January 27, 2013
Does Prepping for High-Stakes Test Interfere with Teaching?
The purpose of any teacher is to ensure the best education her students could get. Student learning should based on cognitive thinking skills and learning, not just declarative knowledge and basic skills. In the United States, however, high-stakes testing has complicated these efforts, and are used to process a student’s knowledge and the effective ways of teaching. These high-stakes tests are being used to compare students, schools, and school boards across the nation for each district. Teachers and school administrators are often blamed for poor test results of students, that are then reported to the media. High-stakes testing if used correctly can help a teacher know a student’s strengths and weaknesses in school so as to better help them succeed. A high-stakes test is one that is given and graded under strictly monitored conditions. These tests are used in grades K-8 and once in high school to measure learning outcomes of students. Students typically take norm-based tests comparing their knowlegeability to a small part of student body in a norm-group. Other students undertake criteria-based testing to compare their knowledgeability or a standard of acceptable status in a certain area.
Issues with Teaching to Test
Very little people would argue against the necessity of providing teachers and students with the information on the procedure of a high-stakes test or its format. Even the brightest student could miss one item or more if they do not understand how a test is formatted and meant to be carried out. Teachers have to be taught what an appropriate time limit is for test taking familiarization yes but they also need not sacrifice important curricular content in the hopes of driving up high test scores. A week of drills prior to test taking is too much. However, even one day of drills is non-appropriate if students are being taught the ways to answer test questions, Popham (2001). Teaching to test has a “dumbing” effect on teaching as well as learning because practice, drills, worksheets, and the like consume great amounts of classroom time. As high-stakes tests only concentrate on a small amount of school curriculum, time spent on test taking skills emphasizes too highly on basic courses and pays little attention to thinking skills. Research suggests that teachers who teach-to-test have students who have higher testing scores their learning actually falters. Teachers who address the entire curriculum not only have students who may bring up their testing scores, but they are providing the student with a firm foundation for gainful success both in future education and employment. Teaching to test not only cuts basis of teaching but it also slims the curriculum so non-tested subjects get less time in the day. Class time is usually taken away from subjects like art, band, drama and sports so teachers may stick to subjects such as math, reading, and social studies . “Everything that has to do with the tests have been given such high priority, that there is no bottom line now but that… The bottom line question comes down to, “Well, what’s going to help them do better on the test?” And if it isn’t going to help them do better on the test then we just don’t have time for it right now. (Wright, 2002, p10).” Volante (2004) Teaching such a slender curriculum is highly likely to turn away students whose academic strengths are outside common tested subjects therefore, outside the teach to test curriculum. Unfortunately, this narrowing happens most at schools serving poor or minority students, where pressure to meet the improved test scores are in high context. Teaching to test in these schools one may argue can lead to students becoming unengaged...