Reform Efforts Hurt by Tests Study Finds Standardized Exams Constrain Teaching and Learning

By Walters, Laurel Shaper | The Christian Science Monitor, October 26, 1992 | Go to article overview

Reform Efforts Hurt by Tests Study Finds Standardized Exams Constrain Teaching and Learning


Walters, Laurel Shaper, The Christian Science Monitor


STANDARDIZED tests are undermining efforts to improve math and science instruction, according to a recent study funded by the National Science Foundation.

The three-year, $1-million study is the first effort to measure whether teachers say that standardized tests influence their classroom instruction, says George Madaus, the study's principal investigator and director of the Boston College Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation and Educational Policy.

More than 2,200 fourth-through-12th-grade math and science teachers were interviewed for the study, titled "The Influence of Testing and Teaching Math and Science in Grades 4-12."

Urban school districts with a high population of minority students were found to be most negatively affected by teachers' tendency to "teach to the test."

In urban classrooms with many minority students, about 60 percent of math teachers and 63 percent of science teachers said they either teach topics known to be on the test or begin test preparation more than a month before standardized exams are given to students

"These practices were reported significantly less often in classrooms with few minority students," the report states.

Standardized tests are administered once or twice a year in most states and are often used to judge the performance of students and their schools.

ALTHOUGH curriculum reformers are calling for more emphasis on problem-solving skills and hands-on activities for math and science students, this study found little emphasis on such "higher-order thinking skills" in the most widely used standardized tests. …

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