Chapter 1 Kids Are Well Prepared For Standardized Tests

The children in my lab make progress every year," asserts Pat Dunlap, the ESEA/Chapter 1 computer lab teacher at John Harvard Elementary School in Chicago, Ill. The reason for this growth is the use of Skills Bank II, comprehensive basic skills software from Skills Bank Corp. of Baltimore, Md. Dunlap uses the program to help prepare her students for the school's yearly standardized tests. No Grades Dunlap has relied on the Reading and Math Series for over two years. "I sent for the demo disk, liked it and got it for the lab," she explains. Five Chapter 1 classes, ranging from fifth to eighth grades, use Skills Bank II each day -- a total of 100 students. They work at the lab's 20 workstations, a mixture of IBM EduQuest Model 30 and Model 25 computers networked to a Model 80 server. Students work on various concepts, each at his or her own pace. "I don't use grades," Dunlap insists. Instead, students work through the concepts, taking the imbedded quizzes and tests after each onscreen lesson. When a student has a problem or question, Dunlap and her assistant are there to help; when the entire class seems to have difficulty with a concept, the instructor will present a lecture-type lesson. "I print progress reports weekly to see how students are doing," Dunlap continues. "I can tell when they're playing and when they're working on the computer." She also implements a student-of-the-month program as an extra incentive. Students are not chosen for performance alone; their diligence is also rewarded. "I give the student a certificate, a small gift and put [his or her] picture up on the board." Very Positive Skills Bank is helping these students prepare for annual Iowa and IGAP proficiency exams. It's been very positive in terms of achievement. According to Dunlap, 70% of last year's students made at least eight months of growth in reading and math compared to scores from last year's Iowa test. A factor to keep in mind is that tests become progressively more difficult each year, so these Chapter 1 students would have to increase their scores by a full grade to stay even -- a feat that in many cases is unreasonable. Skills Bank is, in the words of the lab instructor, "very challenging for my children. They have to think. Skills covered, like figurative language, really help because they're all over the Iowa [state test]." Involving Parents Parents are kept abreast of all of this growth too. Dunlap holds workshops once a year so parents can see what their children are working on and how they're doing. In addition, four time a year a report is sent home that itemizes that child's progress. "Parents are 100% behind us," she comments. "They love the reports because they're so detailed."

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.