"Teaching to the test"

Discussion in 'General Education Archives' started by Mrs_Goatess, Apr 9, 2007.

  1. Mrs_Goatess

    Mrs_Goatess Comrade

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2006
    Messages:
    393
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 9, 2007

    Am I misunderstanding this phrase? I heard it used sneeringly so often, but I'm confused as to it's meaning.

    Does it reference classroom tests, standardized tests, or both?

    I was confused becuase if it is referencing classroom tests:
    1) If you don't teach what's on the test you're giving, what's the point of giving the test.
    2) If something is worth learning/teaching, isn't it worth being on your test?
    3) If something isn't worth learning/teaching, why spend class time on it when you could be covering what you'll actually be testing?

    Thank you for clarifying this for me! (I feel silly for asking... :eek: )
     
  2.  
  3. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2007
    Messages:
    4,391
    Likes Received:
    5

    Apr 9, 2007

    Usually it is in reference to standardized state tests. Your points are correct, but you, as the teacher, are able to choose what to teach and how to teach it. Teaching to the test means you limit your teaching to only what is on the test. Teaching to a multiple choice test doesn't get to the real "big ideas" of concepts. Some schools or teachers only do drill style of practicing for the big test, and review test strategies for the whole year. One teacher never read a story to the class that didn't come from a practice test packet that she could grade them on.
     
  4. lupin43

    lupin43 Companion

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2006
    Messages:
    122
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 9, 2007

    From what I understand, "teaching to the test" is for standardized state tests. It also implies cramming a lot of material without inquiry or student centered learning. For classroom purposes I agree that you do need to teach what you test.
     
  5. IndyJo

    IndyJo Companion

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2005
    Messages:
    203
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 10, 2007

    I do this around standardized testing. Kids sometimes need to know the nitty gritty without it being drenched in excessive language.
     
  6. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Messages:
    27,534
    Likes Received:
    6

    Apr 10, 2007

    I teach an SAT prep course, and we most defnitiely teach to the test.

    My methods are so different than when I'm a classroom teacher. In my classroom, I want my kids to know which answer is correct because it's correct-- process is part of what I'm looking for. On the SAT, I want them to find the quickest possible path to the right answer. Process of elimination is fine.

    On classroom tests, I hate when kids skip a question, since I can't give even partial credit for a blank. On the SAT, it's sometimes the wisest choice, since it may mean getting credit for 2 or more shorter problems to follow.

    On the SAT, we talk test strategy. On classroom tests, there really isn't a strategy; take the test and get the answers right.

    Summer school is probably the best example of a classroom teacher teaching to the test. It's hard in such a brief time to actually teach all the material a student missed in 10 months of classes; I would imagine most teachers teach what the kids need to know to pass and hope they'll do better in school the next year.
     
  7. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,706
    Likes Received:
    1,122

    Apr 10, 2007

    I don't think that teaching good test-taking tactics necessarily has to be teaching to the test, since the test-taking tactics with the best overall mileage are also useful thinking skills (eliminate really stupid answers; if the question's got you stumped, think about what you know that resembles it; draw pictures and make notes where needed...) Hearing about people who drill all year on test-taking skills without connecting the skills to useful analogues in real life makes me cranky - that approach reinforces the unfortunate impression that testing well is a special arcane knack that has nothing to do with anything else that happens in the classroom.
     
  8. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Messages:
    27,534
    Likes Received:
    6

    Apr 10, 2007

    Good point.

    But I guess what I was trying to say was that the test strategies for the SAT differ from those for a classroom test.

    oops, gotta run
     
  9. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,706
    Likes Received:
    1,122

    Apr 10, 2007

    Some yes, some no, I think, Alice. Anyway, I can't imagine you doing what I think of as teaching to the test.
     
  10. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Messages:
    27,534
    Likes Received:
    6

    Apr 10, 2007

    OK, I'm back.

    Well, in think that in the context of a test prep class, that's pretty much the job description, at least as far as I define it. Maybe that's what we need to clarify.

    I think of "teaching to the test" as a game: how do we beat this test? Not "how do I best teach the kids the new material that I want them to internalize and build upon?" The testing strategies and tips I use are meant to supplement the work of the classroom teacher who has already done that.

    I don't normally teach a whole lot of new topics. There's no "discovery method" and very little room for discussion. I basically look at each problem as a challenge: How do we solve this problem quickly and correctly? How much time is it worth, or do we skip it and hopefully get back to it, in the hopes that the next question will be faster?

