The meetings are data lead, and having an established itinerary beforehand of what needs to be the focus points ensures that the collaborative meetings will stay on track of the topics that need to be discussed.

Administrators attending meetings is also valuable as this gives team members the opportunity to ask curriculum-based questions and problem solve together. Collaborating effectively and often are keys to success in increasing test scores.

Data Drives Instruction

Once mapping and effective collaboration occur data must be analyzed to ensure that our students’ needs are being met. Practical and sound data measures must be in place in order to address students’ academic performance and learning progressions. Local assessments that are easily accessible as well as having established benchmarks following the Common Core standards will guide teachers’ instruction to the areas of concern. A plan must be established if the curriculum map is being followed and achievement is not evident.

Data should be the driving force behind every educator’s instructional delivery and differentiation. Reflecting critically while holding collaborative meetings will provide time to analyze the data and determine what different learning strategies and interventions should be in place. Using data to drive these conversations, followed up with interventions and rigorous instruction in place, will ultimately lead to improved test scores.

Striving Towards Success

Day in and day out as educators we strive to make a difference in our students’ lives and achieve the maximum growth possible. Improving what we are teaching in our classrooms and holding data-driven collaborative conversations with supports in place will ultimately improve test scores.

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