Family · Just my Thoughts

Teaching to the Test

There has always been debate within many communities that linking teacher pay to student assessments – generally speaking, standardized tests – is a flawed assessment for the teacher.  I am beginning to truly believe this to be the case.

NYS recently released state math assessment scores for grades 3-8.  While NYS implemented statewide assessments in certain grades prior to NCLB, the testing every year is a result of NCLB.  Local education reporter George Basler discussed the most recent results with Dawn Shannon, assistant superintendent for educational support and technology at Broome-Tioga BOCES.

My concerns come when Shannon says “// schools have modified curricula and instruction and “drilled deeper” into data to analyze areas where students need improvement.”  To me, this statement means that schools have modified curricula to meet what the test.  This is basically a fancy way of saying we “teach to the test.”

So as to not think that this is just in younger grades, let me tell you about a high school situation.  My son is a freshman in high school here locally.  High school math is again undergoing a massive state revamp.  When I went to high school – eons ago, I swear, since my 30th reunion is this summer, math was algebra, geometry, trigonometry and pre-calculus or calculus.  Suddenly, as my oldest began high school, math was Math I, Math II, Math III, Math IV and local or AP calculus after that.  Somewhere around 2000, State Ed decided Math A and Math B would be implemented.  The problems with Math A and B were that the curriculum for the courses was too long for one school year.  So, lo and behold, NYS is going back  to algebra, geometry, trigonometry.

My 14 year old took integrated algebra last year and a Regents exam in such.  This year, in ninth grade, he has taken geometry.  One would logically think that he would take the geometry regents exam on June 16th.  No.  In the infinite wisdom of my school district – or of its high school math department, this is the first year of the geometry regents.  Historically, first year regents as math has changed are horribly difficult and not a fair measure of the student’s knowledge.  So, my son will take a local final this year as opposed to the geometry regents.  One reason that I am sure played into this decision is that there are no regents to see how the test will be.  Consequently, no one can teach to the test but has to teach the subject matter.

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