California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II
As stated in the Guidelines on Academic Preparation for State Assessments (PDF, 219KB, 4pp.), approved by the State Board of Education,
The best academic preparation for state assessments is good instruction. This can be broadly defined as instruction in the content specified in California’s academic content standards, employing the instructional principles and practices set forth in the content-area frameworks. It is the standards and frameworks, not the tests, that guide instructional programs. Instructional programs are designed to ensure that students master the standards at their own and earlier grade levels.1
There is a distinct difference between preparing students academically to be successful on a test and teaching students test-taking strategies that are universal for all tests. First, students need to develop proficiency in grade-level content standards that will be on the tests. Teachers can find out which items will be on the tests by viewing the STAR CST Blueprints. These guidelines for academic preparation for the California Standards Tests show, by grade and subject area, which standard the tests will cover. The blueprints also show how many test items there are for each standard. Appropriate academic preparation for state assessments provides students with a fair opportunity to prepare academically while ensuring that such preparation does not invalidate test results.
Students need to understand how to use a Scantron form, how to track where they are in the test booklet, how to check that they are marking the response in the appropriate spot, and how to check their answers. In addition, teachers can provide students with test-taking strategies such as those in the Reyburn example.
Reyburn Intermediate School, Clovis Unified School District
The after-school intervention teacher gives students strategies and cues for what to look for in reading texts and in taking tests. For example, when preparing students for the six-week course pretest, the teacher leads students in a question-and-answer discussion about testing, including the following instructions:
Each after-school session covers two standards. Students take a test after each section, and the teacher tracks daily and weekly progress. Student scores in the after school intervention grow after each lesson and test session.
The State of California has statutes to address test preparation. For example, California Education Code (EC) Section 60611 3(a) states that schools “shall not carry on any program of specific preparation of pupils for the statewide assessment program or a particular test used therein.” However, EC Section 60611 3(b) states that schools “may use instructional materials provided by the department of education or its agents in the academic preparation of pupils if those instructional materials are embedded in an instructional program that is intended to improve student learning.”
Regarding advance preparation for state tests, the California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 854 (a) states:
Except for materials specifically included within the designated achievement test, no program or materials shall be used by any school district or employee of a school district that are specifically formulated or intended to prepare pupils for the designated achievement test. No administration or use of an alternate or parallel form of the designated test for any stated purpose shall be permitted for any pupils in grades 2 through 11, inclusive.2
As a condition of adoption, instructional materials have been reviewed and found to adhere to state statutes and regulations regarding test preparation.
An article in Educational Leadership, Having It All—Challenging the Status Quo, by David J. Ferrero, found that a combination of strategies was effective in boosting achievement in schools and made a difference in student achievement. The strategies included not only attention to grade-level content and test-taking skills but also “collaboratively developed thematic projects grounded in controversy and designed to cultivate student voice and civic engagement.”3 These types of developmentally responsive practices are an important part of the middle grades approach to testing.
1Guidelines on Academic Preparation for State Assessments (PDF; 219KB; 4pp.). Sacramento: California Department of Education, December 2009, 1.
3David J. Ferrero, "Having It All—Challenging the Status Quo," (Outside Source), Educational Leadership, Vol. 63, No. 8, May 2006, 8-15.
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California Department of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814