Friday, February 09, 2007

Teaching to the Test? Not!

Spent the day listening to some teachers go through the data analysis process regarding our state ELA assessment and have gone through this process with a number of teachers and grade levels. It's commonly said that we're teaching to the test. I used to think that way too. For many teachers, this test absolutely consumes their time and attention from the first day of school until the test is over at last. The teachers feel enormous amounts of pressure for students to perform since the scores on these tests will eventually be publicly announced.

We've been looking at the kinds of reading passages that are presented, the kinds of questions that are asked, the skills needed to answer the questions, the strategies that we use to teach those skills and where those skills are found in our curriculum. And, I've heard it said that the questions are "bad", "unfair", and "too hard" or "The kids just can't do it." Is that really the case or is our pedagogy just not up to the task? I've begun to change my mind about just what this test is showing us. I believe it's showing us where our pedagogical practices are in need of examining.

The future that our students are moving toward is not the future that many of us were prepared for in our own schooling and the teaching role models that most of us had were models who received their own education in a very different time. Our instructional practices should not be the same practices that were used in the classrooms that we attended.

We don't need to teach to the test and we never did. Instead, we need to teach in a way that will help our students develop the skills needed to sustain and deepen learning. This will take examining our instructional practices and measuring just how well they stand up to the challenges of learning in the 21st century. There are many pieces to this puzzle that we must all put together but who better to work for than for the future of our students?

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