“Teaching to the test” is an educational practice which focuses teachers on preparing students for standardized testing. The practice is often considered unethical given that it forces teachers to limit curriculum to a fixed set of knowledge or facts. There is a emphasis on excessive repetition of simple and isolated skills (“drill and kill“). A student’s rote memorization then translates to a possible ability to “score” on a test but an inability to understand why answers are what they are. The big problem is that then students suffer – greatly – by losing out on creative and abstract thinking, general knowledge and general concepts. Japan has been notorious for teaching to the test but their academic successes have been often attributed to longer and more school days (240 days versus less than 180 in the U.S.).
So why do teachers “teach to the test”? The answer is simple — because teachers are often themselves graded on this false metric of student success. These skewed results then reduce the validity of standardized tests and create a incorrect profile of a student’s achievement. What could be worse for our children? For students? The federal No Child Left Behind Act (2001) relies heavily on standardized testing. It has been a failure for the most part and education in America continues its race to the bottom. Frankly the problems seem to have begun when the U.S. Department of Education was established in 1980. This Department has an annual budget of over $80 billion dollars (with 5,000 employees). Maybe we should judge the DOE on the basis of its success. And if it doesn’t measure up — abolish it. I’ll bet the states could use that money far more wisely. With a resulting uptick in educational success. . . .