Teaching To The Test?
'What Test?' Espouses the theory of test elimination, and really, after reading it, traditional education elimination. This quote made it clear that Mr. McCarthy, with 28 years of educational experience doesn't (in my mind) understand education's purpose.
I know of no meaningful evidence that acing tests has anything to do with students' character development or whether their natural instincts for idealism or altruism are nurtured.You can nurture character development, altruism, and idealism while teaching any subject, but they aren't the primary goal of our schools. The goal of the schools are to make sure the students have a rudimentary understanding of basic subjects so they can get through life.
The other truth of tests is they do prepare you for life, if you live in the real world. Mr. McCarthy asks the question (about testing and preparation):
Is any time left over from mastering theoretical knowledge for gaining the kind of experiential knowledge found in community service or volunteering in programs such as Special Olympics or DC Reads?Yes, at least that has been my experience. In years of volunteering at my kids schools, from kindergarten through graduation plenty of good students were also good community stewards.
What do students learn by trying to juggle class preparation, community service, extra curricular activities, maybe a job, and a social life? They learn the truth about life, it's a balancing act that is hard to deal with sometimes.
From that balancing act, students can find out how much they can handle at one time. It's where they learn their limits, and can find their desires. When you start removing parts of the balancing act, you are doing a disservice to the student.
At some point in life we all get overloaded, and have to figure out how to deal with it. If it occurs early, in school, we're ahead of the game. One student might decide college prep courses aren't as important to them as performing a community service, another may decide an extra curricular has to go so they can take that prep course.
A teacher is a part of that decision for the student, as are parents, guidance counselors, and friends. When the teachers solution is to remove the test, they've just removed one of the basic learning points in life, choices and consequences of them.
Later in life, when family, work, community and friends are at loggerheads, a decision will have to be made on which to cut back on. What practical experience in that area does the student who had the test removed have? What they will have learned is that someone else will rescue them from the dilemma, but that normally isn't the case.
Jay Cutler, in "Let's teach To the Test" points out that teaching to the test is really no such thing when it's done correctly. It's teaching to the standard that we want the student to achieve. My own practical experience in teaching is that method works well, and students generally don't fret the test.
The last three classes I've taught have averaged well over a 90% on the tests they take when I finish. It's a brand new test, and I've never seen it, only the learning standards that are required for the subject. I could go look it up in the computer, and make sure I'm hitting every question, but it's unnecessary.
In fact, in over 30 hours of instructing this week, I spent 25 minutes "worrying" about the test, that was during a review, in which I use the standards, not the test or sample questions, as the review material.
That's not to say no student is worried about the material when I'm done, they just aren't worried about the test. That, though is the great thing about teaching to a standard, when you let the students know beforehand what the standard is, they know when to ask questions.
Students do come to me after I'm done teaching, but not so they can pass the test, they want to make sure they understand the material. The test becomes not a worry, but instead a measure (as they are meant to be) and the student uses the results to reinforce what they need to know, and to ask about what they didn't know.
If I didn't test them, how would they find out what they don't know? Unfortunately, it would be at some later time, when the consequence might be more than having to take 15 minutes at the end of lunch to get an answer.Evidently I got Matthew over at People Covered In Fish all worked up this morning, he has quite the rant up on this very subject. Glad to help your blood pressure, shipmate :)
The folks at Goosetales and Penraker aren't impressed with Mr. McCarthy, either.
(3/19) Newsweek also has some interesting stuff on educational competitiveness in this weeks issue.
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