After all the practice and question-writing, my students did improve test scores, especially in critical thinking skills. I do not have their Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) scores back yet, but we held a mock TAKS a little over a week before the real thing. Data from January and April show the following increase for each objective. These numbers are for all of my regular language arts students together.

Objective 1: Demonstrate a basic understanding of culturally diverse written texts.

January – 73% mastery

April – 76% mastery

Objective 2: Apply knowledge of literary elements to understand culturally diverse written texts.

January – 75% mastery

April – 80% mastery

Objective 3: Use a variety of strategies to analyze culturally diverse written texts.

January – 67% mastery

April – 70% mastery

Objective 4: Apply critical thinking skills to analyze culturally diverse written texts.

January – 59% mastery

April – 73% mastery

I am happiest with the Objective 4 increase, but I know these numbers need to be much higher to be considered good. The first year of teaching is so much about figuring things out and getting through, so I have a much better plan of attack for next year, but I am interested in any suggestions. This year my students entered the seventh grade with a median instructional reading level of 5. I teach at a Title I school, and about half of the students are labeled at-risk. What suggestions do you have for really making a difference in their ability to read and comprehend grade-level texts?