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Indiana School Teaches Test Prep As Literary Genre


In this country, many American kids are preparing for standardized tests. They're among the rites of spring and they cause a lot of stress. One Indiana school tries to manage that stress by obsessing over the test a little less. Rather than teaching every single thing on the test, they just teach how to take one. Here's Kyle Stokes of NPR member station WFIU.

KYLE STOKES, BYLINE: Quick - name the literary genres you learned about in school.

HEATHER BARON-CAUDILL: You learned how to write poetry, you learned how to read nonfiction, you learned how to read historical fiction.

STOKES: Heather Baron-Caudill is the curriculum coach at the Project School. It's a small K-9 charter school in Bloomington, Indiana that prides itself on doing things differently, and test prep is no exception.

BARON-CAUDILL: We see testing of a genre.

STOKES: That's right. The Project School teaches standardized testing as a literary genre, right alongside the memoir and the short story. So how do teachers get from T.S. Eliot to testing? It's like learning to understand a poem by breaking it down to its rhythm and meter. Baron-Caudill says teachers present test-taking tips in much the same way. Get stuck on a question, come back to it later. Got to tackle a dense essay? Take a critical look at the prompt first.

BARON-CAUDILL: We want to know what kinds of questions come up, but yet we're not going to sit there and spend a year learning how to take a test, like some places do.

STOKES: Teachers spend a two-week unit on test preparation, and after that it's back to regularly scheduled programming, allowing teachers more freedom in the classroom. Some parents aren't so keen on downplaying attention to statewide exams, but the school's condensed approach to test prep is part of what led Gina Carney to enroll her son at the Project School.

GINA CARNEY: We were drawn to The Project School because they have this specific way of teaching about standardized testing. I would say that it would be the opposite of that, is that they don't have a really stressed out attitude about standardized testing; they're not focused on it.

STOKES: So if testing is a genre and the wrong answers are A, C and D, the Project School hopes their quirky approach can help students answer the age-old question: To B or not to B? For NPR News, I'm Kyle Stokes.


INSKEEP: And if anybody should ask you during a test, you can tell them that that story was from State Impact, a project from NPR and its member stations examining how state policy affects American lives. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools forKPLU.