What's so bad about teaching to the test?
Page 5 of 5
By GreatSchools Staff
Tests are here to stay
Some argue that students need to learn how to take tests, regardless of whether they are aligned to state standards, because tests are a part of life, both in school and beyond. "I have never found 'teaching to the test' all that peculiar," says Leif Fearn, a teacher educator at San Diego State University in California. "We teach to the driving license test and the bar examination for attorneys in every state. Medical students pay heavily for preparation courses before their medical examinations, and most real estate brokers take courses that prepare them for their licensure examinations. Only in education do we demonize teaching that accommodates the mandated high-stakes tests."
There's obviously a need for both teaching the skills necessary to succeed on tests, and preparing students to think and engage in learning. "We need a balanced approach. We need to teach children to problem-solve and provide a solid foundation for success beyond high school," says Raymond. "How are we preparing students to succeed in college and beyond? A high school diploma is not enough today. We want to prepare our students to succeed in meaningful jobs in the 21st century. If teaching to the test limits us in providing solid skills, then it's something we need to examine closely."
Questions to ask at your school
Do you know how your school and your district approaches standardized testing? Here are some sample questions you might ask of your school principal, your school site council and/or your child's teacher:
- What are the content standards for each subject and grade tested?
- How are the tests changing the nature of teaching and learning at the school?
- Does the school use test results to identify areas that need improvement or to target support for certain students?
- What is the school doing to address any differences in achievement among particular groups of students?
- How much time and what kinds of activities do teachers use to prepare students for tests?
- What is being sacrificed to make room for these test-prep activities?
- Are subjects that are not being tested (such as social studies and the arts) being adequately covered in the curriculum?
- What is the school or district doing about students who consistently score below grade level?