The phrase “Teach to the Test” has become more and more common among educators all over the country due to standardized testing. When an instructor teaches to the test, they are essentially teaching their students how to pass an upcoming test. There are several ways to do so, but some are beginning to question the morality of such techniques.
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Methods of Teaching to the Test
There are two ways of teaching to the test. The first is curriculum teaching in which the teacher bases their instruction on the types of strategies and content that the test may present to them. This would allow the students to build specific skills so that the will be prepared when they come across something similar on the test. The second method is item teaching in which the teacher either uses actual test items or slightly altered test items to teach their students. This is essentially using the test in instruction so that the students will have encountered all of the test items before the actual test.
Why Standardized Testing Exists
It can be difficult to understand why teachers would go through such drastic measures and dedicate so much time to these tests. From the teacher’s perspective, the performances of their students can directly affect their salaries. According to USA Today, the piece of legislation known as the No Child Left Behind Act was signed in 1965 by President Lyndon B, Johnson as a civil rights law to make sure that every state had funding for education and that every child had access to it. Over time, the No Child Left Behind Act showed achievement gaps in the poor and minority communities with failing schools.
In 2002, President George W. Bush revised the Act by implementing testing and accountability so that any problems could be pinpointed and handled accordingly. In practice, the revised No Child Left Behind Act often fell short of its goal of accountability and closing the achievement gaps. With these goals still in mind, President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act to replace the No Child Left Behind Act with hopes of considering the specific needs of each community instead of a blanket approach.
Pros and Cons of Teaching to the Test
With the government relying so heavily on standardized testing, it has become the centerpiece of our education system. In a positive light, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, or ASCD, suggests that teaching to the test results in higher test scores and allows the students to feel comfortable when it’s time to test. It also allows teachers to have clear goals when preparing lesson plans. On the other hand, having the ability to pass the test doesn’t necessarily mean that the students have truly built the necessary skills that they’ll need in life which should’ve been taught during class time. They may have built their test-taking skill but are unaware of how to use that skill in the real world.
Due to the importance of standardized testing, it’s only logical that many teachers prefer to teach to the test to make sure that their students will perform well when the time comes. Although it may seem like a good short-term solution, only time will tell if these methods will prove to be beneficial to the students in the future.