by: Dr. John Tharp
When a school is struggling with low test scores the principal and administrative team at the school reviews the data in search of answers. The test results usually come out in the summer after the end of the school year and it serves as what many characterize as “autopsy data” meaning that it is good information, but the school year is over so it cannot be used to improve student achievement. During the school year, it is oftentimes a guessing game as to how well students will do on the end of year tests. The principal tries to inspire, cajole and good wish in higher scores but when there is no tool to find out how students are doing along the way, then the test results are left to fate.
In order to attain good test scores, a classroom’s instruction and learning must be aligned with the written standards for the course. Since the standardized tests are based on the standards for the course, it is imperative that alignment of instruction occurs. The alignment of what is written, taught and tested is a proven method to ensure that students are receiving the appropriate on grade level of instruction in a particular class. It is known that low test scores are the result of misalignment issues, meaning what is going on in the classroom is not what is written or tested. As a result, the students are not taught the correct content standards nor cognitively stretched in the class.