Monday, February 20, 2006

Teaching to the Test -- Its a Good Thing

Its nice to the know that the education writer for The Washington Post uses level-headed reasoning when writing on the topic of standardized testing. He doesn't know why people demonize the idea of 'teaching to the test' but 59.2 million google hits tell him that there are a bunch of sissy alarmists out there.

So why do we still talk about how terrible it is to teach to the test? I think it comes from our fear of the unknown. Those of us who are not teachers don't know what is going on in our children's classrooms.

Why don't they know? My state's standards of learning are available on the state's Department of Education website. My county also have a website to help parents keep in the know. Is the author indicating that these websites aren't enough to let parents know exactly what is going on in the classrooms? If so, it might cause us to wonder what use these standards of learning actually have.

Why don't the parents know what is going on in their children's classrooms? I have a hard time imagining that the author is claiming to be a bad parent who doesn't pay attention to what his kids bring home from school in terms of class assignments and projects. Is it that the schools don't share this information -- shroud it all in secrecy? Well, that would be fearsome indeed.

The author continues his thinking with --
And teachers don't know what harm might come to them from the test results, as interpreted by often-wrongheaded people such as principals, superintendents, politicians and, particularly, parents.

What? Principals and superintendents are wrongheaded with regard to test results? As the managers and executives of the educational system that is downright terrifying. Shouldn't they be able to understand the test results?

If parents don't understand the test results, it makes sense to me that they wouldn't support teaching to a test the results of which they don't understand.

Why is teaching to the test so bad? Perhaps for the same reason that asking "will this be on the test" is so upsetting to teachers. It means the students aren't learning in a meaningful way. It suggests that the material isn't really understood; the students don't care about it; and they just want to get a good grade on the exam. I can't tell you how many things I learned for tests that I forgot almost immediately after taking the test, because, well, I forgot them.

No comments: