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Tests Do Not Make the Teacher

By Krystal Yang

We all imagine the same scenario when the phrase “in preparation for standardized testing” is spoken in class: a teacher stands at the front of the classroom and reads sentences from a textbook or state-certified testing instruction manual while students sit at their desks, bored out of their minds. After all, that’s what the old educational standards were trying to accomplish. With the new revision of public school curricula to adhere to Common Core Standards, which incorporate more aspects of critical thinking through the usage of free-response questions and computerized testing, many people wonder if these new testing requirements have altered the quality of teaching in American schools.

David Blazar, a professor at the University of Maryland’s College of Education, and Cynthia Pollard decided to explore this research question. He and his research partners analyzed videotaped lessons from five different districts, and “found that a more demanding test didn’t help improve the quality of the teacher’s instruction” (Hechinger Report). In general, test-prep lessons were taught more poorly than regular lessons that were not pressured to prepare students for a huge standardized test. What Blazar found most surprising was that “the researchers found that the quality gap between a teacher’s regular lessons and her test-prep lessons was largest in a school district where the teaching quality was the highest. In other words, instructional quality sank a lot when these excellent teachers were delivering test-prep lessons” (Hechinger Report). Although we expect high-quality schools to be resistant to this phenomenon, research results actually reveal the contrary: elite schools may actually be more susceptible to poor test-prep lessons compared to schools of lower quality. Regardless of teaching quality, the most important conclusion to draw from this research is that a single test cannot change the entire American education system—the government needs to continue focusing on mentoring teachers, such as with individual coaching or on-the-job professional training.

 

Link to Research Article: https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2017-11-13/better-tests-dont-lead-to-better-teaching-study-finds

About Katherine Han

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