    In a geometry class, my kids are told NEVER to trust the diagram; only the info in the problem can be used. On the SAT, I tell them that the diagrams are drawn by artists who couldn't cut it in the art world... if it looks isosceles, it IS. So I'm very much teaching to the test.
     
  11. Teaching Grace

    Teaching Grace Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Messages:
    1,731
    Likes Received:
    3

    Apr 10, 2007

    Teaching to the test is referred to alot in my college classes. It's definitely about standardized tests for the most part I believe. There's a lot of this type of talk going around because some people have kept in mind what was on the test and therefore the next year will teach only what they know is on the test and in the same form that it's seen on the test. It's ridiculous. If I was a kid I'd hate to have to look at blank pages with just multiple choices alllll year long. I'd go nuts with boredom!
     
  12. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2007
    Messages:
    4,391
    Likes Received:
    5

    Apr 10, 2007

    I agree that test-prep classes are supposed to teach test strategies. Also, tests are part of reality, so teaching some test taking skills is good, if you have also taught the skills to back them up. The problem is when you are only teaching test strategies and are limiting what you teach to only the skills tested. In the real word few people have a job where all they do is take a test. So, if we are preparing kids to survive in the world, you should teach how things apply to the real world.
     
  13. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2005
    Messages:
    5,279
    Likes Received:
    747

    Apr 10, 2007

    In Texas in at least the grades that I've taught, you automatically teach the test when you teach the state standards. Very few standards are not tested.

    But teaching test strategies to the exclusion of everything else is what I think of when I hear people talk of this phrase.
     
  14. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2002
    Messages:
    6,123
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 10, 2007

    like teaching n-2 and someo ther have said, Ithink the term generally refers to people teaching ONLY the material covered on the standardized tests and nothing else.

    Oh? the kids are interested in dinosaurs? Too bad, that's not on their test this year. You like poetry? Too bad, this year you're tested on essays, so that's all we're going to work on.

    While it IS important to teach the information that is likely to come up on tests, I think it's detrimental to the students if you ONLY teach that information. As good teachers, we use the knowledge we have about the students to plan engaging lessons that teach the content... which sometimes means deviating from the material on the tests to "hook' the kids or help them make connections. We make it REAL and INTERESTING... we don't ONLY work of question types that they'll see in March or April or May, but ALL kinds of questions, so that they really UNDERSTAND it and be able to USE it, not just regurgitate it onto a test form.
     
  15. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    Messages:
    3,565
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 10, 2007

    My opinion: using state standards, and only state standards, to build a curriculum is overly limiting.
     
  16. MissFrizzle

    MissFrizzle Virtuoso

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2006
    Messages:
    6,439
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 10, 2007


    Absolutely!

    Wouldn't it be nice to have time and resources to actually veer off topic and go in depth ... that's teaching.
     
  17. MissFrizzle

    MissFrizzle Virtuoso

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2006
    Messages:
    6,439
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 10, 2007

    Teaching strategies is a useful skill... teaching kids to memorize multiple choice answers forwards and backwards is useless. Teaching kids to think logically to come to a conclusion is what test taking is about. As long as we don't expect kids to spit back answers verbatim, then teaching how to take a test or test taking skills is fine.
     
  18. La Profesora

    La Profesora Cohort

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2007
    Messages:
    691
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 12, 2007

    I think that a lot of people get the wrong idea about "teaching the test." they think you have to teach the multiple choice answers. To me, teaching the test is a great way to encompass all the things you should learn.

    The Science TAKS test in Texas has 5 Objectives - General Lab safety, Organisms, the Environment, Chemistry, and Physical Science. The Science classes you take in high school should cover all those Objectives. For example, Biology covers organisms and the environment. Organisms includes viruses and bacteria, plants, animals, humans, and then cells and DNA. If you "teach the test" you cover all these items. If you skip plants or viruses, then that isn't responsible teaching and its skipping a BIG PART of Biology. How could you teach Biology without teaching about plants?

    But some teachers hate to teach plants or hate to teach bacteria - so should their kids suffer and miss out because they refuse to be responsible teachers and teach the curriculum? If you teach the curriculum, you are "teaching the test!!!"

    I think the tests exposed a lot of teachers who were using their "creative leeway" to skip big portions of the curriculum. Their kids were smart and engaged and looked like they were learning a lot, but they weren't getting the "full scope." What if I skipped viruses, and I had the next Jonas Salk in my class? what if I skipped Chemistry and had the next Marie Curie? that would just be irresponsible!!! The test keeps the teachers accountable for teaching everything they should be teaching anyways.

    Schools who are failing because of the test need to look at their methods and their teachers, do a good evaluation, and re-vamp their programs so they work.
     
