Thursday, August 30, 2012

Teaching to the Test

I'll be giving a state-created and issued end-of-semester final for World History this year.

Actually most of my peers will be giving state-created tests - if not this year, then in the coming years.

I'm a pragmatist first and foremost, and I liken being a teacher to working in the drug / alcohol counseling business. Both are emotionally draining jobs, and the professionals in the trenches are often forced to accept challenging realities.

Wishing addiction would disappear will not get anything done; similarly, arguing the pros and cons of state-issued tests won't help my kids get the scores they need.

So I've adjusted this year - and I really think I'm a more professional, reflective, skilled teacher.

No, I'm not just saying that to kiss butt (in the event any of my superiors read this blog) ...

A few concrete differences this this year vs. last:

Last year I'd get through the facts quickly, then jump to big ideas and spend the rest of class wrestling with concepts, writing projects, etc.

This year I am really drilling the facts before we move on. We start every class with a quiz covering the material from the day before.

Next we do our notes / lecture - then as a class we create the quiz for the coming day. This focus on daily quizzes creates student buy-in, while reinforcing the content.

We are also buckling down in World History this year in terms of our Professional Learning Community: All of the World History teachers get together and create / give common assessments.

Final Verdict: Having my students practice test taking, and reviewing the material several times as we move collectively to the final exam, is not teaching to the test. But it is keeping all of us focused on daily, rigorous delivery of content - in addition to the big ideas and projects we all are tackling and undertaking in our classrooms.

The final may kick our butts, and if so, I will adjust. But as my kids sit down and take it, I'll know I did the best I could to get them ready.

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