According to NPR, “The government released the latest national test scores on Wednesday, and the news isn’t good: 12th-graders are headed toward graduation, but many don’t have the skills they need to succeed in college or work.”

What is shocking is how anyone can be surprised. In the last few years the emphasis on high stakes testing has turned many good teachers’ classrooms into worksheet factories. Students are not engaged by these types of uninspired practices. Yet, when schools feel the pressure, they force teachers to teach to the test, and the outcome is poor student growth. It is a vicious cycle that must be stopped.

We know, and the research confirms, that frequent formative assessment is the number one way to improve student performance. Low stakes assessments, that give teachers data to drive instruction, are the solution. We created Quick Key, for myself and teachers like me to have data to show the world that our outside the box teaching practices are effective. Quick Key allows teachers to engage students and improve test scores, without teaching to the test.

Walter Duncan is the teacher Co-Creator of the Quick Key App, which allows teachers to grade paper assessments with their smart devices. Please go to to find out more.