The theory of “teaching to the test” Essay Sample
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The theory of “teaching to the test” Essay Sample
Standardized testing is one of the controversial subjects in any school, college, or household. They were created to determine a student’s intelligence, critical thinking, and problem solving skills. Do these standardized test scores truly asses and inform of us of the performance of a student? One argument of standardized tests is that they are fair and measure the ability of students, and they also make sure schools and educators are held responsible for student performance. Another argument says the tests are not fair.
The theory of “teaching to the test,” doesn’t help generate creativity and critical thinkers. Many of these assessments result in unnecessary consequences for students, teachers and schools. Many would argue that a student’s scores on any given standardized test do not reflect a student’s true abilities or achievements. A quote by Albert Einstein sums up many opinions towards standardized testing; “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The validity and reliability of these tests on determining the intelligence of a person is just not altogether accurate. The demands and high expectations for testing have also been well criticized across the board. There are many types of standardized tests from elementary to high school and beyond. The STAR testing in elementary school to the SAT test for college admissions were all created to assess a student’s abilities but now they are also part of assessing the teachers ability to teach.
In spite of complaints about loss of instructional time in the classroom to testing, inaccuracies of the test measurement, cost, and encroachments on educator autonomy, standardized testing continues to be a major source of student achievement. In a freely financed and decentralized framework, tests offered a component for responsibility and administration. What’s more, in an apparently meritocratic framework that decides numerous life results, tests offered an apparently reasonable method for deciding social mobility. (Schneider 2016) Subsequently, people in general by and large upheld testing, as did a rising web of testing specialists, corporate designers, and state responsibility frameworks. Soon, standardized tests became the standard working methodology in schools; it turned into a social standard.
One question that is always proposed is, are standardized tests reliable and valid towards student achievements? One problem in education is that there is often the use of one assessment system to try and measure two different objectives. The one testing system’s first objective is to provide reliable and valid information about student achievement and how they vary among student populations. The second objective is to induce educators to teach well by attaching consequences to assessment based measurements of their performance. Unfortunately, current standardized testing systems are not made to generate performance metrics for educators such as teachers and principals. They were created in a way that should produce dependable measures of student achievement in a low-stakes testing atmosphere. The design of the test provides teachers the opportunity to coach students on test-taking skills. Educators commonly take advantage of these opportunities on every occasion to profit their own careers. The coaching done by teachers often contaminates measures of both student achievement and educator performance. People question the fairness of this process.
When teachers teach to the test, is it fair to other educators across the country that teach to the standards? When talking about tests such as the SAT, is this fair to the students that have studied night after night to do well on these tests? Yet another problem with standardizing testing occurs. Students study for countless hours and spend large amounts of money to prepare themselves for this college admission requirement. Because scores generally improve with guidance and repetition, the tests have encouraged an industry of test training that takes advantage of the desire for success of students and families. Parents spend huge amounts of money on courses, online classes, and books in order for their child to succeed on these tests. Is this the telltale sign of a student’s achievement in the classroom or something else? According to many educators and researchers, it is better to acquire more accurate measures of both student achievement and education performance by developing separate assessment systems that are designed specifically for each measurement task. (Neal 2013)
SAT Accuracy: Even though studies have shown that the SAT Scholar Aptitude Test does not accurately measure a students abilities and intelligence, college admissions still rely heavily on those scores. The SAT was originally created as an objective measurement to even the differences in curriculum and grading across the country. But objectivity has eroded, while the perceived importance of the test has grown. In his article, Tiefenthaler mentions that colleges should begin to think about different ways of assessing students in regards to admissions and achievements. He says that standardized tests, specifically the SAT, provide only marginal predictive value for student’s performance while in college. Standardized test scores do nothing to suggest what a student might contribute to the character and vitality of an intellectual community. (Tiefenthaler 2009). High school grades and report cards are a much better alternative in determining whether a student will perform well in college.
Learning Styles: There is no doubt that students learn differently. How can students that learn differently expect to perform the same when taking the same test? This was the question of some when different learning styles were addressed with the overall success of certain standardized tests. When students are taught using approaches and resources that complement their particular learning styles, their achievement increases significantly. A number of studies conducted during the last decade have found that students’ achievement increases when teaching methods match their learning styles, biological and developmental characteristics that affect how they learn. (Burke & Dunn 2003). Most students use a combination of audio, visual, and tactile styles to learn new information. It is important to look at the student’s preferred learning style and present the material accordingly. When a standardized test is presented in only one way, many student’s may not understand what is being asked because this is not in their preferred learning style. They would otherwise be able to easily identify the question being asked and be able to answer accordingly. In a study done using 70 students and their preferred learning styles and test capabilities, more than half of the students that learned in a tactile way performed extremely low. This is a great representation of the “one size fits all” testing approach does not fit every student.
