M.S. asks from Cardington, OH on April 12, 2011
Teaching to the Test?
This issue seems to be getting stronger and more..troubling? I have always been very happy with our public school. We are in a rural area and the school system is awesome- great teachers (except for one my 12 yr old has this year) and principals. The athletics are competitive within the district. No outrageous fundraising, etc. As my kids get older, I see how much the drive is to do really well on the OAA tests- similar to the testing in other districts/states. I know that most districts do them, because my friend lives in GA and her daughter is taking the similar tests right now.
What made me really sit up and take notice, has been the "build-up" to these tests. There's so much hype, leading up to them, that I think it's likely to backfire. Either the kids will have heard so much about them, that by the time they are taken, they are ...."Whatever, I'm over it already". OR, they will be so nervous, they will get test anxiety. Either way, it's somewhat ineffective? I feel so bad for these teachers! I think the tests are crammed down their throats and are just as anxiety-producing for them, as the kids. My question is this- Do the schools get more fedral or state money, the higher the test scores? I see the drive, if that's the case- with so many districts hemorrhaging money. Or, is it more about the status of an "excellent" or a 10 star rated school?
Just this past week, I saw a interview with Marcia Gay Harden. She said she's homeschooling her kids due to her travels, recently. She said her kids are getting a great education because they are seeing the world. THey are seeing, first hand where the Roman executions took place, the Pantheon, etc. How great is that??? I would love to give my kids that life-lesson kind of education. But, alas, we are a middle-class family just trying to put food on the table! LOL! She said she saw how her kids' school was "teaching to the test", too.
My friend in Georgia, recently had their beloved family dog die. Because her daughter knew the dog was sick, she thought about not telling her about the death until after her week of testing, because the school puts so much pressure on the parents and kids to get enough sleep, eat right, study......she didn't want to sabatoge the testing for her daughter! Crazy! She realized she had to tell her daughter before the week was over. It worked out and all, but geezzz that's a lot of pressure.
I realize that there are parents out there who's kids are struggling and extra help or studying will help them with any test anxiety or help keep the information fresh. Also, there are parents who don't pay attention or really get involved in their kids education, so will not make them go to bed at a decent hour or the kids are always "on their own" as far as picking out a healthy breakfast, etc. But, for most the kids out there, isn't it counter-productive to come on so strong?
While I'm happy, over-all, with our school - I see more and more, a shift in the ways these kids are taught. I DO see more "teaching to the test". I'm not a teacher and I think our country's teachers should get paid WAY more and receive WAY more respect. Are their hands being tied behind their backs as far as how they are allowd to teach? No more field trips or out-of-the-box methods, because it all comes down to how the school scores? Is this an issue only in the public schools?
*edit- YES! I agree with the no child left behind....and can't get ahead, either! I have two kids in the talented and gifted program and that was cut for next year! They are devastated. It was a great program.
I also believe that it's not only the school/teacher's responsibility to make sure the kids get a well-rounded education. Our district doesn't have a spring break, but for several years, we took them out, anyway. We had family vacations to California, Washington DC, etc. OUr principal was so cool about it- he said absolutely, go. It's important to learn outside of the classroom, as well.
So What Happened?™
Thank you for all of your responses! I have considered home-schooling in the past. I'm not quite sure it's something I could make work for our family right now. We are at the point, where I really need to help relieve some of the financial pressures. And believe me, we have already cut back A LOT!!!! I wish we were more stable, and I could explore it more.
Thank you, Krista, for all the information! I was hoping I would get a response from someone on the "inside" :)
B.C. answers from Norfolk on April 12, 2011
I hate it. It seems the whole year is spent building up for SOLs. They take them in April (over a period of a week or two) and then the last 6 weeks of school is a total waste of time.
And don't get me started on NCLB. (too late - sorry - I'll try to keep this brief)
The reason No Child is Left Behind is because no child can get ahead.
If you have a gifted student you have to fight very hard to keep them from getting bored because they teach to the slowest kid in the room every time.
My son would be introduced to a new subject on Monday, review it on Tuesday and he'd be ready for Fridays test by Wednesday, but they spend 2 more days repeating and keep the whole class in lock step for the slowest student.
Our kids are not competing in the job market with the slowest kid in their class. They are competing with the smartest kids in India/China and Asia and this whole NCLB education system does not take that into account at all.
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C.J. answers from Dallas on April 12, 2011
Great post. the NCLB act was one of the most double edged legislation that came out of W's era.
I do believe there is a lot of pressure put on teachers from districts for funding, etc. to teach things on the test.
But teachers have a lot of lead-way in how they want to teach that content. They can be creative and reinforce lessons with fun, hands on activities and out-of-class trips, etc. If they are only doing worksheets or drill and repeat that is a teaching issue, not a test issue.
We must also remember that a lot of the teaching about these things that Ms. Harden was talking about is OUR responsibility as parents.
Middle class or not, use that library card, take your kids camping, explore the world around you, give them worth-while experiences and do what you can to relate that back to school. If you don't know the answer youself look it up together and learn together:)
I work 40+ hours a week and I work into our daily routine opportunities to reinforce math, science and history with my kids. I also work to nurture their natural curiosity.
I don't think we can sit by and say "The school is teaching to the test and my child isn't learning." It is a joint effort and we have to take advantage of every opportunity.
