Tests, tests, and more…

To be certain, in my experience most students are okay with taking tests. They know that they have prepared diligently; they also know that they have been given every conceivable resource available to them including other educational professionals, any or all libraries in the United States, university tutors how come in for sessions of observation and participation, and most of all, they have the confidence that they have been prepared properly.

However, I am completely convinced that all of this jibber-jabber concerning “Teaching to the Test” is far more concerned with what each state has laid out as their ‘Standards of Learning.’ Ironically coined the ‘SOLs’ this is where most, if not all, of those outside the education community, are not completely aware.

I have written an article that referenced Walt Gardner and his ideals of teaching to a test. Although I linked the entire article at the time of writing, most people are just to lazy either to read where the data is actually coming from, or they have formed their rebuttals and are preparing their comments and not reading the link which, by the way, is the origin of the information. 

Quick sidebarThere is a distinct difference between teaching to the broad body of skills and knowledge that a test represents (good), and teaching to the exact items that will appear on the standardized test (indefensible and illegal). Teaching students how to answer a particular set of items that appears on a test shortchanges them ethically and educationally. The confusing part arises when we fail to make that distinction.

The distinction is crucial in today’s debate over the method used to identify effective teachers because it also calls into question another widely misunderstood concept – the curriculum.

In an attempt to help schools provide a quality education, reformers mistakenly believe that covering as much material as possible is the way to go. But this approach is counterproductive. It overloads teachers by designing a curriculum that emphasizes breadth over depth.

This is where the disconnect is happening. Most people outside of the profession don’t know a great deal about curriculum or the actual discipline to be taught. Furthermore, I believe that today’s students are at an overwhelming disadvantage given the amount of options they are confronted with and the priorities they assign such priorities. Again this is where parenting gets dramatically essential pursuant to priorities.

The result is that teachers are given far too many targets to aim at in their lessons. These extensive lists of high-blown objectives certainly look impressive on paper, but they cannot realistically be addressed by teachers in their day-to-day instructional decisions.

This is particularly the case when classes are composed of students with a wide range of individual differences. And this doesn’t even take into consideration the time constraints of a given school year, which puts great pressure on teachers in planning their lessons.

 Another word: The Standards of Learning for any given state are not established by those who are in the day-to-day trenches from 6:00AM to 7:00PM with the extracurricular activities demanded of teachers that can last until 12:00AM or even later. No, the SOL’s established by states are done so by the political-educational people outside of the teaching environment. Here’s a great case in point: Do you believe your child should be exposed to Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle during the fourth grade? Me either!




One Response

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