What do standardized tests reveal?
1. Teachers put up a poster with the main concepts. This is actually permitted; if a teacher posts something during the lesson with information about the main concepts, the poster may remain up during the test. A smart teacher, knowing that standardized testing is upcoming, will do just that.
2. Teachers have taught to the test. Sometimes this means that there has been a great deal of drill going on. Usually it means that teachers have had to neglect higher connections and meanings in order to make sure students retain the concepts.
3. Students have had plenty of computer practice taking similar tests.
As a teacher, I know this works very well. Kids like computers and they can significantly improve scores once they practice.
What do standardized tests not reveal?
1. They do NOT reveal whether a teacher is good or not.
This is an important point because these days, teacher evaluations often hinge on how test scores come out. Good teachers may or may not get good test scores, but it’s too bad that we are under such pressure to get good test scores that we often neglect good pedagogy.
2. They do not reveal whether students understand anything. Many times, they don’t understand!
3. They do not reveal whether students can apply what they’ve learned. Even though the Common Core purports to promote this type of excellent thinking, the producers of this curriculum have yet to provide tests that actually reveal it has happened.
Like many teachers today, I have struggled with the milieu created by standardized testing as well as evaluation rubrics that put pressure on me to teach in ways than are less than my best. One of these, surely, is teaching to the test.