At the school where I used to teach, preparation for our state’s high-stakes test, the TCAP, was an all hands on deck five-week bootcamp like adventure. Our entire school ascribed to “What’s Your Why?” as the central question we used to motivate students. Every teacher had an individualized buy-in plan that included rewards, public/private data trackers for students, and frequent communication with parents. Every student was asked on a daily basis what’s your why, and the answer to this question was related back to TCAP success.
Last year, my students were voraciously reading Divergent, which became a central theme in my motivational strategy. I gave each student a tracker where they measured their weekly progress on mixed-skill quizzes. I called parents every Friday afternoon when a student worked hard all week and performed on a mixed-skill quiz. I integrated the importance of writing in every field and every part of life throughout my lessons. I used data from our Mock TCAP to unit plan, and I used mastery from the Mixed Skill Quizzes to plan reteaches the following week. I wrote lessons that had question stems aligned to the state test and distractors designed based on what the sample questions included.
I used the same strategy this year. TCAP Prep time is the toughest part of the year for students and teachers. It is a 6-week, non-stop race. Getting students invested in their performance on the test is crucial, as are aligned questions, and annotation and elimination strategies dominate an ELA state test that relies on better/best answer choices. This year, my test preparation machine began to feel seamless; I had the necessary component parts to make all the cogs and wheels turn.