Sunday, January 12, 2014

Teaching to the Test

One of the biggest complaints that educators receive from society is “teaching to the test.”  With the government increasing the frequency in testing and raising the stakes for the students (making the results of standardized testing as part of their grade, for example), it is easy to see why parents are frustrated with the system (especially when they feel like their child is not prepared for such high-stakes exams).  And I have found that many educators are equally as frustrated, feeling like they can never teach what they would like to in the fashion they see fit because of having to prepare for the next assessment.  However, I do not necessarily disagree with the idea of teaching with the assessment in mind. 

There are not many professions in life that do not require some kind of certification.  And what is the purpose of these various certifications?  To demonstrate knowledge and retention of skills necessary to complete a job.  Testing is no different from that.  When I teach, I make sure that I am hitting the skills that I know my students will be tested on and I will let them know that these skills will be assessed in their standardized exams.  Yet I have never been accused of teaching to the test.  How is that possible?  I continue to teach the skill in an engaging way, catering to the needs and interests of my students.  Yes, I create summative assessments that model the standardized assessment that they will encounter at the end of the year.  Yes, I openly tell my students what to expect from the exam and often remind them of the skills they will be tested on, but I have never seen this as a road block in my creativity as a teacher. 

I have also found that the educator’s attitude toward a standardized test is often the attitude the student will adopt.  I see the test as an opportunity for my students to shine and I do my best to make my students feel this way about it, too.  I remind them that they are prepared and that they are completely capable of doing well, so all they have to do is relax and show how awesome they are (and if you have to resort to your old cheerleader ways, do not feel ashamed—I never do).  One of my colleagues encourages all of his students to wear the same color on the day of the test.  I love this idea and how it creates a sense of camaraderie.  Suddenly the test feels like a team effort and a bit like a game.  If a student goes into an exam with confidence, they will perform better.

I am not saying that it is a good idea to excessively test students just to show progress, but I do believe that the idea of teaching to the test has received a bad rap due to its misuse.  Teaching with the test in mind does not create bad teaching; it gives specific goals to help direct learning.  How the teacher chooses to deliver this content is up to them.    

1 comment:

  1. Great blog. I found you on the TPT forum.

    Sherry Clements