June 4, 2010
Critical Thinking Paper
Article: "Accountability, Yes. Teaching to the Test, No."
Link to read article:
The article I read was “Accountability, Yes. Teaching to the Test, No”, written by Patricia Duebel (2008). This piece focused mainly on standardized testing and the controversy that surrounds this issue in education. The article discusses the importance of accountability and students meeting certain standards, but also argues how test results are used. One quote stood out to me while reading this article. “Are we helping students and teachers with our assessment practices, or contributing to their problems?” (Duebel, 2008). This is also the main question that came to mind when reading the article. Who is benefitting from these tests, and who is suffering?
Much of the controversy spiraling from this issue is due to the existing system authorized by No Child Left Behind. According to Duebel (2008), “Students are caught in the middle. In some cases, teachers voice fears about losing their jobs, if their students don't perform well on those standardized tests. Unfortunately, such testing has become synonymous with NCLB”. This issue is one that affects nearly everyone in education. As a future educator it is important to be aware of standards, laws, and testing issues. Teachers generate many different thoughts and opinions on standardized testing and accountability movements. How does this affect their own teaching? Duebel (2008) states, “I cringe when I hear teachers say they find themselves teaching to their state test, when instruction should to be focused on the standards”. It is true that many important subjects and information are being lost in the classroom as teachers are more and more focused on students passing a single test.
Standardized testing is something that most students can relate to. Personally, I have had my own experiences with testing and also dealing with teachers who simply “teach to the test”. High school was full of tests to assess certain subjects and even tests to graduate, such as the GQE. Many teachers were mainly worried about how test scores would reflect on them as an educator, or the school as a whole. I feel that standardized tests put too much pressure on both the teacher and the student. The article states, “We hear of increased teacher stress as they work with students to prepare them for those tests and their frustrations when students fail again. Yet, those same students might have made great strides with their teacher when you make the comparison to what students knew at the beginning of their courses” (Duebel, 2008). There is no way that one test can show the progress a student has made over the course of a school year. What are the different options schools could use for assessing the student?
I have discussed this issue in various classes over the last two semesters, as this is a very important and controversial subject in education. It has made me question the different possibilities of assessing students in other ways. I believe it is important to know how students are learning and progressing in different subjects, but other measures should be taken to evaluate them. From the article, I gained the idea of students using portfolio and project based learning for teachers to assess growth. I believe that some testing should still be involved, but it should not be the core source of all judgment. Teachers need to incorporate all types of learning into the classroom that not only covers test taking skills, but standards and valuable life experiences. How do other teachers feel about this issue?
From the book, To Teach, William Ayers (2001) discusses his journey through teaching and his own experiences with standardized tests and assessment. He says, “The root of the word ‘evaluation’ is ‘value’, and authentic assessment includes understanding first what students value and then building from there” (Ayers, 2001, p, 109). He goes on to say that he had spent most of his professional life criticizing standardized tests and he held them in low regard. Although he criticized these tests, he admitted that they could not be easy dismissed from the lives of students, families, teachers, and principals. He also speaks of substitutes for standardized tests. Ayers (2001) writes, “Alternatives to standardized tests can be thought of as the three p’s: projects, portfolios, and performance” (p. 116). He believes in authentic assessment that is more student-centered. Ayers encourages teachers to keep track of their own teaching, to collect valuable information and data, and to assess success.
I agree with the article when it concludes by saying that most people agree with accountability. It is important to have proof that students have met certain standards and are progressing in their learning. I have learned many new things from reading the article and I have also confirmed ideas and thoughts I had prior to reading. Our current system has many flaws and I agree with Duebel in saying that the most important factor is having a system that allows students to achieve and be successful.
Ayers, W. (2001). To teach: The journey of a teacher. New York: Teachers College Press
Deubel, P. (2008). Accountability, yes. Teaching to the test, no. The Journal. Retrieved from http://thejournal.com