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Rethinking elementary classroom instruction

The Center for Educational Policy (CEP) just announced a new report about the impact of the NCLB on the classroom.

The study found that in schools in need of improvement teachers are more likely than those in higher-achieving schools to ask students questions with one or a few right answers.

Conversely, teachers in high-achieving schools are more likely to take an almost 180-degree, opposite, approach.

They use more open-ended teaching strategies such as leading class discussions, hands-on activities, reading aloud and learning centers.

Is it just us, or is this strange? Sadly, it appears that when faced with the reality of harsh penalties, administrators had their teachers “teach to the test.”

Before switching away from time-tested, open-ended teaching strategies to try to boost test scores, we believe struggling schools should give their teachers the tools they need to make their classrooms more effective and engaging.

Teachers in low-achieving schools need tools to help provide personalized instruction, promote a deeper understanding of the curriculum, and help manage classroom behavior.

These tools should also be intuitive and easy to learn to use. Tools like Merit Software.

Merit helps teachers scaffold instruction while implementing open-ended, in-class, teaching strategies. It also frees up teachers’ time to provide extra individual instruction or work in small groups.

These benefits happen to align to another finding in the study — that teachers in low-achieving schools want to spend class time modeling instruction and working in small groups.

In particular, Merit’s Punch writing programs, including Paragraph Punch and Book Punch, provide step-by-step instruction to help students learn how to answer open-ended questions.

Because the Punch writing programs support a wide range of skills and expressions, more students can participate in class.

Randomized control group research conducted on Merit shows that this approach improves student achievement and test scores — without teaching to the test.

The sample size in the CEP study was very small. It was not possible to try to determine statistical differences between high and low achieving schools.

However, the findings do suggest that instructional practices do vary among schools with different levels of achievement.

Should low-achieving schools continue teaching to the test? What’s your opinion?