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Assessment - Teaching to the Test

Standardized Tests Are Only One Tool

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Federal, state and local governments are demanding accountability from the public education system. Ultimately the easiest way to achieve that requirement is to measure student achievement with standardized tests.

Standardized Tests Are Just One Assessment Tool.

Private schools have traditionally used standardized tests as only one of many tools in their assessment kit bag. With their smaller school populations, private school assessment programs can probe more deeply and can use diagnostic tools not possible in public school settings. Let's face it: monolithic testing companies are a logical response to a monolithic educational system. Private schools with their boutique approach to education can afford to stick with their customized approach to student assessment.

Teaching to the Test Curbs Learning.

Standardized tests are valuable assessment tools. We would be foolish not to take SSAT's, SAT's, ACT's, AP's and IB's seriously. Other schools and colleges take scores on those exams into consideration when assessing your students' progress. What we mustn't let happen is what has been happening in many parts of the nation: teaching to the test. In other words, the test becomes the end in itself.

In many public school districts test results determine not only student's progress, but also the teachers' and administration's future. Low test scores in a school district will inevitably result in unfavorable media publicity and much grand-standing from politicians at every level. Is it any wonder then that teachers follow their instincts for survival and teach strictly to the test? That sucks much creativity out of the classroom. It robs students of enrichment and in-depth exploration of ideas.

State Boards May Require Standardized Tests

Another factor to consider is the mounting pressure from state boards of education for private schools to test their students in line with the public schools. Fortunately most private schools resist the idea. After all, the essence of a private school is its privacy, its independence. Most private schools were founded on a simple premise: excellence in education. Letting standardized testing determine your curriculum, your teaching methods, indeed your future is a recipe for disaster in my opinion. So, beware the temptation of accepting public funds. If you do so, you may be end up teaching to the test.

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