Drill and kill was very effective as a preparation strategy for TAAS. Even though it was a less effective strategy for TAKS, educators were unwilling to let it go.  For STAAR the strategy will simply ensure that students will fail, en masse.  Yet sadly, at campus after campus I visit, test remediation is the same as it ever was. Which begs the question, “What should we be doing for STAAR preparation?”

I’m glad you asked.  If it were my campus and my students I would start with the following 6-step plan.

Step 1: Start now! What the heck are you waiting for? The longer you wait the more accurately I can predict the STAAR results for your campus, and the prediction isn’t comforting.

Step 2: Tackle the deepest holes first!  You can’t fix everything, for everyone.  So you have to be strategic.  Work to fill the two deepest holes in student understanding.  When a hole is filled, move to the next deepest hole.  The beauty of this step is that less deep holes are often filled in the process without devoting time and energy towards them.

Step 3: Focus on fluency! Don’t kill your students by having them do practice problem after practice problem.  Instead do fewer problems during a short time period. Assessment stamina is not the skill set you are trying to build.  You want to build assessment fluency.  You want your students to:  A. Quickly identify the pertinent information in a problem.  B. Quickly decide which strategy to use to solve the problem.  C. Answer quickly, with confidence.  D. Move to the next problem

Step 4: Use process questions. The only “facts in isolation” tests that students take are teacher made.  Our accountability tests are rigorous and process driven.  Remediation must reflect this reality. 

Step 5: Force cognition.  Remediation sessions should be heavily skewed towards hands on activities (application), discussion and critical writing (analysis, synthesis and evaluation). Knowledge and comprehension based activities, even in content, only give the illusion of teaching to a standard. Avoid the trap of wasting the effort of teachers and students.   

Step 6: Harness the power of teamwork. Let students work in small teams on their remediation assignments. The results will astonish you.  Here are some reasons why this works. 1. The students all have deficits, but not the same deficit. When students work together, they fill in each other’s gaps in knowledge faster than we can identify them. 2. It forces the students to engage in academic conversations, which lend themselves to deeper understandings. 3. It’s more difficult to quit on your partner than on yourself.  Which means that the power of sweat equity actually comes into play.  4. Every time I help my partner solve something, I become a little more confident and feel a little smarter.

Now all you have to do is remember this, “A poor plan executed with conviction will always be better that a perfect plan never executed.”

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: North Dakota Principals Association Conference (Keynote Speaker), TASSP Assistant Principals’ Workshop (Featured Speaker), American Association of School Administrators Conference (Multiple Presentations), National Association of Secondary School Principals Conference (Multiple Presentations), Texas Association of Secondary School Principals Conference (Multiple Presentations)
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation