Strategy Set 1: Focus On the Standards
from Thomas Herdtner
Director, Florida Connections Academy
Virtual schools that are publicly funded are more than likely required to have students participate in the stateâ€™s high stakes standardized test program. Helping virtual school students prepare for high stakes standardized tests can be a challenging undertaking, especially when student promotion or retention, school evaluation and funding are at least partially impacted by these tests. At Florida Connections Academy, we have developed a number of strategies to approaching this daunting task. Hereâ€™s our first set.
- If the high stakes tests are designed to measure mastery of state standards, be sure your families have access to the standards for the grade level of each of their students. Most states will have a department of education website that will have a link to the state standards. Even if you include a standards connection in each lesson, provide this link to your families and have them download and print out these standards. They should be encouraged to track the mastery of each of these standards throughout the school year. Frequent review of the standards will help each family assure that their student has exposure to each of the standards they are expected to master prior to the test. Families can also work with your teachers to supplement the curriculum with assignments that target particular â€œproblemâ€ standards for each student.
- Fine-tune the alignment of your virtual schoolâ€™s curriculum with state standards. This can be a lengthy process, so start with the most important areas of the curriculum. Reading and language arts may be the first priority because of the importance most high stakes tests place on these. Your curriculum may cover the state standards, however, check the time of year that concepts are taught compared to the skills tested on the high stakes test. It may require that the schoolâ€™s curriculum be adjusted to assure that the majority of the required skills are taught prior to the administration of the high stakes test. It may also be necessary to replace some parts of the schoolâ€™s curriculum with materials and assignments that are considered of higher importance on the high stakes test.