Teaching to the Test
by Jordan Sadler
TESTING, TESTING, AND MORE TESTING
During my years in the public school system, the effects of direct teacher accountability could be directly felt by the students. To me, it felt like this: we were interrupted. During the middle of units or projects that were the culmination of a series of lessons and the product of much planning, suddenly everything stopped. We were whipped into a fervor of review; Completing packets upon packets of equations and critical reading questions, for weeks at a time we worked, up until the time came for that critical period of state-wide testing.
A LUCKY BREAK
Luckily for me, I was fortunate enough to attend schools in a largely middle-class suburban school district, just south of Houston. In my experience, the majority of the teachers I had were solid. Students could tell that our teachers had specialized experience within their fields, which in turn led to passionate exchanges and thoughtful discourse between students and faculty. The fact that all schools aren't this fortunate is not lost on me, however. My district was a good example of how certain socioeconomic factors can have a great effect on how its schools are able to perform. We as students were lucky to have instructors like ours, and looking back, I realize that I could have just as easily been in a situation that was completely different.
ALL TEACHERS ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE TEST SCORES OF THEIR STUDENTS
A TRUE BENCHMARK, OR MINOR INCONVENIENCE?
According to federal and state regulations, teachers are evaluated based on the performance of their students on state-wide standardized tests. How did this factor in to my education? I remember seeing it everywhere. The nightly news was buzzing with stories about the tests, people in town were all talking about how their children were in the middle of testing, and how important that this was. In my situation, it felt as though these tests weren't as big of a problem as they were made up to be. Sure we reviewed and studied material that would be covered during testing, but I distinctly remember that the attitudes of the teachers around me seemed to be fairly relaxed. There was a certain lack of urgency or panic that they displayed, and were quick to reassure students that, "Don't worry, we're ahead of this kind of material already". Was this a sure signal of the quality of our school district? Or the confidence of teachers who knew that they were effective in doing their jobs?
ALL STUDENTS DESERVE EXCELLENT FACULTY
I understand that not all students have had, or will get the opportunities that I had during my career in public schools. I think that this is incredibly unfair. Something has to be done in order to get these experienced, talented teachers into schools that historically, don't usually retain these professionals. More students deserve the opportunity to view these tests as a minor inconvenience, as a blip in the radar of their public education. If we as a profession and a society can find a way to keep these teachers into these areas, I believe that we will see even larger levels of success among students of all backgrounds.