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Updated: 06/27/2014 08:42:36AM

Teaching the tests

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Much is reported of teachers condemning state-mandated tests of students, or the number of them, claiming that teaching what some state officials think students should learn (“teaching to the test”) is taking time from what the teachers believe they should be teaching.

If it really is harmful for students to take state tests on what a council of administrators believes they should be learning, in, say algebra, those tests should not be administered. Many teachers say they know what to teach and to test better than the administrators do. Who knows best? Let’s get the evidence.

Perhaps teachers could cover both what they and the state board believe the students should learn. Life is full of tests, and I do not believe that those I took in school harmed me. All teachers give tests to check on how well the pupils have learned, and sometimes to gauge what changes in methods might be adopted. So these teachers teach to their tests. Do they think that “teaching to their tests” is damaging?

Student scores on standardized tests is of course only one of the factors in evaluating students, teachers, and schools. But they can help. I recall that many decades ago my daughter in a good high school in Connecticut told me that her mathematics teacher talked a lot about a variety of subjects but taught little of the subject she was employed to teach. Perhaps if the state had mandated that she “teach to the test,” her class might then have stood out as deficient and been a candidate for remediation.

Perhaps my daughter would have had a better career if that teacher had taught to a state Comprehensive Achievement Test. But my daughter is now the principal of an elite private school in Washington, D.C. What a sneaky way to avoid being forced to “teach to the tests.”



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