Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Some Teachers Like Testing

On the heels of the much-publicized change of heart by Diane Ravitch and the accompanying joyful outbursts by anti-testing and anti-accountability people everywhere, we can provide a bit of a reality check from right here in Arkansas.  Hot off the presses of the popular teacher magazine Phi Delta Kappan is an article by a few University of Arkansas colleagues and me. The article is available here.

We visited several schools last year to talk with teachers about standardized testing and the "teaching to the test" concept. The surprising results can be seen on page 51:
In the end, teachers said many good things about various aspects of the testing process and, overall, gave a very positive impression of the effects of the annual assessments on classroom teaching. After we sifted through all of the comments from all of the teachers at all of the school sites, five positive themes emerged. The consensus of teachers with whom we spoke was that the tests provide useful data, that the testing regime helps create a road map for the year’s instruction, that the standards and tests don’t sap creativity or hinder collaboration, and, perhaps most surprising, that the accountability imposed by the testing regime is useful.
Here's just one example of the pro-testing sentiments we uncovered:
Many teachers noted that before testing, it was easy to teach idiosyncratically — perhaps spending “six weeks on the dinosaur unit and just totally ignor[ing]” other topics. With increased focus on testing, however, teachers have focused on matching their instruction to a coherent set of standards. Thus, one math teacher said that while she had initially “hated” the Arkansas benchmark tests, she has since changed her mind: “I’m OK with it now, to be honest; I see where knowing the standards and knowing what’s going to be tested can help me plan the whole year and make sure I’ve covered everything.”



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