Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Teaching to the Test (rant)

During my 37 years of teaching, you could have accused me of lots of things, but teaching to the test was not one of them. And in most instances I knew exactly what was on the tests. In some schools, I was on the test committee and either chose the test or made the test. So teaching to the test would have been really easy.

I am amazed that end of year test scores have become so over-emphasized and overrated. What ever happened to teaching the subject matter in the curriculum? If test makers are aware of what is in the curriculum, then the tests should be valid. So teaching to the test is unnecessary, and possibly end of year tests are also superfluous.

Then to think that there are some people who think that teachers should be compensated for their students' scores, which makes me very angry. There are way too many factors that influence student performance on tests. One of the most important ones is "life experience."

At least 10 years ago I served on a test committee in an international school. We were searching for a new test to replace the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. After spending many hours reviewing and viewing several new tests, the committee thought that they had made a decision. As I flipped through the test for Middle Schoolers, I noticed a reoccurring theme that did not fit our school population. On one page of the test there was a large drawing of Jesus Christ and questions concerning something (who knows what it was?). Then I glanced through other sections and found other Christian references. After thorough investigation, we found that this test was made for Christian schools/education. As a Christian, I had no problem with the test, but our international population may have well had a problem with it. So we were going down the wrong track. (Someone in the school system finally chose a test from Australia. Go figure!)

What do tests or questionnaires actually test? As I watched my mom filling out yet another questionnaire at the doctor's office yesterday, I decided that questionnaire makers must get their jollies at confusing the takers. The general instructions were to check off the best answer. I jokingly said "tick off" and explained to Mom that that is what the Brits say. Who ever thought that by the time she finished answering the questions there would be the other meaning for "tick off."

In part one of the survey, she was to check off on a short line next to her answer. Part two was very confusing, since the check had to be placed in a circle, which looked like you were answering zero O on every level of the rating. And then part three used small boxes for the check offs. When Mom was still answering questions beyond her appointment time, I did not rush her too much. Who ever heard of a doctor being on time for your appointment?

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