Will New Common Standards Mean Less Teaching To The Test?
One of the big questions as Florida and 44 other states transition to new education standards and new tests over the next few years is how much time will teachers have to spend teaching to the test?
Teachers complain that they can only spend classroom time on items which will appear on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. In addition, another complaint is that class time is used to teach kids how to take a test rather than imparting more important knowledge.
Common Core is a set of shared education standards which outlines what students should know in math and English language arts at the end of each grade. Advocates say the standards emphasize critical thinking skills over memorization.
Here’s how Hillsborough County’s elementary math supervisor Lia Crawford explained how “teaching to the test” will change with Common Core during a summer training session:
“If you guys continue to have your students (be) really deep thinkers and problem-solvers, the test won’t be an issue. The problem comes in when our assessment doesn’t match and line up to our instruction. And so that’s what we need to start thinking about.
“Once we know that they’re assessing students on ‘X,’ we as teachers have always known how do we better prepare our students for that. So that’s really critical that we are modeling those types of strategy on selecting effective responses based on the question and not just a number.
Think about when we teach testing strategies to kids – and Cynthia brought up the multiple-choice. We always teach kids to eliminate wrong answers, correct? I did it.
“Well now they’re changing it. They’re saying there’s multiple correct answers. So if a student gets hung up on ‘there’s always one,’ once they pick the first one what are they going to do? They’re done. They’re going to go to the next question.
“So if you refer that back to your instruction and you start bringing those as part of your regular talking with kids through things, then you’re now starting to put a bug in their ear, saying ‘Wait, yesterday she gave us a problem where we thought there was one answer, but then when we stopped and thought about it we could justify that there was multiple answers.’
“So once kids start thinking that way, it doesn’t matter whether I’m teaching math. It doesn’t matter whether I’m teaching reading, whether I’m teaching science. That strategy applies regardless of the setting you’re in. So that’s really important.”
Many believe Crawford’s description is overly optimistic.
The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest, is a leading critic of the current use of standardized exams. FairTest argues that two new Common Core-tied exams under development will still rely heavily on multiple-choice questions.
One of the tests, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, will be administered during at least two rounds of testing.
The first round will be administered near the end of February. These tests will require students to perform tasks to answer questions in an attempt to measure higher-order thinking and analytical skills.
The second round of testing will be given about 90 percent of the way through the school year. Test designers say this round of exams will be scored by a computer so states will receive results more quickly. Most of the questions will have objective right-or-wrong — multiple-choice — answers.
“Heavy reliance on such items continues to promote rote teaching and learning,” FairTest said.