Anxiety and stress: The educational system both elementary and secondary, is now relying more than ever on standardized tests as their dominant assessment tool. This has forced teachers at every grade level to shape students around the ability to do well on tests and their performance ability on tests rather than shaping them to their own ambitions. The emphasis on external goals, test scores, has created an unhealthy classroom that standardized tests provoke considerable anxiety among students’, which seems to increase with age and experience, again, another example of “teaching to the test”. (Segool 2013). As time progresses, students become conscious of the ever-greatening need to score well on standardized tests. Students receive pressure from both teachers and parents to do well, increasing stress in their already stressful lives. (Owens 2014). We know from many medical studies that stress can create many health problems. The short term effects of stress include immune system weakness, headaches, and nausea, while long term effects include heart problems, depression, and emotional disorders.
A study was done between No Child Left Behind (NCLB) achievement testing and classroom testing. The study involved over six hundreds students from third through fifth grade. These students completed assessments of test anxiety following the standardized NCLB testing and the average classroom testing. Students reported compellingly more test anxiety overall in relation to high-stakes testing versus classroom testing on two measures of test anxiety. The problem with higher test anxiety is cognitive and physiological impairment. Students reported more symptoms of both cognitive and physiological impairments when they were administered the standardized test over the classroom tests. More studies need to be done on the affects of anxiety and test performance, but it is clear that there was a significant difference in the performance level when related to higher anxiety levels. (Segool 2013)
Defenders of standardized tests: Standardized testing has its defenders and they tell a contrasting story. They argue that school-level results from standardized tests in fact do bring to light achievement discrepancies across lines of income, gender, and race, protecting the interests of historically alienated groups. There are several standardized tests administered at different levels from elementary to high school, all created with the good intention of improving the education of our future generations by raising the bar of academic victory everywhere. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) formalized a set of guidelines, called adequate yearly progress, that each student in the country must meet. The ESSA “Every Student Succeeds Act” has since replaced the NCLB and is the main federal law for general education and has a main purpose of holding schools accountable. It also supports academic improvement, trying to close the achievement gap of schools across the country and making sure students are not falling behind.
While no test is perfect, standardized tests can give educators at least some sense of academic performance. The information and data collected from standardized tests have driven schools to enhance their focus on student achievement. The data has also encouraged regulation among state and district offices, and provided information that will allow the public to hold schools accountable. They argue that achievement data functions as a form of encouragement for schools and educators. Teachers are inspired to raise test scores and overall academic success. They are then encouraged to improve their professional development. Professional development is evaluated using a combination of teacher reflection, classroom observation, and ongoing assessment of student performance. This keeps the educators and administration stimulated in teaching information to students. Certain tests such as the SAT and the ACT can have a positive impact students wanting to attend college. They can open doors to college experience and student’s futures.
Pros and Cons: Some pros to standardized testing are that it gives teachers guidance on student learning and their own teaching practices. It provides students with an overall picture of their progress (or the absence of) over many years in significant areas such as math, reading, writing. It provides parents the information on how their child is performing compared to students locally, provincially, and nationally, as well as how their child’s school as a whole compares to others. These test also supply governments information on the education system in conducive to improving in areas where they are lacking.
As previously discussed, some of the cons to standardized testing can bring about major stress for students and educators. They can compose a competitive nature between students, schools, and districts that takes away focus from the ultimate objective of student success.
For students who do not perform well on tests or have much background knowledge that would be vital in completing problems effectively, it can create great disadvantages.
Lastly, it can devise a limited range of learning and success, only measuring certain areas like reading, writing, and math, rather than a complete overall view of students and how they learn, including imagination, creativity, collaboration skills, drive, social skills, etc.
Alternatives: Focusing more on the student’s achievements in the classroom rather than on a standardized test is the first alternative. Replacing these machine-scored standardized tests with teacher made assessments and assignments, and accurate grading will promote for a better education and more accountability. Teacher based assessments are more accurate in measuring the abilities of the students and what they have learned in the classroom. Portfolios are a great way of measuring and assessing whether a student is college bound. A portfolio is a folder of the student’s work overtime. This is vital information for teachers and colleges to get an overall glimpse of the student and his achievements.
My own experiences of standardized tests are not the best. My anxiety was extremely high and I actually would physically become ill whenever I had to take one of these tests. I felt as though I was never ready for these tests. I don’t feel my teachers prepared me specifically for these tests. I am also not sure if that was their job to do so either. I had to study separately on my own time for these tests. Most of the information on the tests was not taught in school. When I had to take the SAT for my college admissions, I did not believe that it reflected my true abilities. I agree with the many people that believe standardized testing is not an accurat