  19. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2006
    Messages:
    3,565
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 12, 2007

    The tests I'm talking about are norm-referenced tests. These don't track student performance year over year. Nor do they reveal how much content students have mastered - because the scores are relative to the rest of the state's students in that grade, not to any curriculum criteria.

    Schools that fail these tests are not always the ones who don't "teach to the test." My neighborhood school tracks minutes on subjects and teaches just what's on the test (and nothing else) and still has below average (for our state) test scores. OTOH, the constructivist developmental school my kids are enrolled in for K next year has the second highest score in the district. They don't "teach to the test" at all.
     
  20. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Messages:
    27,534
    Likes Received:
    6

    Apr 12, 2007


    Oh, so you've met my HS trig teacher???

    NY gives statewide tests for most courses. The only thing that kept Mr. B. anywhere near the coursework was the threat of that Regents Exam in June.

    Fortunately for all of us, the answers to the exams were stolen that year and the Regents were cancelled. Otherwise, NY would be minus one math teacher!

    That's the one really good thing I have to say about Regents Exams (and my school doesn't give them, so I think I'm fairly unbiased.) They keep poor teachers on topic.

    Good teachers don't have to "teach to the test." They'll teach to the curriculum, the topic, the standards and mostly to the kids. But those poor teachers need those tests to keep the kids in the ballgame.
     
  21. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,706
    Likes Received:
    1,122

    Apr 12, 2007

    My sense is that schools that "teach to the test" in the sense that TeacherShelly describes are in fact less likely to see good test scores.
     
  22. CmsTigerGuy

    CmsTigerGuy Rookie

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2007
    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 13, 2007

    The expression refers to the mindset that teachers should only focus on what is going to appear on the standardized tests that are ever more being used to determine the quality of our public schools. The mad irony of all this is that, in Tennessee at least, I'm not even allowed to see what's on the test. If a student asks me, even after testing is over, to explain one of the questions on the test, I'm supposed to ignore the question. I cannot ask students if there was material on the test that they had never seen. I'm not even supposed to ask students if they thought the test was hard!
     
  23. Miss W

    Miss W Phenom

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2005
    Messages:
    4,881
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 13, 2007

    The term "Teaching To The Test" is usually seen as bad.

    In my MAT class about curriculum alignment and mapping, however, the term is used as a way to show good alignment and mapping. A good curriculum will be based around state and national standards. A well written school and state test will assess these standards. Student scores should then be used to see where areas are that students need help with, which then should alter the mapping (not taking away from it but adding more to it). This is supposed to be an ongoing process that really never is finished. Many studies have show student achievement levels have continued to increase with this type of alignment/mapping takes place.
     
  24. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,706
    Likes Received:
    1,122

    Apr 13, 2007

    The fact remains that high test scores should be a byproduct of teaching, not the goal.
     
  25. Miss W

    Miss W Phenom

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2005
    Messages:
    4,881
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 13, 2007

    YES!!!
     
  26. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,706
    Likes Received:
    1,122

    Apr 13, 2007

    The fact also remains that low test scores indicate that something in the process isn't working. It's important to know just what that is and to do what reasonably can be done to remediate it. And in some cases this could well mean telling certain teachers that a good heart by itself isn't enough to produce good learning outcomes.
     
  27. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Messages:
    27,534
    Likes Received:
    6

    Apr 13, 2007

    Oh, you've got to know content too?? And spend time on topic teaching it? And put some thought into what level the kids are on, what level you want them to be, and how to bridge the two?

    I don't know; it sounds like a LOT of work your way!
     
  28. La Profesora

    La Profesora Cohort

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2007
    Messages:
    691
    Likes Received:
    0

    Apr 13, 2007

    AMEN! We have an absolutely adorable, sweet older man who has been teaching 20+ years, and none of his kids pass because he just loves to tell stories. Yes, the stories are great, but he doesn't teach the curriculum. Part of being a professional teacher is curriculum. Unfortunately, you can't get by on just being nice.
     
  29. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,706
    Likes Received:
    1,122

    Apr 13, 2007

    And the thing is, it's not either-or, it's both-and. Test scores aren't the be-all and the end-all, and test taking certainly shouldn't be terrifying, but the scores and the test taking do deserve to be taken seriously and used as tools. (In fact, test taking is itself a learning tool: millions of people have had the experience of not really getting the material until they were actually in the test situation and suddenly - oh! something clicked.) And the good heart has to combine with the knowledge and with the skill at imparting in order to produce good and lasting results.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. Artoon Apps,
  2. MrsC
Total: 328 (members: 2, guests: 302, robots: 24)
test