The Problem with Teaching to the Test

homeworkI’m writing this post knowing that not one thing about my nephew’s education will change as his school produces the highest test scores in the area. There is zero point in talking to his teacher or administrators because they will stand by their methods wholeheartedly. Why change what’s working? You don’t! When your focus is on the state test and kids are performing brilliantly, you don’t change. You continue to teach to the test. That’s their thinking anyway.

For most schools, STAAR results reign supreme because their rating is dependent on performance. Test scores are how our schools are judged and how we categorize our kids. This is my nephew’s reality. He’s getting a standard education for standardized testing. His educational experience will be worksheets from beginning to end and homework that lasts well into bedtime. Every day the routine will be the same and at the end of the school year, this school will be showered with as many accolades as possible because that is their normal. Their kids are prepared to pass the test and they do…period!

I have to wonder, as many of my fellow connected educators have, when do we instill a love of learning in kids? At this age, he’s more concerned with getting the right answer than he is about the process…for school work anyway. School is not fun. It is what he is required to do. The real learning for Braeden happens at home and I’m not talking about homework either.

IMG_2740Anyone that is following my blogs or social feeds have seen me post about the art that Braeden creates at home. With his ipad, he’s making videos where he is sharing his passions. He’s designing, molding, drawing, writing and learning…creating!

Our Braeden will be “worksheeted” at school and will pass his state exam at the end of the year but he won’t get a love of learning at school. That doesn’t happen until the school work ends.

I think that my  friend and creator of Quick Key, Walter Duncan, said it best by stating…

“It almost creates a feeling that “learning” is something to get out of the way so you can enjoy life. The truth is the most enjoyable part of life is the learning. Why are we teaching our kids backwards?”

Teaching to the test has started a sense of normalcy in kids where antiquated teaching is expected. Braeden knows that he starts his day with a worksheet. He understands that he’ll fill in blanks, match and work out math problems. He knows that when he comes home from school, his routine will be writing his 25 spelling/vocab words 5x each, reading the same book every night until the AR test on Friday, completing his excel math and eventually writing out his math facts. It’s a cycle that will repeat until the school year ends.

Unfortunately, it’s a cycle that will repeat itself until our community realizes that the most important aspect of school is the realization of the love of learning…and changes are made to reflect as much. For Braeden, and many like him, those changes may never come.

What he will do is fit into the robotic mode of school during the day. He will thrive on compliance in lieu of engagement. He will come to understand what a packet is as he completes them one after the other. He’ll learn 3rd grade test taking tips. He’ll take vocabulary quizzes based on pure memorization instead of understanding.

He’ll come home everyday with his stacks of papers wanting praise for the work that he’s done and we’ll give it to him. After the last piece of homework is placed securely back into his homework folder, he’ll take out his ipad, his molding clay or his art book and pens and he’ll smile as he truly grows in what makes him happy…the learning that takes place AFTER…all due to the practice of teaching to the test.


Comments 1

  1. Thanks for sharing! I enjoy your bog very much even though I don’t always find time to add comments. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity that is very near and dear to my heart. Our district does a lot of testing but it is really doing a wonderful job moving toward a more inspired/innovative/creative teaching/learning path.

    It breaks my heart that someone as exceptional as you would not even try to talk to the teacher/admin. I believe one person can make a difference or at least start that ball rolling. Like you have done with your post! Getting more people to think about encouraging the love of learning in kids. Something has to change so our kids have the best possible jobs when they graduate. Jobs that we haven’t even imagined yet.

    Again thanks for sharing and caring! I know you care deeply by what you write.

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