Posts Tagged ‘teaching to the test’

The test whisperer

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Can anyone really take this seriously?

Guy is a rancher, develops a program to boost test scores based on how he relates to his horses. It has something to do with trust, but apparently a lot more to do with teaching to the lump of sugar.

The Tribune reports that “school turnaround guru” Dennis Parker “insists that teachers cover all content in the state tests. Many do not, he said, because they follow textbooks that don’t include everything California students need to know.”

Um, you mean, need to know ON THE TEST.

Parker pushes teachers to have all students answer all questions; for example, by having them reply in unison. Doing so allows students to answer as many as 7,000 questions in the classroom per year, compared with 300 if called on individually, he said.

On Aguirre’s walls: a chart of every algebra concept the state expects students to know, with check marks next to those covered. A-plus, according to Parker.

“What gets taught is the single biggest predictor of student performance,” he said.

Um, I think you mean performance ON THE TEST.

Come on, folks. This is what education is about? I thought it was a big scandal back when I saw that the Illinois State Board of Education identified certain of its state standards as “suitable for testing,” and developed a state assessment framework around those items. They urged districts not to use that framework as the curriculum, but really – teaching to the test was never made so easy. (Downloadable PDF on “What’s Testable” here).

I fondly remember Roy Rogers getting Trigger to shake his beautiful big head “yes” or “no” to questions, and paw the answer to simple math questions. Who knew that Roy was a groundbreaking educator?

Common core standards: “A fundamental shift in the education marketplace”

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

The recently-completed common core state standards (CCSS) define what K-12 students need to know in order to be prepared for college and career. The process is being completed with work on related assessments.

“This is a fundamental shift in the education marketplace,” writes Pascal D. Forgione, the executive director of the Educational Testing Service (ETS), in an introductory letter to a guide to the new assessments, a collection of essays on the ongoing efforts to develop these new tests.

Marketplace is the definitely the key word for test publishers.

Common core state standards (CCSS) have already been adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia. According to Mr. Forgione, this means that “more than 80 percent of our nation’s public school students and teachers will be focused on the same content standards for their students.”

Some of what the guide says about the CCSS sounds good. About the new mathematics standards — “Because sufficient time is allocated and important ideas are developed over many years, there will be less need to teachers to repeat the same content year after year” (p. 3). The new English language arts standards will “discard the five-paragraph straightjacket” (p. 4).

You’ll have to check out the CCSS web site and read the guide to the assessments yourself to decide whether you believe common national standards can improve public education in the US, and only time will tell if they do. Either way, most of us are stuck with them.

But, red flags definitely begin to wave as the talk turns to standardized national assessments to support the CCSS.

For example, “The introductions to grades K – 8 identify two to four critical areas for each grade level, setting priorities for teachers, professional developers, and assessment writers…Faithful assessments will focus most of their time on these critical areas…” (p. 4).

In the past, PURE has raised concerns about the way Illinois identified certain of its state standards as “suitable for testing,” and developed a state assessment framework around those items. They urged districts not to use that framework as the curriculum, but really – teaching to the test was never made so easy. (See this fact sheet, “What’s testable?“)

What the Guide suggests to me is that there are far more questions than answers about the new national assessments. Will they be the “better tests” that President Obama and Fed Ed Head Arne Duncan say we need, and suggest that we’ll get? More on that here.

Support PURE!
About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.