Hang in there and if you like your school system, support them and your teachers wherever you can and look creatively to find ways you can be a teacher in life:)
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K.P. answers from New York on April 12, 2011
I will preface this response by saying that I am a school administrator who works for the Federal and State department of education. My job is to work with districts who do not make Adequate Yearly Progress per the NCLB and State Performance Plan indicators. Basically... when a bulk of children are unable to meet literacy standards, I work with the district to revamp their curriculum.
The state tests are tied to the Federal No Child Left Behind Act which has mandated that 100% of American students be proficient in reading, writing and math by 2014. Each state is allowed to design their own test, but the assessment must be based on the state's curriculum, which as a result of the Race to the Top (also a Federal project) now involves meeting the requirements of the Common Core Standards (nation-wide).
Contrary to popular beliefs, statewide assessments were not designed to measure individual student progress. They were designed to measure a district's overall curriculum. The assessments were designed to answer the question, "Does your curriculum address the needs of 85% of your students?" Unfortunately, for many districts and states, the answer was "no". Distircts and schools may elect to use the state assessments to identify students in need of remediation or exceleration, but that is NOT the purpose of the statewide assessments.
Many teachers express a need to "teach to the test", but IF they are following a well-written curriculum map and are regularly assessing their students needs they ARE teaching to the "standards" which is then measured by the test. What has happened historically is that teachers across a given state were not reaching end-of-the-year curriculum markers, resulting in groups of students having curriculum "gaps". As teachers have become more familiar with statewide assessments, anxiety has decreased. Some states (like New York and Virginia) have had statewide assessments in place for many, many years and there really isn't the overwhelming anxiety experienced by states who are "new" to assessment.
Teachers need to be implementing methods that are research-based, measurable and effective. While "out-of-the-box" methods sound great, they are very often ineffective (but fun).
Teachers have a wide variety of strategies available to them... I know this b/c it's my job to make sure that they know what is out there. What I find is that many teachers, principals and districts are highly resistant to anything that can be "measured" b/c they are afraid of revealing weaknesses. Bottom line is, though, when the list of districts in need of improvement (DINI) is published each year, those who are unwilling to reflect on their instructional practices and curriculum find themselves "on the list" and have a very hard getting off!
Our teachers deserve far more respect than they get. I have always felt like teachers take the brunt of the arguing b/c most people get to vote on our salaries and our performance is very public. I wish I got to vote on our local highway department b/c our roads are terrible, half of the projects aren't finished and there are typically 5 guys standing and looking at a pothole when you swerve around them... but we don't get to vote on that.
This is the world that we live in today- it's all about accountability and being able to demonstrate progress.
Yes, this is not an issue for private and parochial schools. They do not accept state or federal funding so they do not have to abide by the state and federal regulations. Districts do not receive funding based on test scores- they receive money based on local tax levy, poverty level and other "demographic" items.
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S.T. answers from Washington DC on April 12, 2011
i'd have loved for my homeschooled kids to get to see the parthenon and roman coliseum. but they got a dandy education without it.
teaching to the test is pandemic in this country right now. hopefully the madness will pass, but i'm not seeing any rosy future for american public education unless it's completely deconstructed and rebuilt. but the NEA has a huge lobby and will never let that happen.
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T.N. answers from Albany on April 12, 2011
Grrr, don't EVEN get me started about tests! Kids are being tested for the same thing over and over again. Teachers cannot even TEACH, students cannot LEARN anything OTHER than what's on the goddam tests! Sorry.
Wait til your kids are in high school and they have THREE DIFFERENT FINAL EXAMS for the same class! The schools final, the Regents, and the AP or UHS test, jeesh!
Then even after they've taken and wizzed THOSE tests, the colleges will test them AGAIN just to make sure THOSE tests taught them what they need to know for THEIR college!
I am VERY glad I've only got 4 more years....I could go on and on and on about this subject......(I guess I already did!)
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K.N. answers from Cleveland on April 12, 2011
I homeschool my kiddos, and actually they still have to take these tests. It just depends on the state laws and that sort of thing. While I refuse to teach for a test, we do spend a couple of weeks learning how to take them. During the school year I also use a test prep site, but it's one math and one reading activity a day, so nothing compared to what goes on in schools.
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T.S. answers from Atlanta on April 12, 2011
I hate the Teach to the Test as well. I graduated from a high school in Georgia in 2008, and my younger sister is a Senior this year. All the teachers ever told us was "it's going to be on the test". When we finally took the Graduation test or any other standardized tests, the info they said they just knew would be on that test, would not! It is stressful! I know many of my friends throughout high school and many of my sister's friends have developed test taking anxiety. The pressure and stress of not doing well on these tests are ridiculous. Many of these students with test taking anxiety actually so not end up in college because the high school teachers scare you about college saying, "They won't take it easy on you in college. If you think these test are hard, wait till you are in college." It is truly truly ridiculous. The tests are being pushed into the earlier grades now. Its terrible.
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D.P. answers from Pittsburgh on April 12, 2011
Last year (1st grade) my son took the PSSA's and by day 4 (3rd day they threw in an IQ test for good measure) he was almost ready to have a nervous breakdown.
I know funding, reputation and excellence are things ALL schools want/need/compete for.
I explained to MY 7 yo that the test was NOT for him--it was for the school--to make sure they were doing their job. It relieved the pressure on him a great deal. But I'm still dreading next year, and the next year's testing.
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