It’s common for teachers to be frustrated by the fact that they’ve taught content that students "miss" or "fail" on the final assessment. When I talk to some teachers they say, "Well, I taught that, I don’t know why they didn’t learn it!" It IS frustrating, but what I try to teach teacher is that they/we have much more control over how students perform on assessments than we think!

Here are a few quick steps for every teacher to take during preparation and planning to increase the odds of students performing well on the assessment.

Step 1: Read the lesson and unit assessment thoroughly. Sounds silly, but you would be shocked to know that many teachers "scan" the assessment, but they aren’t studying the assessment, despite being held accountable for the outcome!

Step 2: Make a list of the skills that are covered and how many questions are addressing each skill. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve analyzed tests where 50% of what was measured only amounted to 20% of the content taught.

Step 3: Note the specific way that the questions are crafted and ask yourself: is the instruction in the manual set up to prepare kids for the questions on the assessment or do I need to tweak several questions during my instruction to match the way the questions are formed in the assessment? Sometimes just the way the question is phrased is confusing to students, even though they know the content. So, if the formation of the question is tricky, we need to restructure the questions during our instruction to match the assessment so students have more practice with that particular question type.

Step 4: Highlight all of the opportunities you have to directly teach, practice and give feedback on those skills represented on the assessment. If you are finding that there are two opportunities to teach a concept, yet that concept is highly represented on the assessment, then you need to create more opportunities to teach that concept. You also might find that a question on the assessment is a mastery-level question when you’ve only taught through guided practice. Either way, the students are not likely to "pass" that section or question on the test if they have not even been taught the content. Also, when you are teaching content that is going to be represented on the test, I see nothing wrong with stating, "Ladies and gentlemen, you will be tested on this so let’s make sure we get some good practice here."