High-Stakes Standardized Testing: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Teaching to the Test


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  • Thank you for viewing my project on High-Stakes Standardized Testing : The Advantages and Disadvantages of Teaching to the Test. My name is Kerry Sowatsky.
  • Probably the high-stakes test that we are most familiar with here in MI is the MEAP, or the Michigan Educational Assessment Program. If you remember taking this test, then I’m sure you remember the stress that you and your teachers were put under. This is only one example of the many high-stakes tests that are administered around the country every year.So if it’s just one test, you may think, why does everyone become to stressed about it and why is it an issue in education today? The truth is that so much rides and is determined from ONE exam, that teachers are forgoing their normal lessons to start covering material that is on the MEAP, for example. They are emphasizing what they need to in order for their students to achieve high scores, but in the process the students and the teachers are losing important information that is vital to know, but may not be covered on the test. Thus, the term “teaching to the test” has come about and with it, a form of teaching that is not always favorable.But if you can remember taking a high-stakes test, then you may also remember how you felt on the test day. Did your teachers try to emphasize for you just how important it was to do well? Do you remember the specific lessons you had and the specific material you had to memorize? you remember dreading going to school that day, don’t you? Many students are feeling the stress and anxiety that goes along with these tests, just as teachers and administrators are. Could the “fun” that is being taken out of learning as more and more importance are putting on tests be a reason school becomes more like work? So is it worth is? Are high-stakes testing more of a detriment than a help? Are they cheating students out of a well-rounded and whole education? Or is it necessary to understand whether students are getting the education the desereve?
  • We all know what a test is, but what may not be so clear is, “What allows a test to be considered ‘high-stakes?’”In a Teacher’s Education Quarterly article, by Wayne Au “Social Studies, Social Justice: W(h)ither the Social Studies in High-stakes Testing,” it is defined a test in which “results are used to make important decisions that immediately affect students, teachers, administrators, communities, schools, and districts” (Au).So what are some of these descisions that will affect so many people? The article goes on to say that these tests could decide whether students are able to progress to the next grade and whether teachers should receive a pay raise or tenure.But not only are individual matters decided and attributed to these high-stakes tests, but the results are also released to the public. This allows teachers and their students, along with their schools, to be categorized and ranked and therefore, to be subjected to public scrutiny, perhaps ruining the reputation of entire school districts.
  • EDU Quarterly The modern institution of high stakes standardized testing can be traces back to the 1980s and President Ronald Reagan. His administration attacked our nation’s public schools and stated that our educational system was not up to par with foreign country’s in this Cold War climate. Graduation standards were raised and reforms were made that “revolved around testing and increased course loads for students” (Au).In the 1990s, President George H.W. Bush, self-proclaimed “education president” implemented his America 2000 plan that focused on testing.President Clinton followed his lead during his presidency and the tough testing rhetoric was passed into the hands of George W. Bush.President Bush is responsible for cementing high-stakes testing into law and mandating that students be tested in reading and math. If schools do not achieve sufficient scores by 2014, they will be subject to certain consequences.
  • So what were the laws and other legislations that these Presidents passed to get us to a place where our schools revolve around testing?“A Nation at Risk” was implemented by Reagan and has since been proven to be “empirically false” (Au). However, it cannot be denied that this plan ushered in the modern era of testing.ESEA was published by President Bush in 2000, mandating that federal funding be directly effected by test scores.The most infamous plan though, would have to be the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or better known as “No Child Left Behind.” It was authorized by George Bush in 2002 and is what is directly effecting our dilemma with high stakes standardized testing today.
  • So NCLB is the piece of legislations that is directly effecting what can and cannot be done to fix or get rid of high stakes standardized testing.This act states that schools was be assessed on how well their students perform on high stakes tests.These tests only need to be administered in math and reading which risks other subjects getting the ax so that teachers and prepares and teach their students how to pass the test.3. If school’s scored in certain standardized tests did not improve or meet Adequate Yearly Progress, AYP, then schools were at risk to lose federal funding or federal funding just to be used for tutoring, transportation, and other measures that would hopefully improve the school’s performance.4. There is now head-way being made to change this piece of legislation currently. But NCLB is seen as a solution to our country’s educational difficulties by many.
  • So the simple fact is that we are stuck with standardized testing and have been for a while. So what are some of the effects that it is having on our students and teachers and in our classrooms?Au states that high stakes standardized testing is directly affecting classroom control in both “curricular content and pedagogy.” High stakes testing narrows curriculum and teachers feel pressure to shape the content that they teach to the test their students will be taking.Au also finds that 71% of districts reported cutting one or more subjects to increase time spent on reading and math, correlating with the standards with NCLB. Also, “73% of teachers from states with high stakes testing and 63% of teachers from states with low stakes testing said that their state’s testing programs were contributing to unsound educational practices” (Au).Specific to my content that I will be teaching, social studies is getting pushed to the side as teachers focus on teaching math and reading as opposed to history, geography, and civics.Au finds that 33% of districts reduced social studies teaching in a direct response to high stakes testing.
