Columnist EducationNews.org
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January 15, 2001

Ongoing debate over testing public school students dominates education reform discussions. Pedagogical progressives insist that testing students serves no good purpose, that it's a waste of time, stressful, and harmful to the child's self-esteem. They claim testing proves nothing and does not reveal what the child has learned. And above all, they claim that testing will lead to a sham of teachers simply "teaching to the test," so students will get good marks.

Outside the education field, every profession and trade sees testing as a quality assurance measure and accepts testing without question. So, why is education so different?  What is the rest of the world missing that the progressive educators claim to understand so clearly?

If one examines the primary objectives of modern educators, it is easy to understand why they shun testing. Although the public wants teachers to teach and students to become knowledgeable and proficient in the traditional academic subjects, the educrats see school as a be-all and end-all for the students. They have relegated the teaching of basic knowledge and skills to the sidelines and put "teaching" emphasis on "Affective-Cognitive thinking skills." 

The priority of teaching children to develop the "affective domain" of thinking is supposed to develop each into a well adjusted citizen, a visionary problem solver, a critical higher-order thinker that feels good about himself-all without having learned the basic factual knowledge or skills required to ever attain such an exulted state.  Educrats have denied schools and teachers their function of instructing students in the subjects of basic knowledge and skills, which would allows them  to develop into adults and enter the workplace, or go on to institutions of higher learning. Instead, the educrats are trying to take over the raising of the children. They, now, wants to dictate how children are to think, what values they are to adopt, and what  and how they shall feel about self and society.

The pedagogues are leap-frogging over the essentials, only to land on a make-belief lily pad in never-never land.  Educrats want to change the way children think-turn them into "nonjudgmental critical thinkers," willing "life-long learners," with lots of artificial "self-esteem."  No wonder they say testing is useless and proves nothing-with such a learning agenda there is nothing measurable to learn or test.

Just how far off base the progressive educators are in their argument against testing can be seen in their derision of "teaching to the test." In any other enterprise or endeavour, "teaching to the test" is common  practice.  The test represents a standard (specifications) of skills and knowledge required for any given trade or profession.  It proves whether the tested person has attained the required minimum standard of competence of his trade or profession.  So it is with students. They should be tested in all the academic subjects each year to ensure they have obtained, retained, and can recall (learned) enough of a prescribed curriculum tomeet a minimum laid-down standard of knowledge of a given subject.

"Teaching to the test" is the norm; it becomes a farce only when the test itself is a travesty. The test must reflect the curriculum; the curriculum must be structured to deliver a foundation of knowledge sequentially, reflecting information in the textbook, or vice versa; and the teacher must deliver his lecture accordingly-teach to the test, using direct instruction techniques, which is the simplest, most effective, proven method that will allow all children to learn the basic academic subjects needed for a successful livelihood.   All THAT-not teaching them hare-brained "living skills" and phoney "self-esteem"-will give public school students the chance they need in life and turn them into well-adjusted, self-reliant citizens.

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January 5th, 2001

Jann Flury

Columnist EducationNews.org

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