When practicing the specific reading, writing, and

When I was teaching in a third-grade bilingual
classroom, a mainstream fourth-grade teacher came to me with a question about a
Russian student in her classroom. It was spring, and the school had just
completed its yearly standardized testing. All the students in her class had
made an effort to complete the required tests as well as they could, except
Alexis, who had refused to even pick up his pencil. His teacher wanted to know

I knew Alexis; he came to my class for reading
instruction. He was one of the best readers in my class. A motivated student
whose oral English was quite good, Alexis was reading on a third-grade level and
making excellent progress. I explained to his teacher that he had probably
never seen a multiple-choice standardized test before and may have been so
intimidated by the format that he felt safer not even trying. A little bit of
instruction and practice on how to approach multiple-choice questions and how
to fill out answer sheets might have given him all the confidence he needed.”

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That was back in the days when standardized testing
was not the high-stakes undertaking that it is now. In many classrooms,
students spend a good deal of time throughout the year preparing for
standardized tests – practicing the specific reading, writing, and math skills
that are required for the tests; being taught strategies for answering
multiple-choice and short-answer questions, learning how to fill in answer
sheets, and so on. Teachers complain that so much time spent on test
preparation occurs at the expense of subjects that are not tested, and school
administrators counter that these programs help raise test scores, which is
crucial under the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

With ELLs, the question of what kind of test
preparation is most appropriate is even more complex. For students who are
still learning English, any kind of test becomes a test of their English
language proficiency. This results in a large achievement gap between ELLs and
English-proficient students writing aP1 standardized tests.


 aP1Do not use generic verbs. Use specific verbs.