If I Can’t Teach to the Test, What Should I Teach To?

If I Can’t Teach to the Test, What Should I Teach To?

You need to improve student performance on standardized tests. How should you go about it? You have a few options.

Teaching to the Test

When you teach to the test, you pull out the exam you’re prepping for, and you reverse engineer the learning process so that students can answer those exact questions.

This is a bad idea. It has all sorts of repercussions on motivation and learning and doesn’t give you the outcome you want. Don’t take my brief word for it: read more about how teaching to the test doesn’t work.

Teaching to the Standard

When you teach to a standard, your starting point for your lesson is a state standard. This became a popular way to go after Common Core, especially before curriculum alignments caught up.

The problem here is that most standards are unteachable without a lot of supporting information and specifications. What’s more, without knowledge of the way the standard is assessed, you could misalign what students learn with how they’re tested. Lastly, every standard incorporates hidden standards that will get in the way of demonstrating proficiency.

Teaching to the Textbook

Long before standards were first-class citizens in the classroom, there were textbooks. When you teach to the textbook, you just get your kids through that thing come hell or high water.

There are problems here, too. Misalignment between textbooks and assessments are rampant, so even if your students have perfect book knowledge they could miss on the standardized test. What’s more, textbooks are a one-size-fits-all approach that often doesn’t provide the flexibility to meet individual student learning needs.

Teaching to the Student

This is the methodology we advocate at MasteryPrep and enable with our programs. What does teaching to the student look like?

When you plan your lessons, in addition to the curriculum or textbook resources you’re working with, you take into consideration:

  • State standards
  • Assessed standards (how they will actually be tested)
  • Current student ability level
  • Student interest and value

You then provide a lesson that captures student interest, provides them value (from their own perspective), and bridges them from their current ability level to a level that meets or exceeds the expectations expressed by state standards and implied by the assessed standards and the supporting curriculum.

When you plan a lesson that teaches to the student, you’re more likely to reach them where they are and take them to where they need to go.

If you don’t teach to the student, you might teach over their heads. You might never engage them. Or you might have them work with you faithfully but never achieve mastery in what they’ll be measured in.

Teaching to the student is a holistic approach that helps you prepare and have a meaningful, measurable impact on students. Click here to learn about how MasteryPrep can help you teach to the student.

About MasteryPrep:

MasteryPrep provides mastery-based college readiness services and resources for the SAT®, ACT®, TSIA2, EOC, and WorkKeys®. MasteryPrep is the nationally preferred SAT and ACT prep provider of the Council for Opportunity in Education and licensed by ACT to include official ACT test questions in its programs. MasteryPrep partners with schools and districts to help level the standardized assessment playing field. MasteryPrep has ranked among the Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing Companies” for six years and is a featured “Entrepreneur 360” company.


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