“Rigorous testing that decides whether students graduate, teachers win bonuses and schools are shuttered, an approach already in place in more than half the nation, does little to improve achievement and may actually worsen academic performance and dropout rates, according to the largest study ever on the issue.”
So says an article in the New York Times. It should be noted that the study was commissioned by the National Education Assn., a big opponent of testing. And, the article seems to be slanted against testing. Anyhow, the article mentions statistical evidence both ways on the effect of testing.
So, is rigorous testing a good idea?
of course testing is a good idea, despite what the teachers unions would otherwise have you believe. The only argument against it is the rather unconvincing “if you start testing us, we’ll get fired!”
Preservation of incompetence (what the teachers unions want) is never a good idea. I’m of the opinion that teachers unions should be made illegal, as a matter of public policy. Bad/incompetent teachers have to be able to be fired at will, moreso than other employment situations. Ya know, because of our precious children - they’re at the mercy of these substandard teachers.
Oh, and pay the good teachers more. That should be the second thing we do (after getting rid of the teachers unions).
I’m currently in high school. Let me tell you a little bit more about testing. Every year, we have to take Standards of Learning tests in Virginia. Does this encourage the teachers to teach better? Not at all. Instead, they are simply teaching the test- even when it doesn’t go along with the curriculum. Also, the test questions which many people miss are simply thrown out. So while test scores may be high, we’re learning how to pass the test, not useful knowledge.
I agree with monica. The MSPAP was removed in Maryland, and for good reason. Teachers had to take weeks out of the cirriculum to “teach the test”. Not only does this take time and effort away from the cirriculum, which defeats the purpose of standardized testing, but the things taught are often “tricks” or “shortcuts”. These are taught specifically so you will do better on the test. Most of the things they are testing for aren’t in the cirriculum and aren’t a very good indicator of teacher and school success.
I agree with the above. When I took the MCAS (an early prototype actually, I think it’s since been streamlined), I took so much time actually taking the test, that I didn’t have time to attend one of the classes I was taking that term. Admittedly, the class was Ethics, someting I’ll never use. But it could just as easily have been math or English.
Passing a test does not indicate substantial knowledge of a subject matter. Nor does failing a test indicate that a student has an inadequete grasp of the subject.
I’m in high school and believe this “rigorous testing” is just hoopla. These tests take time out of the teachers curriculumn, only if the teacher hasn’t been teaching these subjects in the first place. Anyhow, the teachers “precious, precious time” is going to more waste than you might expect. Yes, I have watched Scooby Doo, The Matrix, and MI:2 for school credit. Let’s not forget the school assemblies, pep-rallies, morning news and other useless school activites that impede on our class time.
I’m not sure whether, the teachers only teach to the test. I would admit that there is a substantial proximity of subjects not being taught. For instance, I’ll be graduating and going to college in a year or so. Yet, I’ve been taught absolutely nothing of personal financing, but boy o’ boy when I wanna calculate the surface area of toilet paper, I’m all over it. Thanks American public education!
Kalt, the National Education Association is not a union. You are probably thinking of the American Federation of Teachers.
I am a teacher who supports proficiency testing. I believe that passing them should be a requirement at each grade level. There is too much pressure on teachers to promote students so that the school (and thus, the administrators) will not fall into disfavor with the Board of Education.
But I am opposed to using those scores to evaluate the teachers. Too many other factors can interfere with the students’ learning. If I am teaching five classes of fundamental students, how can my students’ scores be compared with the scores of teachers who are assigned five honors classes? How can the scores of students in deprived neighborhoods be compared with students who attend schools where the parents are able to supplement school funding? Why should the teacher be held accountable if the student skips school or the parent doesn’t make the child do the homework? I could go on and on with reasons why teachers should not be evaluated on their students’ scores.
I do, however, believe in rigorous testing for teachers themselves, including the National Teachers’ Exam. (I don’t know if it even exists anymore.) I believe in peer review, when possible.
Should administrators be able to fire teachers at will? No. Too often it is political. For example, one year a teacher that was chosen “Teacher of the Year” by his colleagues was branded “a troublemaker” by the principal before the Board of Education.
There are, however, certain things that teachers can still be fired for even if they have tenure. Those decisions are made by the Board of Education. They can be a little more objective and they hear both sides and can call witnesses. (I speak only about my school district, of course.)
With that said, I am in favor of a total revamping of the public education system.
If I am teaching five classes of fundamental students, how can my students’ scores be compared with the scores of teachers who are assigned five honors classes?
The regular classes are easier than the honors classes. Thus, the grades should be approximately the same.
Anyway, using the students scores to evaluate the teachers is not what i’m talking about at all. I think that’s a bad idea. It would encourage teachers to “curve up” everything so all their students get A’s. Wow look at what a great teacher I am, all my students got 100’s on the last test! Naw, we can’t have that. Having annual competency tests for teachers at each grade level is what we need to do, and we need to be able to fire teachers who fail said tests without the recourse of embittered labor unions.
I’m not talking about grades given in the classroom. I’m talking about proficiency tests – which would be the same for all students. Those students who function on a lower scale would certainly be outscored by honors students.
But I do agree with you about the annual competency tests for teachers and the termination of employment for those who don’t pass muster.
The proficiency tests are supposed to test the proficiency of the teachers (at least that’s what I think we need to be doing), not the proficiency of the students to learn. Give the teachers the tests, not the students. Rating a teacher’s competence by the performance of his/her students is bad policy - it leads to downright fraud.
In principle I support the extensive use of test though studies like this ,if their findings are repeated, may make me change my mind.
