Friday, April 17, 2015

Teaching to the Test

It's testing time again and the argument over whether or not we should be teaching to the test rages on. It's funny - we've always taught to a test as teachers. Usually we teach either to the test(s) provided in our boxed curriculum or we teach to the test we create on our own. When would-be teachers are taught how to plan a lesson, they are instructed to come up with the assessment first before developing the actual lesson. If that's not teaching to the test, I don't know what is.

In one week I witnessed two separate instances of teaching to the test that made sense to me. In preparation for the state test that students take (or opt out of), my own son, an 8th grader at the time, ran himself through a computerized preparation for the math portion. It's a good thing too. He was presented with problems that he doesn't remember encountering in the classroom. And that concerned me. This concern wasn't rooted in the fear that he wasn't taught what he needed to succeed on the state test, but that he wasn't taught what we all agreed he should learn by this point.

Recently, I witnessed a student intern that I supervise conduct a lesson with third graders about geometric shapes. She'd reviewed the previous results of the state test that her students had taken and discovered a gaping hole in their learning. Good teachers see the holes. Great teachers make it a point to fill them. She did just that. Not because she wanted to improve her school's overall scores, but to make sure her third graders were prepared to move on to fourth grade math.

The best part was that her lesson was creative, engaging, and took into account the various learning styles of her students. She didn't have to sacrifice the art of teaching to serve the skill of teaching. I was quite proud.

Medical interns are taught to succeed on the medical board exams. Law students are taught to pass the bar exam. Their standards are high and we all benefit when they aspire to them. Teaching is no different. Those who are not interested in meeting or exceeding standards might want to question why they're teaching.

It's time to move past doing just the bare minimum to get by and recapture the ideal of quality. What we give to our children they will grow up and then give to the world.