Sunday, February 10, 2013

Maintaining Standards in a Time of Standardization

Do standardized tests constrain teachers? Without a doubt.

Many teachers fear the slightest deviation from government standards and some schools require teachers to follow an extremely structured curriculum. I remember in the second year of Virginia’s SOL (Standards of Learning) tests,  my administrators, unhappy with our scores, required us to refrain from teaching anything not in the state’s frameworks. We were directed, “If it’s not explicitly mentioned in the state’s standards, it should not even be mentioned in class.” At the time, Winston Churchill was not included in the World History II Curriculum. How can one teach World War II without mentioning Churchill?

Fortunately, most schools have moved away from such arbitrary policies. But, many teachers still feel handcuffed. They argue that their individualism, creativity and expertise have been stripped from them.

For a few, this probably is true. But are they the best teachers? The best teachers still provide students with authentic learning experiences. Students in these classes use project-based learning, evaluate and relate to real-world issues, conduct labs, and constantly analyze information. Students build an understanding of their world beyond the established standards.

Teaching to the test is the bare minimum. The great teachers teach above the test.


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Tagrid Sihly said...

Great teachers are not rattled by new mandates. They're able to design relevant instruction to promote learning that supersedes the expectations of standardized testing. They always consider what is best for the children they serve, not what is best for the policy makers. Although I have felt handcuffed at times as well, I have come to realize that doing what is right for children is the ethical and the necessary thing to do.