Another EduOx Gored

I’m coming late to this whole hubbub about teaching to the test, but I think two issues are getting tangled up here. Yes, there are incentives in NCLB that encourage states to create low-quality tests, and that policymakers could fix. And yes, there are too many schools that teach to the test.

But, cheap tests are not the root cause of “teaching to the test.” Rather, that’s much more a human capital/labor market problem. The cheap tests also tend to be pretty low-level so teachers should be less not more likely to teach to them in an effort to get kids to pass because they’re basically general knowledge/skills sorts of exercises. As a general rule, all else equal, you’d expect to see more teaching to the test as the tests got harder and it became more difficult for kids to pass them just as the result of a generally effective instructional program rather than an actual curriculum…

For instance, this is one reason that kids in CORE Knowledge schools tend to do pretty well on today’s state tests regardless of the alignment between those tests and CORE Knowledge. Craig Jerald also gets at that issue, here. So sure, better assessments and curriculum are a must if we want to see real gains in student learning, but frankly so are better teachers and better teaching. But as Kati Haycock has pointed out (pdf), the latter is awfully hard to talk about. And the former is a more convenient villain.

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