Why I Don’t Believe in Reviewing for the State TestAdmin
Texas Public School teachers cannot escape the yearly mandated state test, STAAR. Because of this, our norm has been to reserve two weeks at the end of the curriculum to review materials with our students for this high-pressure test.
This stance may be confusing to most teachers that know me, considering I prepare a wide variety of STARR math test prep materials, but that’s only because I recognized a need for them. The amount of material we cover in any given year is immense. That’s why a school year is 180 days long, right? 180 days of lessons. Of equations, theories and practice. So, the logical thing to do is cram all of that material into a 2-week period, right?
Wondering why I thoroughly disagree with reviewing for the Texas state test?
1. It puts more pressure on your students.
Students know the importance of the state test. How can they not? It’s is SO in their face from the first day of school and on that it’s hard to avoid the regular reminders that there is a hugely important test on the horizon.
I have seen teachers dedicate an entire bulletin board to counting down the days until the STARR. This gives me anxiety, so I cannot even image what the students feel! If I, a 30-something teacher, can feel the burden of this test, imagine how our pre-teen students must feel! Willing to bet that they aren’t sharpening their pencils with anticipation!
2. Let’s be real. Nothing magical is going to happen in two weeks.
When you cram multiple topics into a 2-week period, students are not going to magically understand every single concept that they struggled with earlier in the school year. No offense, but if they didn’t get it the first, second or third time, they probably won’t master it (along with loads of other curriculum material) in 10 days.
There is too much information to retain in such a short period of time. In fact, trying to get a classroom of restless students to pay attention to material you already gave them for two weeks straight is a recipe for failure. Students already have a hard time keeping their eyes open and their mind focused during a boring lesson… what makes you think you won’t have some sleepers or wandering minds during this review?
3. Time is wasted.
When we have an intensive review of the entire curriculum, we are wasting time. To me, this time is used most efficiently by focusing on trouble-spots; areas that my class didn’t get through easily. Why spend time on a long list of items that were easy? Problems the majority of my students had no issues with? Such a waste of extremely valuable time! This practice is a disservice to the students who did well on any given topic because their time is valuable too. There will always be a few students that don’t fully grasp a concept, and I completely respect and understand that, so please don’t misconstrue! These opinions are solely based on how time is spent during “STAAR Boot Camp.”
But this doesn’t mean that I don’t review any of the things they understood. Confusing, I know. Read on!
So, what’s my strategy for the 2-week “review”?
You might be wondering what I actually do during the couple weeks before the state test.
In reference to problem #2, I choose one concept that the majority of the students understood and also enjoyed! Sounds crazy, right? I also make sure this standard is one that supports other important TEKS, or standards. For example, in 5th grade, students really enjoy order of operations.
I always like to review this concept because students build confidence, have some fun, and I’m able to throw in some decimals and fractions that support other parts of the curriculum. From there, we take that confidence and enthusiasm into more difficult territory, adding extra time to concepts I know my students struggled with during the school year.
My students review for the state test every day for the first 10 minutes of class with a warm up. The warm up is the most important part of every class. It focuses on students building stamina, practicing test-taking strategies, applying problem solving techniques and reviewing old concepts.
To take things to the next level (TEACHERS! This is for your overachievers, or just to extend student thinking), I love incorporating these Math Higher-Level Thinking Question Cards . These questions work GREAT with test prep questions, and can used in ANY grade level! This is definitely my go-to for getting kids thinking and asking questions that lead to meaningful conversations!
It’s like students are taking a 6-minute, 3 question STAAR test every day, rather than a full school day of mind-numbing review that is sure to lose their attention by the first lunch bell.
When it comes time to the real test, they are ready.