Impact of Standardised Tests
Rather than encouraging teachers to be better teachers, high stakes testing reinforces the worst aspects of teaching and forces a return to the traditional paradigm of teaching. One study of upstate New York teachers, whose students were required to pass standards tests, found: “Essentially, they turned into drill sergeants, removing any opportunity for the students to play an active role in their own learning.”
A national survey of teachers in the US found that 65 percent of teachers claimed that standardised testing encouraged them to “use rote drill in my teaching” and 68 percent claimed it encouraged them “to emphasize the teaching of factual recall knowledge”. Only 17 percent agreed that the testing “has changed my instructional practices for the better”.
Similarly the head of the UK’s Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in 2007, Ken Boston, has argued that schools spend too much time drilling students to pass national tests, rather than educating them.
In the US as much as a quarter of the school year can be devoted to test preparation and test taking. Some schools stop teaching for weeks before an important test and just drill their students and give them practice tests. Others give trial tests every six weeks to give the children practice and make sure they are able to do them.
For example, at one school “during the three months prior to the all-important state exam, fifth grade teachers had to set aside all other lessons from 8:40 to 11:00, and from 1:45 to 3:00, to drill the children for their tests. In addition to this, two afternoons a week, children in the fourth and fifth grades had to stay from 3:00 to 5:00 for yet another session of test preparation”. They also have to attend school for three hours on Saturdays for four weeks before the exam.
Special accelerated learning academies in Pittsburgh, where students have been getting poor test scores, offer longer school days, an extended school year and 2.5 hours each day “of highly structured literacy instruction” to students from kindergarten to grade three. Such schools have “become test-taking factories in which the only thing being taught or learned is how to take high-stakes tests”.