5 ways to help your ELL students perform better on state standardized tests

It is wrong to “teach to the test,” but should we avoid helping students prepare? Of course not! Even though standardized tests are still months away, it’s never too early to help your students begin getting ready.  The earlier you prepare, the better your students will perform. Here are 5 things you can do to help your ELLs perform better on state standardized testing:

  1. Teach your students that state testing matters.
    Most ELL students don’t hear anything about standardized testing until two weeks before the test.  If they don’t know, they don’t care.  Share information with your students about what these tests are for, when they will take place, and how it impacts their school and community.  Mark the test dates on your school calendar.  Only when students know do they care.
  2. Make your students proud of their achievements.
    The most common reason students lose interest in school is because they feel like “no one cares about them.”  There are many incentive programs designed to motivate student learning.  One of them is Californians Together, which is promoting the “Seal of Biliteracy” program to convert ELLs’ weaknesses into strengths. For more information, check out http://www.californianstogether.org/
  3. Focus on Academic English
    “Long term ELL students” are becoming a major challenge for many ESL teachers.  These students speak English as fluently as native speakers, but perform poorly in school.  The problem is their Academic English.  Develop a strategy to help your students acquire Academic English and encourage them use academic vocabulary daily in school.
  4. Get content teachers to work with ESL teachers
    Many ESL teachers focus on teaching language arts and leave math, science and social studies to the content teachers.  But standardized tests doesn’t care who is responsible for teaching ELL students’ math and ELL students need to be prepared.  Set up monthly meetings with content teachers and monitor the progress of your ELL students in these subject areas.  There are content specific bilingual dictionaries helping ELL students study content.




  5. Use accommodations during CST
    California DOE allows ELL students to use a “word to word dictionary” during the CST and CAHSEE.  This is the most effective tool to help your ELL students perform during the CST.  Using these “word to word dictionaries” in classroom activities helps students learn better in ESL class as well as in their content classrooms.



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