Critics of ISTEP caution that educators are teaching to the test, which is to say, they are restricting classroom instruction to covering the material that students need to know to successfully pass the state’s standardized test.

But if that test measures the basic knowledge students are expected to know based on their grade levels, teaching to the test is not necessarily bad.

Now if the test is deficient, that’s a different matter. But the mantra against ISTEP hasn’t been that it doesn’t measure students’ knowledge of the subjects, so one can assume that’s not the concern of educators.

After all 2 plus 2 still equals 4, regardless of whether teachers use creative or traditional lesson plans.

As students build upon their understanding of the material, they learn to apply simple math problems to more complex ones. Same can be said about teaching English. The evolution of the education process expands as the child is able to grasp more complicated concepts. Eventually students should be applying these lessons to every day life — either through formal classroom lessons of applied knowledge or common sense lessons of life.

The critics voice concerns that teaching to the test reduces teachers’ creativity for classroom instruction and omits or shortens time for instruction on other topics — such as social studies, the arts or even time for recess.

Some of this might have been noticeable in the results from the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress test released last month. The study found that only 13 percent of students had a grasp of American history.

“We need to make sure other subjects like history, science and the arts are not forgotten in our pursuit of the basic skills,” said Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York University and former U.S. assistant education secretary, according to an Associated Press story published June 15.

The sharpest criticism of teaching to the test, some say, is it does little to develop critical thinking or application of the knowledge.

But knowledge is accumulative.

For example, no one expects a second-grader to solve an algebra problem. It requires too much critical thinking and applied knowledge most have yet to learn. But by junior high, students should have a sufficient understanding of math to solve these challenges.

Admittedly, students learn at different paces and prefer certain subjects over others. But teaching to a standardized test that adequately measures students’ command of the subject should not carry the stigma many have tried to pin to the phrase.

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Source: Journal and Courier –