How to Raise Reading and Writing Test Scores

As an English teacher who has recently resigned, I’m no expert, but here’s my plan to raise reading and writing tests scores in middle school and high school.

1. Do not require English teachers to attend any seminars, presentations, or meetings on how to increase reading and writing test scores.

2. Do not put the poor readers and writers all together in the same class.

3. Do not require English teachers to write reflections in which they analyze students’ scores on 45-minute writing assessments taken at the beginning, middle, and end of the semester and explain what they did to affect those scores.

American Lit Grading, One Section

4. Do not require English teachers to write the objective of the day’s lesson on the board before each class.

5. Do not, on the first professional development day after summer vacation, when the teachers are well rested, inspired and excited, have the superintendent present the district’s test scores from the previous year along with scores of other districts that did better.

6. Do not make students take practice tests.

7. Do not purchase an “artificial intelligence” computer service for students which provides writing prompts, gives students a score for their grammar, spelling, and punctuation, alerts you if they use the word “suicide” in their writing, and makes the average score of your students’ work available to administration to compare with other classes.

8.  Do not, each year, require English teachers to write new curriculum, or new common final exams, or new rubrics for alternative assignments for students who do not meet goal on their standardized tests yet need to meet graduation requirements.

9.  Do not make teachers look up the previous test scores of their current students to look for a pattern of which state curriculum standards the students did not master.

10. Cap English classes at twenty.

11. Establish independent reading for half an hour every Friday, with no assessments connected.

12.  Have an online page for the school library where students can post reviews of their favorite books and comment on one another’s reviews.

13.  Put big comfy chairs in the school library and make sure the library isn’t closed a block of each day because of a staff shortage.

14. Let the students pick at least one of the books the class will study as a whole group by discussing length, subject matter, age and gender of the protagonist, covers, or anything else they think matters.

15. Let students choose their own writing topics and genres to express their ideas.

16. Allow students to have water bottles in class and to leave for the bathroom when they need to go.

17. Invite journalists, novelists, screenplay writers, poets, public library librarians, human rights activists, artists, and storytellers to visit classes and compensate them for their time.

18. Eliminate standardized tests altogether.


With the enormous amount of time saved, teachers and students will be able to concentrate on true learning.  Morale will sky-rocket.  The test generating and scoring companies will go out of business.  Vast amounts of money will be saved.  Best of all, we will reclaim the dignity and enthusiasm that are the rights of every student and teacher.

16 Responses to How to Raise Reading and Writing Test Scores

  • “Boy, what a fruitcake you are!”

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Ha! Thanks, Jim.
    Back at you.

  • From one former English teacher to another…Amen.

  • What a breath of fresh air! I immediately passed this on to my principal. Now if only our state legislators would pay attention! Thanks for validating my 25 years of experience as a reading teacher and librarian, Caragh!

  • You are making a TON of sense! Please submit this somewhere: magazine, newspaper, online venue?? It would resonate with many people for sure.

    As a non-teacher (but actual parent) I think you are making numerous and thoughtful points about the state of the English classroom.

    Good stuff.


  • Hi Caragh. Thanks for this (by the way, I like your writing style!) I taught English to middle schoolers in Bogota, so I can relate to many of yor point, thought thank god we didn’t have standardized tests.

    Have you heard of an outfit called People and Stories? They promote literature to all kinds of different populations by reading aloud/discussing short stories. Very rewarding for all involved.

    Cheers to you, Carrie

  • Thanks Drew, McL., Lucia and Carrie,
    Teachers are team players who make the best of the system when they’re in it, but truly, the bean-counters should not be driving education. I suspect the general public has no idea how insidious the ripple effects of testing are. I didn’t even start on how humiliating the tests are for our ESL kids.
    All best,

  • Excellent ideas, C. Testing sure is a waste of everything.

  • Thanks, Jeanette.

  • Always heartfelt, Caragh. Thanks for sharing, and thinking, and writing. Sofa power!

  • I am a friend of Stella’s. You are correct…will you run for head of state education please????

  • Stella ~ Thank you!
    Joyce ~ Very amusing. As if. Get Stella to run.
    All best,

  • I agree with you on all these things where I know how you feel. If only schools would do something about these things! Haha 🙂
    miss you!

  • Sounds like a plan; I’m in.
    Except sharing the learning intention discussions about how each individual could go about reaching the target set for them develops useful conversational and aspirational goals. Especially if you allow time to review at the end.

  • I currently work in a system which requires items one through nine. This is one of the major reasons that this, my thirty-fifth year of teaching, is also my last year of teaching.

  • Elaine ~
    I’m all for conversations with students about their own goals.
    Brrenda ~
    I wish you all the best once you resign. I’m not giving up on finding a solution to this because the kids need so badly for us to find a way. I’ve just seen Waiting for Superman, so I know there are solutions. Excellence doesn’t come from killing teachers’ and students’ creativity but by nurturing it.
    All best,

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