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Using Technology to Prepare for Standardized Testing

February 2001

Mrs. Barbara Hinojosa, Principal at the Kennedy Elementary School in Mercedes, Texas, talks about how a 4th grade class used technology as a learning tool to prepare students for the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) test. She offers tips about how other schools can build an environment where students achieve their educational goals using multiple technologies.

" Earlier this month, our fourth grade class at the Kennedy Elementary School spent an entire day preparing for the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) test in writing. To prepare for the tests, we held a Power TAAS! Day where all of our students - both English and Spanish speaking students - reviewed the material they had been learning over the past month using various technologies - computers, Internet and other software programs. The goal was to help students prepare for the upcoming TAAS test and minimize their anxiety about the test by utilizing our technical resources.

Our approach was to assign each teacher a section of the curriculum required by our state standards. Teachers were then asked to build their lesson plans and project-based activities to include technology. Students rotated between 9 work stations, where they used technology to participate in learning exercises that covered a state mandated curriculum objective as required by the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) guidelines. We quickly saw that by integrating technology into the learning activities, and making these technical tools central to classroom activities, the atmosphere in the classroom changed. Students were excited to participate. We also saw that by breaking the class into small groups, teachers had more time to help students who were struggling with various components of the lesson.

At Kennedy Elementary School, we believe that motivation is the key to improving academic results. We have seen that utilizing technology to improve our classroom teaching is a strong motivating force with our students. Building on this philosophy, here are some guidelines we apply at Kennedy Elementary to help integrate technology into our curriculum:

  1. INTEGRATION: Make sure that the technology that is utilized integrates into the current classroom teaching. Use of technology is just one piece of the puzzle that leads to student learning and achievement. Most teachers are unwilling to disregard successful lesson plans in exchange for untested technology-based plans. Teachers also need to understand how these new technology components fit together with the mandated standards from the state.

  2. USER FRIENDLY: Technology can be very intimidating for many people; try to make sure the hardware, software, and other technology components are compatible and easy to use.

  3. TRAINING AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: When purchasing technical resources for classrooms, require classroom integration training from the company that sells you hardware or software. Professional development for teachers is essential. We recommend a minimum of 10 days a year where the consultants come onto the campus and work side by side with your teachers.

  4. ONGOING FINANCIAL SUPPORT: Always look for additional resources to finance your technical needs. Make sure you are cross-checking your educational goals and your technology goals so that these are mutually supporting. A good technology plan supports your schools educational goals. And, with the rapid pace at which technology changes, funding is always needed to upgrade and purchase better resources.

  5. MAKE IT FUN!: Both students and teachers learn better in a stimulating and interactive environment.


At the end of our Power TAAS! Day, many students felt that they were prepared for their tests and had improved their writing abilities. They said that the pressures of preparing for the test were gone and that the day was a positive learning experience. Teachers and parents commented that the Power TAAS! day was successful. Everyone worked so hard without even realizing it, and the best part is that our benchmarking indicates the students are achieving positive academic gains as a result of our multi-squareiplinary approach."

About the Kennedy Elementary School, Mercedes, Texas
The Kennedy Elementary School has 520 students in grades first through fourth. Ninety-eight percent are Hispanic with fifty percent of these student identified as Limited English Proficient. The fourth grade class has 112 students with 25 students receiving instruction in Spanish. The Kennedy Elementary School is part of the NetDay Community Initiatives in Mercedes Texas. To learn more, visit the Kennedy Elementary School web site at or contact Barbara Hinojosa at