I am wondering why it is repeatedly claimed that preparing for tests means that students don’t learn the material. It seems to me that if the tests are properly done they can be broad enough in terms of subject matter and difficult enough in terms of the questions that students have to understand the material to score well. This is true even of multiple choice questions which can be very tricky if so required.
If not tests then what? What other way is there of ensuring that all students reach a certain level of proficiency? It seems to me that an approach which depends solely on the subjective evaluation of teachers is liable to mean widely different standards from one school to another and even one teacher to the next.
While I think that rigorous testing is a good thing (maybe it’s an assumption on my part, but if you have a good understanding of the material, you should be able to pass the test, if you can’t pass the test, you don’t understand the material), I have a problem with this statement.
There seems to be an assumption that if the student doesn’t do well on a test, the teacher did not do a good job. I don’t think this is true. While I’m sure there are bad teachers (and I have taken classes with them), test scores are a not good indicator of teaching proficiency.
Let’s face some basic facts. Some kids are not that bright. Sad, but true. Other kids simply do not care about learning. For whatever reason, problems at home, bad attitude, etc… And some kids have such a bad time at home that it’s a wonder they can hold it together at all. None of these things are under the teachers control. Particularly if the size of their average class is above 30 students. Here in Los Angeles, they are squeezing sometimes 35 to 45 students into a classroom. And this is a school district with a staggering budget.
I wonder about that myself.
I am not a teacher, but a social worker in a public high school. Rigorous testing has no effect on my job, so I am relatively unbiased on this subject and I get my information from conversations with teachers as well as during the course of counseling with students.
When teachers are forced to “teach to the test” rather than to the subject in general, they are forced to discourage students’ questions and natural curiosity about the subject not specific to the test. For example, a student in an English class, reading Macbeth, may have a question related to the life of Shakespeare. While this is demonstrates a healthy interest in using the life of the author to further interpret his work, if the question will not provide specific information that will be on the standardized test, then the teacher is forced into a dilemma: answer the question and seize a “teachable moment”, or discourage the question and stick to the tested material to ensure school funding?
I know that the most memorable lessons in school were the ones from class discussion that grew from genuine student interest and curiosity. I believe that rigorous testing prevents today’s students from such an experience.
Because better results will always come from teaching how to take a test rather than teaching the material for a test.
But if they teach the material, a student should be able to pass the test, right? I mean, are the test questions that far outside the scope of the material?
Help me out here, I’m trying to understand.
*There seems to be an assumption that if the student doesn’t do well on a test, the teacher did not do a good job. I don’t think this is true. *
Nor do I, which is why I’ll say it again - the “tests” should be of the teachers, not the students. You can’t judge a teacher by giving every kid a standardized test and concluding that the ones who did the best had the better teachers.
Give each teacher an annual exam. If they can’t pass it (it should be fairly basic) then they can’t teach. They can go work at McDonalds or someplace else. If they really want to work with kids, then they can work at chucky-cheese. They can’t be a teacher, however.
“When teachers are forced to “teach to the test” rather than to the subject in general, they are forced to discourage students’ questions and natural curiosity about the subject not specific to the test”
Only if the test is the only method of evaluation. But of course you can have tests and other methods of evaluation like projects,term-papers and the like.
One of the basic purposes of schooling is to instill a solid knowledge of basic facts in science,geography, history and so on as well as basic skills in geometry,algebra,grammar, spelling etc. It seems to me that standardized tests are ideal for this purpose.
Promoting creativity is also important but creativity doesn’t get you very far if you don’t have a grounding in the basics and there is no reason why you can’t have some of both and different methods of evaluation for different goals.
I attend a public high school in which rigorous testing forms the basis of most evaluations. A certain score is required on an admissions test in order to get in and all classes–with the exception of English and Gym–include test grades as a major component of a student’s final grade. True, my H.S. is supposedly one of the best in the country, but that recognition comes only from the fact that so many science contest prize winners and finalists are students there. Meanwhile, these students do not always get the highest grades, but they are considered extremely knowledgeable in their respective courses of study. This is so because enjoy what they do and research the subjects on their own.
Standardized rigorous testing (and testing in general, to some extent) is detrimental to such aspirations and thus damaging to the very spirit of education.
I am a student teacher, and I will become a fully certified teacher at the end of this school year.
The problem I see with tests is this one. There seems to be a need for rigorous testing because it is no longer assumed that passing ordinary coursework indicates mastery of content. Ideally, the ability to pass classes with a certain grade should determine promotion to the next grade and then graduation. However, as we know, the curriculum has become so watered down that extensive testing is perhaps the only method we have of assessing these skills. A high school diploma does not mean as much as it once did.
If we set the bar higher for passing courses, and increased the number of credits required for graduation, we could ensure that a high school diploma represented the attainment of a certain level of academic standards. Then I think there would be less need for testing.
Of course, if we made high schools more demanding we would probably have a higher dropout rate, especially in inner city and rural schools, and among ethnic minority children. It’s hard to raise the level of public school scholarship without being accused of wanting to “push out” a segment of students at the school. Schools are also judged severely if they have a high drop out rate, and this need to keep all students in classrooms regardless of their performance or interest in school makes testing even more extensive in the long run.
Anyway I am not opposed to testing, and I have no hesitation toward structuring a class around the primary goal of passing their tests, not just the state mandated TAKS - but any other that they may face in college admissions. Tests are a part of life whether we like it or not, and high school is now just the beginning if one is planning to go on to college or almost any meaningful career.