April 2, 2012

Top 5 reasons I won't teach to the test

The conversation about standardized test preparation is a popular one at my school. Of course, most of the discussions stem from district mandates to constantly give practice material. Unlike new teachers, I don't have to cower behind an achievement test workbook, assuring principals that I'll drill my students into submission daily. Having tenure, though, isn't why I choose never to teach to the test. Here are the top 5 reasons I refuse to do it.

5 - Standardized tests fail to measure learning. In the long run, this thing isn't much more than a glorified guessing game.

4 - Why on Earth should learning be standardized? Shouldn't it be unique? If learning is the same everywhere, students should just stay home and read web-based texts.

3 - Practicing for standardized tests steals time from far more valuable learning experiences. I plan exciting, interactive lessons and projects for my students. We read, write and collaborate daily. I can't afford to give this up. Plus, my students wouldn't forgive me if I did.

2 - Standardized test practice isn't fun. If you've ever read anything I've written, you know I am a firm believer that learning should be fun. When it stops being fun, it's not learning; at this point we should all just go home.

1 - I have a responsibility to my students to be better than this. Spending class time on drill-and-kill standardized test practice makes teachers nothing more than mindless automatons, which is exactly how the bureaucrats are labeling us. If I spend most of my time on standardized test practice, not only will they be right, but I'll be guilty of the greatest injustice of all -- failing my students.