At last! Someone writing about the current testing regime prevalent in American schools who realizes that the evil notion of “teaching to the test” is, in reality, teaching to the standards set by the state.
Those who complain are not really talking about teaching to the state test. Unless teachers sneak into the counseling office and steal a copy, which can get them fired, they don't know what's on the test. They are teaching not to the test but to the state standards -- a long list of things students are supposed to learn in each subject area, as approved by the state school board.
Hardly anybody complains about teaching to a standard. Teacher-turned-author Susan Ohanian is trying to change this, and she refers to all advocates of learning standards as "Standardistos." But she has not made much headway, mostly because standards make sense to parents like me. We are not usually included in discussions of testing policy, but we tend to vote in large numbers, and everybody knows that any governor or president who came out against standards for schools and learning would soon be looking for work in the private sector.
Those who object to such standards (including the wrong-headed Ohanian) are really objecting to good education. After all, look the standards for my 10th Grade World History classes. Do you really find anything objectionable there? Anything that should not, reasonably speaking, be a part of a World History class? If anything, these TEKS (Texas Essential knowledge and Skills) provide a pretty good overview of the subject. When looked at in the context of the overall standards for grades 1-12, you find that they provide a great scope and sequence for learning. The TAKS test (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) tests to those standards – so if my colleagues and I teach to those standards, our students should pass the Exit Level test in 11th grade. That is not to say that I don’t have issues with the TAKS, but the fact that it is standards driven is not one of them.