December 29, 2011

New Year's Challenge: stop teaching to the test

I've been reading plenty of education reform blog posts and articles recently. Not that they aren't well-written or insightful; it's just that most reiterate the same refrain: achievement tests place a stranglehold on teachers, inhibiting their effectiveness.

This may be surprising, coming from someone who is well-known for railing against standardized testing, but it's time for teachers to stop complaining that they can't be effective because they have to teach to the test!

If we stop preparing students for the test and simply teach them to be efficient learners, they will perform well on the test without additional test practice. Sounds easy enough, right? Trust me, it is.

I do no test preparation of any kind in my results-only classroom. In fact, we never take any quizzes or tests. My students read daily. They discuss real-world situations that take place in both fiction and nonfiction, and they complete remarkable projects that encompass all of our learning outcomes. They ask lots of questions and we discover the answers together.

One day prior to our state-mandated achievement test, I review what they can expect. We discuss the tricks that are on the test. Apart from this, I simply remind them that they are well prepared, because throughout the school year, they have learned everything they will need to answer the questions on the test.

If we all approach the test this way, I believe the scores will increase exponentially. Maybe if students nationwide start scoring well on these insipid tests, eventually the bureaucrats will see that there is no longer any need for them.