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Should Teachers ‘Teach to the Test’?

    Teaching to the test is a colloquial term for any method of education where the curriculum is heavily focused on preparing students for a standardized test, for example, with international IELTS English proficiency language test for non-native speakers. This differs from classroom evaluation and assessments, which are equally necessary in the education process.

    Why is standardized testing essential?

    Standardized tests are essential to measure the progress of students and to gauge the success of educators in transferring knowledge. To see if students have absorbed the material, to check if there’s a need for review, and to ensure acceptable levels of proficiency in subjects. It allows her to ensure the instructional materials are working or if teachers need additional training. 

    Without standardized testing, we wouldn’t be able to measure the proficiency gaps that highlight inequities within an education system and see which schools are failing to ensure child justice.

    Why do teachers ‘teach to the test’?

    Teachers are pressurized to improve their students’ test scores for major tests, resulting in them neglecting materials not included in the test. This means that students no longer learn through long-term projects, reading physical chapter books but only summaries. Teaching for a particular test content would consequently be poor instructional practice. Arguably it could be ethically wrong, may produce inaccurate results, and is an ineffective way to prepare students.

    Standardized tests measure achievement against goals rather than measuring progress. Achievement test scores are commonly assumed to have a strong correlation with teaching effectiveness. The pressure and stress of standardized testing also cause schools to lose good teachers.

    What is the major criticism of ‘teaching to the test’?

    The major criticism against ‘teaching to the test’ is that students are more likely to cheat or memorize the answers instead of learning information. Students may miss out on learning crucial concepts and skills.

    • Negative consequences include the loss of valuable opportunities to learn due to testing preparation, the narrowing of the curriculum to focus on tested standards, and the stigmatization of students and schools as failing due to faulty interpretations.
    • Standardized tests force students to perform under extreme pressure and can lead to a host of mental issues including depression and anxiety. The result of the increased stress levels can make the students feel resentful toward the education system.
    • Standardized tests remain the most practical way to equally evaluate a high volume of students applying for universities or further education.
    • The negative consequence for students who perform poorly on a standardized test includes increased pressure from their parents and peers to do better, as there is usually a class aggregate that reflects back on the school and teachers. Students can resent learning and believe that they are worse than everyone, having a significant impact on their social development.

    In summary

    Standardized testing is an absolute necessity in life, but ‘teaching to the test’ undermines education quality, consumes valuable time and funds, and discourages higher-level thinking and creativity. The conclusion is that the amount of emphasis put on teaching to the test compromises the quality of the students’ education. The following article provides tips for students on how to prepare for exams: https://www.news.uct.ac.za/article/-2019-10-16-10-tips-for-exam-preparation

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