Monthly Archives: October 2015

Opting In: Teaching to the Test (Part 3)

“Teaching to the Test” has become a political slogan with negative connotations, but teaching to standards, against which students are later assessed, has long been considered a good teaching practice.

In my previous posts I looked at practical and theoretical support for ‘teaching to the standards’ (Part 1), and the reasons why ‘teaching to the test’ has acquired momentum as a negative slogan (Part 2).

Today we will look at a way forward:  how should our schools respond to state standards and mandated testing?

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Join the School Board!

The Unionville Chadds-Ford School District now has a vacancy on the school board due to the resignation of long-time school board member Mr. Keith Knauss.

Please consider whether you or someone you know might be interested in serving our community on the School Board.  The successful applicant will represent region A, and must be a resident of East Marlborough Township or West Marlborough township.  Applications are due November 6.  Details on the vacancy and the application process can be found on the UCFSD web site here.




Opting In: Teaching to the Test (Part 2a)

One of my readers, who is also a school administrator,  sent me a link to a useful article from Inside Higher Education, called “Teaching to the (Right) Test”.

The authors discuss the interaction between standards, testing, and curriculum design, and how assessments play a critical role:

Are there generally accepted aspects of good curriculum design? Yes. Step 1 is to decide what we want our students to learn: the learning goals. Step 2 is to devise ways to determine whether (and how well) our students are accomplishing these goals. And Step 3 is to design our curriculums and teaching strategies around gaining mastery of the learning goals.  …

Educational innovation is an iterative process. Preparing our lectures and designing our curriculums aren’t the end; they’re closer to the beginning, in fact. We must demand evidence that education — in general and in each course we offer — is “working.” When we have articulated the learning goals and designed tools for assessing their attainment, we are in a position to get that evidence.

In assessing our students, we can determine how well our curriculums and teaching strategies are helping them meet the learning goals. Importantly, we can also use the evidence from the assessments to modify and improve the efficacy of our lesson plans and teaching strategies. This evidence from assessments guides us toward the more effective methods, and helps us revise the less effective ones.

The authors also recognize that the “teaching to the test” slogan has led us down the wrong path:

Bad tests are not helpful. And teaching to bad tests is counterproductive. These facts, however, do not compel a conclusion that testing itself is bad or that teaching to tests is bad. This erroneous logic, unfortunately, has hijacked the national conversation about educational reform, and hindered innovation in higher education.   …

How did we get stuck in this flawed logic?  They believe one of the causes is that  teacher education programs (for both K-12 and higher education) don’t train teachers on why and how to use assessments to inform instruction:

A disastrous reality is that most teachers in higher education today receive little or no training in assessment. This mirrors the situation among K-12 teachers. A 2012 report by the National Council on Teacher Quality revealed that only “3 percent of teacher preparation programs adequately build teacher’s skills in the crucial area of student assessment.” We all can use help and we all can improve.

Their conclusion about testing and instruction?

When learning goals are clearly defined and reliable assessments are aligned with them, “teaching to the test” is not only good, it is exactly what we should be doing.

The whole article is worth a read.

Opting In: Teaching to the Test (Part 2)

In my previous post I showed that “teaching to the test” has long been considered a sound instructional practice.  When it comes to teaching AP history or a foreign language, it seems obvious that instruction seeks mastery of a  specific curriculum, and that mastery is measured by a valid assessment.

How has “teaching to the test”, a term once used favorably among educators, morphed into a political slogan charged with negativity?   Continue reading

Opting In: Teaching to the Test (Part 1)

“Teaching to the Test” has become a catch phrase in the testing debate. And like many political slogans, it is designed to evoke a certain (negative) emotional response from us.  But if we carefully examine the ideas behind “teaching to the test”, we may find our negative response to be unwarranted.

“Teaching to the Test” is used today mostly in a derogatory way. According to the critics, standardized testing drives schools to “teach to the test”.  And if teachers must “teach to the test” then they will have to sacrifice other important learning objectives. This may happen at a macro-level if schools sacrifice Social Studies, Art, and Music on the altar of higher test scores in Math and English Language Arts. Or it may happen in the classroom as rote memorization and pre-test drills crowd out higher-order learning and project work that would better serve our students. Or so goes the argument.

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Election November 3

A number of local offices are on the ballot on November 3, including five of the nine Unionville -Chadds Ford School Director seats.

Sample ballots, organized by voting precinct are here.

If, like me, you will be out of town on November 3, you should apply for an absentee ballot.  The deadline to apply is October 27, and the completed ballot needs to be received back on Friday October 30.

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