I teach at one of the poorest schools in the State of Washington. We are a small, rural public school on an Indian reservation. Increased state pressure and intervention has actually widened the achievement gap in our school and others like it.
Teaching to the test may work (on the short term) with predominantly White, middle-class students who are motivated by grades and the promise of college. These type of children tend to accept education as it was delivered to their parents and grandparents. Never mind the negative effect teaching to the test has on higher-order thinking skills and creativity.
No matter your criteria, teaching to the test does not work with poor, minority students. Show me successes at schools like KIPP and I’ll show you serious flaws in their data. If school does not engage them, they drop out. Is that what we want?
If good instruction doesn’t raise test scores, then the test is flawed, not the instruction. For those who are facing pressure to raise test scores, I have a few suggestions:
- Do your homework and be prepared to effectively defend your practice. Do lots of research on effective instructional practices. Read “How People Learn“, “Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards“, “Results Now“, everything by Alfie Kohn, and more.
- Become National Board Certified – this gains you a lot of credibility with administrators and your board of directors. Nobody wants to fire a National Board Certified Teacher. I do very open-ended inquiry-based instruction in my classroom. I achieved National Board Certification in 1 year and found the standards of that process to be 100% aligned with my instructional methods.
- Base your instruction around state standards. You are in a very defensible position if you can clearly demonstrate that you are aligning your instruction to the standards that are purportedly on the state assessment. You are required to teach to the standards; you are not required to teach to the test.
If none of this works, maybe you should find a different school to teach at. If my working conditions were unbearable and I was being asked to do things that I had strong moral objections to, I would go work somewhere else.