During my first year at the Marc and Eva Stern Math and Science School, I taught Human Geography, U.S. History, and Advisory courses (please view these courses by selecting the appropriate tab on the left).
I used project-based and inquiry learning techniques and was happy to find that these more creative approaches focused on developing critical thinking skills also prepared students to demonstrate mastery of state standards as measured by standardized tests (CSTs). Rejecting the pressure to teach to the test, "drill and kill," and rejecting the false dichotomy between critical pedagogy and standardized tests was important for my development as a teacher. I strongly believe that if you aim higher than the state exams and use alternative assessments such as debates, storybooks, research papers, speeches, drama, art, and socratic seminars which are aligned to clearly defined learning objectives, the students will be able to do just fine on the CSTs at the end of the year.
In fact, during the 2008-2009 academic year, I taught 11th grade U.S. History to three periods of students, about seventy-five total, all but three of whom had scored Far Below Basic, Below Basic and Basic on their History CST exam the previous year (those who scored Proficient/Advanced took AP U.S. History with another teacher). In one year, my classes improved from 4% to over 50% Proficient/Advanced. Only one of my students scored Far Below Basic and only 6% were Below Basic.
As the graph indicates, 54% of my students during the 2008-2009 academic year scored Proficient/Advanced. This is well above the California state average, which hovers between 25% and 35% each year. Furthermore, these achievement gains should be compared to the U.S. History CST scores for James A. Garfield Senior High, with 19% Proficient/Advanced, and Theodore Roosevelt High, with 12% (although they were as low as 9% in 2006) Proficient/Advanced, which are the two neighborhood high schools in East LA my students would have attended if they did not attend Stern MASS.
 CST data by school is available through the California Department of Education and easily accessible at: http://www.losangelesschools.com/los-angeles/theodore-roosevelt-senior-high and http://www.losangelesschools.com/los-angeles/james-a-garfield-senior-high.
 See 2010 Annual School Report for the Marc and Eva Stern Math and Science School, p.24.