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Monday, May 21, 2018
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The upside of ‘teaching to the test’

Ran across this — not for the first time — on my Facebook feed Sunday morning, a drawing of a sensibly dressed woman alongside this quote:

“I became a teacher so that I could help kids pass the state’s standardized tests,” said no teacher ever.

Perhaps I live in an alternate universe. My mom, a pretty fair teacher in her own right, wanted me to be prepared for every standardized test that came along. National Merit. ACT. SAT.

More to the point, wasn’t the old Florida Senior Placement Test (deep-sixed not long after I took it by well-meaning bureaucrats sensitive to “educational bias,” whatever that is) a state-sponsored standardized test?

Dee Jackson, head of the English Department at King High School from its opening in 1960 until she retired in 1981 and author of the grammar supplement used for years by Hillsborough County schools, would have thought my education wasted if I couldn’t have done well on all of those.

Moreover, generations before anyone started fussing about “teaching to the test,” students from first grade to graduate school always asked, “Is this going to be on the test?” So the concept is absolutely nothing new.

The conspiracy theorist in me suspects “teaching to the test” became an issue only after state governments began holding teachers responsible for kids being able to pass them.

The upside: In Florida, stressing accountability has coincided with closing Hispanic and black students closing the measurable achievement gap with their traditionally higher-scoring non-Hispanic white and Asian classmates. Graduation rates, too, have nudged upward. From this, you might conclude “teaching to the test” — however professional unfulfilling — is not entirely disastrous.