Teaching to the Test

Posted on August 28, 2011

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De Cito Eindtoets Basisonderwijs.

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As my 10-year-old son sat at his computer one night last spring, sweat began trickling down the side of his face like he was in the “Marathon Man” dental chair. His eyes darted between the monitor and the keyboard, willing his brain to find the right answer and his fingers to type the right key–as quickly as possible.

He was, for reasons I never understood, taking a timed math test, in hopes of answering 100 multiplication questions in 5 minutes.

He was so  stressed; it was like he sought to defuse a bomb.

My kid is now just three days into his 5th grade year, and by day two his math/science teacher had already written on her dry-erase board an equation that she said he would be expected to know for that year’s Ohio Achievement Assessment standardized tests. Every chapter of his math book ends with “test prep,” and we can be assured he will spend weeks this year–as he did last year, and the year before–bringing home sample test pages to get him focused on the task at hand.

For what is he being educated–a career in achievement test taking?

I don’t blame his school, which is rated–and gets future students and funds–based on the results of those tests. But I do blame a system in which he devotes copious amounts of educational time to in-the-moment performances that fail to take into account his strengths or weaknesses, interests or goals. Retention really need last only until the last bubbled has been filled in the No. 2 pencil. His terrific 4th grade scores showed he can take a test, but I want to know how well he thinks, and how he applies what he thinks to the world that will soon welcome him.

Some people have criticize journalism school as teaching a doomed profession, although we in media know nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, journalism is changing and evolving, but instead of dying, it is morphing into the future of news transmission and participatory communication. In its newest form, it may make us better informed than ever before in human history.

But in the journalism program of our School of Communication at Ohio State, we teach our students more that just how to be journalists. We teach how to see the world in questions, and how to be equipped to get answers. We teach them to express themselves in written, spoken and visual ways that allow them to communicate one-on-one and with the masses.

We teach them to think for and be themselves, yet conform where they must to enter the working world.

We let them make mistakes, and learn from those errors, and then try again and again until lessons become habits and habits become skills

The one thing we don’t teach them is how to pass a standardized test.

What was the one thing you learned in J-school that has prepared you for the real world. Share with us!

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Posted in: Journalism