Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Teaching to the Test

This is a concept that has been thrown around a lot in my school over the past three or four years. It all started when we began talking about PLC's and new assessment practices.

I am dead set against this concept, however, I have not been put in the situation that my job was on the line due to test scores. I try to empathize for teachers in this situation and find myself torn.

I was never more curious how teachers could teach to the test than at ISTE this year. I attended a session, I thought was about writing, and learned very quickly that the framework of this session was teaching to the test. Needless to say I was very dissappointed and walked out of the hour long session after about ten minutes.

What are your thoughts on teaching to the test? Necessity? Tragedy? Cop out?

Is this were Saskatchewan is going?


Dean Loberg said...

I used to feel the same way, but as a district administrator, where every decision has to be based on the data, i'm not so sure. I think it depends on the design and purpose of the test.
If teaching to the test is about students memorizing information so they can spit it back out and get a good mark on the test then it is a waste of time and may actually be harmful.
If the test is actually a well designed diagnostic tool that is used to help teachers and parents know where students deficiencies and strengths are, and teaching to the test actually helps a student become a better writer, reader, mathematician, etc then I'm not sure teaching to the test is a bad thing.
It could be a way to help teachers focus in on areas that are important to student progress and may in fact make them a better teacher.
I think most issues are like this. It's not black and white. Intent is important.

eldongermann said...

I couldn't agree more. In fact, I believe that the latter of your scenario's is not so much teaching to the test as teaching to the skill and testing it.

Where the blog comes from is a session in which the teacher explained that he teaches the kids to write 50'some essays a year by teaching them to write 57 lines essays. Why 57 lines you ask? Because that is what is on the state exam. When asked how many paragraphs, he does not worry about paragraphs.


How does one teach how to write essays without paragraphs but only lines?

pcone said...

I hope Saskatchewan never goes the way of the US; that is testing to the absurd. However, I do wonder where those "assessments for learning" will lead. The last one I had to give was for writing. It was based on a method I didn't use. I couldn't explain much to the students except re-give them the directions. One of my grade 5 kids was crying his eyes out thinking he was going to fail his grade.