  • But positives can come from HSST Betty Higgins in her article, Teaching to the test…not asserted that “students can perform admirably on formalized writing tests with instruction based on the best practices rather than explicit teaching to the test.”Higgins also found that,“the broadest and richest preparation in writing produces the highest test scores.”Higgins suggests, “that rather than spending time on test preparation, writing should be ongoing.”  Throughout their whole educational career, improvement in writing should always be being taught – no matter what subjects are receiving priority for standardized tests.So while many will attest that high stakes standardized testing can hinder a student’s education, there are some benefits in specific areas of learning.
  • Civic Project 33 has a list of statistics that we will view in a moment that supports the view that high-stakes testing won’t be leaving our education system anytime soon. Other sources have mixed opinions on what can be done to alter what place high stakes testing has in our country. Higgins, in her article, has a more positive outlook saying, “most schools see no alternative other than to work toward meeting the states' standards and legislative mandates. This goal can be accomplished through excellent instruction that prepares students to be full, literate members of our society and not just people who can pass a test.” So in a way Higgins’ view of standardized testing asserts that it’s effects are not all badAu, in his article on the other hand, asserts that there has been so much Federal involvement that it is incapable of reform. “…testing has become firmly entrenched as the policy tool, bar none, for federal enforcement of educational reforms.” High-stakes testing is the Federal government's only way of keeping tabs on the state’s educational systems so until we find an alternative, standardized testing will remain the norm.
  • Here are the statistics that the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research:The study found that the high stakes tests produce the same results as low stakes tests. High stakes tests are, “not distorting outcomes” and “accurately reflect student achievement.”There are many concerns that teachers are just “teaching to the test.” This study found that educators are doing so in a way “that conveys useful general knowledge as measured by nationally respected low stakes tests.” But they also found was that, “The report’s analysis of year-to-year score gains finds that some high stakes tests are less effective than others in measuring schools’ effects on student performance.”These mixed findings only make a statement that high-stakes standardized testing isn’t going anywhere. It has it advantages and disadvantages but until there is a clearly better alternative, we will be stuck with what we have. Moving forward, our policy should be to improve the current testing system. The pressure that is put on students to achieve well on these assessments may drive more students away from the enjoyment of learning leaving classrooms and hallways empty…
  • High-Stakes Standardized Testing: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Teaching to the Test

    1. 1. By<br />Kerry Sowatsky<br />High-Stakes Standardized Testing<br />Source<br />
    2. 2. A Brief Introduction<br />MEAP<br />Teaching to the Test<br />Taking the fun out of learning?<br />Is it worth it?<br />Source<br />
    3. 3. What Is High-Stakes Testing?<br />A Test vs. High-Stakes Test<br />What are these decisions?<br />Wait, there’s more!<br />
    4. 4. Federal History<br />1980s<br />President Reagan<br />1990s<br />President George H.W. Bush<br />President Clinton<br />2000s<br />President George W. Bush<br />
    5. 5. Legislative History<br />“A Nation A Risk” <br />Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)<br />New ESEA<br />No Child Left Behind (NCLB)<br />“…the trajectory of education reforms into the 1990s was set, where forty-three states had statewide assessments for k-5 by 1994, and by the year 2000 every state but Iowa administered a state mandated test” -Au <br />
    6. 6. No Child Left Behind (NCLB)<br />Centers on high-stakes testing<br />Emphasis on reading and math<br />Harsh consequences<br />Won’t be changes, as of now<br />
    7. 7. What Are Some Resulting Factors?<br />Classroom Control<br />Curriculum<br />Pedagogy<br />Social Studies<br />“Disappearing subject”<br />
    8. 8. Impact on Literacy<br />“High-stakes standardized testing can greatly influence the teaching of reading and writing” (Higgins).<br />Writing is an ongoing process.<br />Better test scores?<br />
    9. 9. Opinions From The Field<br />Nothing will change anytime soon<br />Varying<br />Good - Higgins<br />Bad - Au<br />“…testing has become firmly entrenched as the policy tool, bar none, for federal enforcement of educational reforms.”-Au<br />
    10. 10. What’s The Bottom Line?<br />High-stakes Standardized Tests…<br />Are accurate<br />Teach students general knowledge<br />Are not all the same <br />Source<br />
    11. 11. References - Images<br />Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/csessums/4405490016/Author:cdsessums, File Name: Empty Classroom.jpg<br />Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/anspach/63118519/ Author:Schnittke, File Name: Pencil.jpg<br />Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/conspirator/31355171/Author:Conspirator, File Name: Hallway.jpg<br />Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/2474926476/Author: kevindooley, File Name: Bus.jpg<br />
    12. 12. Resources – Works Cited<br />Au, Wayne. “Social Studies, Social Justice: W(h)ither the Social Studies in High-Stakes Testing?” Teacher Education Quarterly 36.1 (2009). 43. Web. 16 February 2010.<br />Higgins, Betty, et. al. “Teaching to the Test…Not! Balancing Best Practice and Testing Requirement in Writing: High-Quality, Evidence-Based Instruction Need Not Be Sacrificed in Preparing Students to Succeed on Standardized Writing Assignments.” The Reading Teacher 60.4 (2006). 310. Web. 16 February 2010. <br />“Testing High Stakes Tests: Can We Believe The Results of Accountability Tests?” Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Greene, Jay P. n.p. : February 2003. Web. 16 February 2010.<br />