Standardized Tests and Cheating

The Times-Picayune today published an editorial "Investigate cheating claims" that addressed charges made in the spring of 2010 that Miller-McCoy Academy staff was providing questions from the state's high-stakes test to prepare students.

This is my comment in response to the story and another comment by Oh-Really?

lbarrios August 27, 2011, 12:09AM

Oh-Really? said: "The schools now seem to only be teaching the answers to the test questions without regard for the actual learning process."

Your statement is so masterfully worded that it shows clearly the problem with using standardized tests to measure learning, the dichotomy between teaching and testing, and the hypocrisy of expecting teachers to teach and students to learn answers for questions they are not allowed to see. Makes no sense does it? If you want a student to learn a specific body of material, then tell them what the material is and let them show they have learned it by testing them on that body of material. They material has got to be limited if the test is to be valid. In so doing, we narrow the curriculum and limited the material learned.

I learned as a teacher that without a doubt any child with a normal range of intelligence can memorize as much or as little as he/she decides to memorize given a reasonable amount of time. A teacher has no way to know which 30 of the thousands of relevant facts will be a standardized test, so it's a crapshoot when prepping for a test. So what's fair or reasonable for teacher or student about that? I NEVER gave multiple choice/true-false tests to my students because, as I explained to my students - "Why would I give you a test with all the answers on it?"

On the other hand, a teacher can teach a student to THINK (real learning) and then no matter what questions are asked on a test, the student will have a good chance to come up with the correct answer using critical thinking skills like synthesis and analysis combined with the store of information he/she was able to gather at any given time. That is - if the test questions measure LEARNING and THINKING rather than how many facts the student memorized.

Standardized tests are not about standards - they are about standardizing children. We can't and shouldn't be trying to do that! There is no justification for teachers and/or administrators cheating, but when livelihoods are threatened and teachers and students perceive that they have no control over their fate, human nature's will to survive kicks in.

No reputable research shows that standardized tests are valid or reliable for high stakes purposes. They are only useful as benchmarks for teachers and parents to determine strengths and weaknesses of individual children for which to provide an appropriate curriculum. Why are we labeling our children as FAILURES by virtue of competitive test scores? In every competition there are winners and losers. Education is NOT a competition.

If qualified educators were making policy at the Dept. of Educ. our public schools would be engaged in meaningful, innovative true reform without their hands being tied to the status quo system of test and drill. ELECT an EDUCATOR this fall for the BESE board!

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