California Educator

MARCH 2011

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A new twist on tests Del Norte High School ties standardized tests to students’ grades not receive any direct benefit and teach- ers become frustrated by students filling in the bubbles at random. Del Nor te Teachers Association members decided it was time to make students accountable for their test scores, and figured the best way to do it would be to offer them an incentive. Grades cannot be bumped up more than one level, and departments vary on the practice; in science, grades can only be bumped up as high as a B, while in Eng- lish and math, grades can be bumped from a B to an A. As an incentive to stu- dents with A’s, some math teachers give bonus points on tests that will be taken the following year for students that score well. Grades are bumped up retro- actively, since the test results are not re- leased from the state until after grades are submitted. Still, there is no negative impact on grades if students do poorly on the state test. The school’s principal, Coleen Park- er, has no objection to the policy if teachers choose to adopt it. “We’ve got to come up with some way to motivate students,” says Parker. “They need to see that this test matters. It matters to us be- cause our school is being judged on the test. For that reason, it needs to matter to students.” Math teacher Dave Bokor came up Story by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin • Photos by Scott Buschman As teachers are getting ready to have students pull out No. 2 pencils for standardized tests, Del Norte High School in Crescent City has figured out a controversial way to make the tests relevant to students — link them to grades. If students score “proficient” or “ad- 20 California Educator | MARCH 2011 vanced” on the California Standards Test (CST), they can raise their semester grade by one level. Students can go from an F to a D, for example, which can mean the difference between failing a class and passing. It’s a radical departure from other schools, where students who perform well on standardized tests do with the idea because his students were always asking why they should do cer- tain things. It dawned on him that his students put forth more effort when he explained the value of learning certain concepts or completing assignments. “It would be nice if they performed ABOVE: Math teacher Dave Bokor believes that his students are trying harder on CSTs since good scores can bump up their grades. “For the first time, kids are looking forward to knowing what their test results are,” he says. “Finally, they have an incentive.”

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