Tuesday July 1, 2008 | Teaching to the Test

June 30, 2008 at 4:51 pm | Posted in On Air | 5 Comments

The landmark education initiative, No Child Left Behind, has dramatically changed daily life in the classroom.  Teaching to major new tests like the End of Course (EOC) and the End of Grade (EOG) have dominated the curriculum and not always in a positive way according to some critics.  We’ll examine these tests, how they were created, how they work, and how they’ve changed the way teachers teach.
Guests
Dr. Sam Houston – President and CEO, North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center
Dr. Melba Spooner – Chair, Department of Middle, Secondary, and K-12 Education, UNC Charlotte’s College of Education
Listen to Show

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  1. The president’s brother, Neil Bush, founded Ignite Incorporated, a software company that helps students prepare to take comprehensive tests required under the No Child Left Behind act.

    Bush benefits directly from No Child Left Behind, picking pockets in all school districts as his software company preps students for the standardized tests required by NCLB.

    And what is this obsession with “Left Behind”?

    Time to say…kiss my left behind!

  2. Four comments:

    I have taught students who went on to become public school teachers. They have uniformly reported back to me that they are told by principals that “if it ain’t on the EOG/EOC test, it ain’t important.” They are warned not to deviate from what’s on those tests. They’re prohibited from using inquiry methods, the effectiveness of which are supported by both scientific and educational research. Are these students lying to me?

    Curriculum standards are fine, but my experience in evaluating these “standards”, specifically science standards, as part of my job is that most teachers cannot do the things they’re expected to teach to their students. This is a result of inferior university/college instruction in the sciences, which brings me to my next point.

    Some of the worst instruction in our society is in the undergraduate science classroom. There are movements within the physics and astronomy communities to improve undergraduate instruction, but these efforts are largely invisible to outsiders. Why is there no *public* outrage over the quality of college level instruction when this is how future teachers are trained?

    Holding teachers accountable is fine, but *teaching* (as opposed to *education*) is not a business and cannot be bound by businesslike concepts of *accountability.*

  3. Good morning-

    Mr. Collins

    Would it be possible to ask your panel how does the State of North Carolina came to produce Today’s test, what benchmark they used and what input does the county’s Education board had into it?

    Always thanks

  4. I grow increasingly alarmed by the state of public education in North Carolina. If North Carolina has so many model programs, initiatives, schools, etc., why is the dropout rate so terribly high? Why are numbers of high school graduates functioning at developmental or remedial levels in colleges and universities? Why are there so many changing initiatives coming out of Raleigh? I can certainly understand responding appropriately to changing needs, but it seems that education is a mere experiment rather than a dynamic processes based on time proven methods with the implementation of new and emerging best practices. There is insufficient “plan, do, study, act” in education although no shortage of bureaucracy and reports. While workforce development is certainly important, teaching and student learning should not be mere extensions of workforce development with disproportionate input from business and industry as compared to the input from educators themselves. Moving away from effective instructional design and delivery strategies under the guise of “contextualized learning” or “21st century skills” to accommodate workforce development needs has been responsible, in part, for creating a “pedagogy du jour” mentality. Certainly, educators have to “change with the times” but changes should be producing better results not inferior results; otherwise, why change?

    I’m an educator myself, and I find that educators spend an enormous amount of time, by choice or otherwise, defending a broken system. When systems funded by tax dollars perform poorly, it’s understandable that government try to fix the problem with legislation. We expect government to FUND everything so why is it odd to some that government want accountability in return? Unfortunately, government solutions are not always the best solutions, and, in some cases, not solutions at all but, rather, hindrances. Had educators taken an honest look at a poorly performing system and self-monitored rather than over-emphasizing barriers, making excuses, and defending the indefensible (high dropout rates, high functional illiteracy rates, etc.), perhaps we would not have had such artificial accountability legislation. Perhaps we would have had a system that was not merely performing well and preparing students for success in the 21st century but that was truly exemplary.

  5. hoo, boy. where to start. First off, for whatever reason, Ted Kennedy’s name never gets mentioned in connection with the No Child Left Behind legislation. Secondly, NCLB is not mandatory, the states are free to opt out and probably should… they have no problem with the funding. Third, we might want to abolish the department of education. It’s a Carter creation and happens to correspond to when public education spiraled downhill. That would feed in nicely with Collins’ criticism of a ‘one size fits all’ approach to education [though he never used that line to justify CMS being broken into smaller sections instead of central control, that isn’t in the show’s template]. As far as ‘teaching to the test’ being a bad thing. It most certainly is NOT. You can bet that’s what the Japanese are doing, the Indians, the Chinese, the Germans. They drill their students early and often the bedrock principles of reading, science, mathematics. No fluff, no dodging, no nonsense. Education is a privilege there that their children acknowledge and work towards. Here, we cannot bring ourselves to expel any students no matter how awful or disruptive they are. If teaching to tests is such a travesty, then the SATs, MCATs, or even BAR exams are meritless. These are all standardized tests from the government. You can either cut it or you can’t. If you cannot, you are free to try again.

    The last point is that perhaps Collins shouldn’t rely solely on the teachers’ perspective because the reason NCLB came to be is that kids were graduating and not able to read the McDonald’s menu, much less their own diplomas [with their teachers not much more capable]. Clearly their failures should be faced… I’m sure a lot of the teachers are unable to pass the standardized tests. let’s not dodge these problems but confront them. That includes going after the Teachers’ Unions as well, the parasite that they are [as all Unions end up becoming to the consumer]. That doesn’t fall within the WFAE narrative, so it won’t happen. Pity.


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