Best Practice: Kaplan test-taking strategies help raise API and test scores

California’s Yamato Colony Elementary School faces steep obstacles to ensuring that all students succeed. Ninety percent of the school’s 500-plus students begin school as non-English speakers or with extremely limited English skills. Seventy-two percent are Hispanic, and 89 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Yet, despite these challenges, the school has made substantial gains in student achievement, thanks in part to test preparation programs from Kaplan K12 Learning Services Inc.

Upon the establishment of California standards and the Academic Performance Index (API), Yamato Colony educators researched other districts’ standards-based materials to design a successful program to increase students’ scores on the SAT9. School officials also used Kaplan test preparation programs from 1999 through 2001 to help target their instruction to the skills and strategies necessary for SAT9 success.

Yamato Colony implemented Kaplan’s Test-Taking Strategies (now Kaplan’s Advantage product line) in English Language Arts and Mathematics for all students in grades 2-5. All teachers who used the program received professional development from Kaplan through two- to three-hour training sessions for each subject, as well as mid-program follow-up.

Kaplan’s Test-Taking Strategies helps students maximize performance on the SAT9 through step-by-step, strategic approaches to specific structural and content challenges presented by the test. Instructional units focus on performance tasks while providing students with brief, relevant content review; step-by-step strategic approaches to increase confidence levels; and methods to optimize test success.

The Central Valley Educational Research Consortium (CVERC) conducted a research project on API, titled What Works: Characteristics of High-Performing Schools in the Central Valley. The study analyzed 225 schools in multicultural and diverse socio-economic geographic areas. Researchers from CVERC compiled data from 100 schools that participated in telephone surveys addressing the programs they implemented to improve public student achievement. Based on results, CVERC selected five schools (including Yamato Colony) with significant API and SAT9 increases for on-site visits.

Over the past three years, Yamato County’s API rose from a similar school ranking of 1 to a ranking of 7. In addition, its API began at 437 in 1999, rose to 481 in 2000, and increased again by 107 points—to 588—in 2001. Students also showed tremendous gains on the SAT9 in reading, math, language, and spelling (see graphic).

Kaplan’s program, professional development, and administration leadership were some of the features that helped Yamato County meet its API Growth and Subgroups Target and qualify for receiving the Governor’s Performance Award—a reward to schools that show high achievement. For more information about Kaplan programs, call toll-free (888) KAPLAN-8 or visit

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