Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Teaching to the Test

My son goes to a small school that's rated as Average. But I really like it. There are small classrooms, devoted teachers, enforced discipline, music, art, computer lab, before and after school programs.

In our immediate neighborhood, there are seven kids my son plays with, but only he and one other 5th grader attends our little Average school. The others go to schools slightly further away that are rated Excellent. Those ratings do have influence. I would have considered transferring my son. But my own experience with his excellent teachers and my personal observations of the teaching that goes on in his school, coupled with the fact that it is such a small school (and it's close enough for him to walk or ride his bike or scooter -- the laziness factor on my part) persuaded me that, despite the Average rating, on balance his school was right for him.

What I recently learned about our school's rating, however, is that it's lower because they haven't been teaching to the CSAP, as the other surrounding schools have. The kids in the other schools are familiar with the test and how to take it. The simple fact of familiarity with how to take the test translates to a better score.

But because of that rating, our little school has been losing students, which translates into lost money. The school gets money to employ one teacher for every 24 students. One grade has 33 students and the school uses its own fundraised money to employ a second teacher.

Money talks. Now our school will start teaching to the CSAP, which means time that should be devoted to reading, math, science or the arts will be spent teaching kids how to fill in bubbles.

I know this argument against relying on testing isn't new. But personally experiencing the stupidity of the system really drives the point home.


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