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ERIC Number: EJ703951
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Jun-1
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0031-7217
What's Wrong with Teaching to the Test?
Posner, Dave
Phi Delta Kappan, v85 n10 p749 Jun 2004
Opponents of so-called high-stakes testing complain that such intense pressure causes teachers to devote virtually all classroom time and resources to preparing students for the standardized test. This phenomenon is called "teaching to the test." Proponents of high-stakes testing respond that that is exactly as it should be. They argue that the tests measure success in teaching the curriculum and so "teaching to the test" is "teaching to the curriculum." And after all, isn't that what we want teachers to do? The kinds of problems that can appear on a standardized test are, of course, quite limited in form and complexity, as the student is allocated only a minute or two to complete each one. If the intellectual processes required to solve a really complicated problem are not essentially the same as those required to solve these simpler problems, then a student prepared only to solve standardized test problems could well lack the mental preparation required to attack really hard problems. As a model for evaluating whether teachers should teach to the test, we should use something more typical of the kind of everyday problems that concern us as workers or parents or citizens. The author sees the obsession with standardized tests in Darwinian terms. We are in effect putting our kids (and their teachers!) on an isolated atoll under the evolutionary force of a strange selection process based on standardized tests. The inevitable product of this process is a species that is as custom-engineered as any carbon-based life form can be to solve trivial problems. Like most exotic species, this one is unlikely to be able to adapt to and compete in the larger world. The irony is that it is unlikely to prevail even in its chosen niche, where the fittest survivors will most likely be made of silicon.
Phi Delta Kappa International, Inc., 408 N. Union St., P.O. Box 789, Bloomington, IN 47402-0789. Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A