Test-Centric Literacy Instruction
Jennifer Brown, EDCI 813, Fall 2015
Practices and Commitments of Test- centric Literacy Instruction: Lessons From a Testing Transition
(For the purpose of this handout, any general terms such as tests or assessments refers to externally mandated assessments.)
Teacher Practices Attributed to External Assessment
"There is deeply entrenched suite of practices related to external assessment" (Davis & Willson, 2015, p. 365).
There were several activities that teachers frequently employed that were directly related to testing. This included, but was not limited to: test-taking strategy instruction, benchmark testing, annotating passages, and frequent discussion and public sharing of data (Davis & Willson, 2015).
Uncertainty about State Standards
"Preexisting practices and assumptions were temporarily disrupted by transition- related uncertainties" (Davis & Wilson, 2015, p. 365).
Teachers experienced some confusion about certain standards. They were not sure about what 'rigor' entailed or how it will change testing expectations (Davis & Willson, 2015, p. 369). They also were eager to get their hands on examples of how the questions would be formatted so they could present their lessons the same way and "kill as many birds with one stone" (Davis & Willson, 2015, p. 370).
Testing Practices Creep into Learning All-Year Around
According to the authors findings, teachers generally believe that students and treat them as they "are unable and should not be expected to generalize their knowledge across tasks, settings, or question types" (Davis & Willson, 2015, p. 375). Because of this, strategies and teaching methods that are well-known to be ineffective continue to occur in classrooms.
According to the authors findings, teachers generally believe that students "are
unable and should not be expected to generalize their knowledge across tasks, settings, or question types" (Davis & Willson, 2015, p. 375). Teachers have to trust their ability to provide quality instruction and the students' abilities to apply their knowledge and skills in a variety of formats.
Teachers should also carefully evaluate and reflect on their own practices in light of these findings. What is occurring in the classroom that is a result of test preparation and not good teaching practices?
Once there is awareness, what is next?
1. STOP using text that is formatted like the test (Davis & Willson, 2015).
2. STOP requiring students to show written evidence of what specific test-taking strategies they have employed (Davis & Willson, 2015).
3. STOP asking "test-formatted questions as a focus of classroom discussions" (Davis & Willson, 2015, p. 377).
4. STOP talking about benchmark data from state-provided practice tests (Davis & Willson, 2015).
I recently graded my first mid-term exam for a class in which I am a graduate teaching assistant. I was shocked at the number of students (college seniors) who used test-taking strategies for this exam. The two least likely responses were crossed out, certain key words were underlined in the questions, asterisks were placed by questions they were unsure of an answer. I am assuming this is residual training from standardized testing while in elementary and secondary school.
Kansas Department of Education. (2015). 2015-2016 Kansas assessments overview. Retrieved from http://www.ksde.org/Portals/0/CSAS/CSAS%20Home/Assessments/2015-16%20Kansas%20Assessments%20Overview.pdf