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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Teaching to the Test....So?

What is the big problem with "teaching to the test"? I remember when I was in grade school and high school (Ok! so it was a long time ago) that the teacher would often say "Take notes this is going to be on the test". And it usually was on the test. It seems to me that testing the students is the only way to know if they are actually learning anything in school. It also seems dubious to me that they are actually learning anything at all.

The Teachers, and their Union, are screaming that it is forcing them to .....what? Change their methodology of conceptual learning where the students are in a free form learning environment, or change their methodology to be assured that when the kids have completed 13 years of mandatory education, they have actually obtained some skills that will help them out in the rest of their lives? I don't see a problem with this.

From personal experience, I know that it is next to impossible to hire a young person out of high school, or even college for that matter of fact, who possesses even the most rudimentary skills in reading, writing and math. When the prospective employee has a high school diploma, the employer should be able to feel confident that the prospect has at least some basic skills. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. I'm not suggesting that we go back to diagramming sentences (something that I really liked in English) or that every student needs to take a calculus class. But.....Come on.... How about being able to do some basic math and be able to write a coherent sentence.

Even some teachers have admitted the failings of our current educational system. "But, a new era is upon us. Students graduate uneducated, and incapable of even faking it for a simple book report. They fail to learn math facts, so need a multiplication chart. They fail to learn math processes; are not made to show their work; are not held to standards of accuracy; so are allowed "encouraged" to use calculators, even for ACT and SAT tests. Students fail to develop skill with cursive penmanship, so must depend on keyboards of some kind. They fail to learn rational thought and discriminating judgment, so must depend on fools, liberal professors, a biased media, for their 'opinions' and decisions."

It is probably too late for most students to catch up. By the time they are in 6th grade they have whiled away 7 non productive years. Those students who are ready to graduate from high school now have no chance to "learn" the material that is needed to pass the test. So at this point the teachers are actually teaching THE test. Teaching TO the test is not the same thing. Teaching to the test should have been done all along. We may not be able to help graduating students now, but it is not too late to start with the younger grades. Mabye in 13 years we will be graduating students who are compentent citizens instead of a bunch of uneducated drags on society.


  1. Okay, I'll bite. Here (if I can work this link right) is my take on my 4th graders testing experience. I'm not against testing -- it is a great tool for high schoolers -- but for 8 and 9 year olds it is a odd, pretty useless exercise.

    See what you think.

  2. I must agree that the MEAP format sounds much too difficult and stressful for children of that age group.

    I had more in mind that the testing should be like it was when I was in school (loooong time ago). You know, study your multipication tables up to the fiveseys and then take some test problems to see if you really know the answers. Then study the rest up to the nineseys, take a test and so on.

    When my daughter was in elementry school I was appalled. They had homework, sure, but they never tested in class. It is easy to cheat or get "help" from your parents on homework, but a test will prove you know the material....or not. If you do little tests in class from first grade and progressively make the testing more comprehensive, by the time they get to be adults in high school, they should be able to breeze through the testing and know how to fill in bubble by that time.