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Teaching to the test isn't the same as teaching

Yeah, who knew? Scott E. Carrell and James E. West in the Journal of Political Economy (PDF), the abstract:

In primary and secondary education, measures of teacher quality are often based on contemporaneous student performance on standardized achievement tests. In the postsecondary environment, scores on student evaluations of professors are typically used to measure teaching quality. We possess unique data that allow us to measure relative student performance in mandatory follow-on classes. We compare metrics that capture these three different notions of instructional quality and present evidence that professors who excel at promoting contemporaneous student achievement teach in ways that improve their student evaluations but harm the follow-on achievement of their students in more advanced classes.

In other words, when professors teach to the test (or the student evaluations), students do worse in future courses. So, our educational system has incentivized the teachers to make the students stupid.

Mission accomplished!

It's a lot like the empty calories of HFCS versus real food, isn't it?

NOTE Hat tip, GF Brandenburg.

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tomfoolery's picture
Submitted by tomfoolery on

this is no surprise.

jeer9's picture
Submitted by jeer9 on

This pattern has been clear for some time for anyone who has ever spent more than a publicity moment in a classroom. But its obvious failure does not align with the hopes of big corporations who see the business model as the perfect tool for reforming public education. And what we'll get for going along with this brain-dead process is more fucked-up math-based evaluations, bored and disenchanted students who can't think critically, demoralized angry teachers who'll view each new student as a potential score and not a human being with a variety of flaws and strengths and who'll turn on their colleagues once the numbers are crunched into uselessness, but major profits for testing companies, textbook publishers, and the privatized charter school entrepreneurs. It's all win/win for them, and if the teachers' unions can be bashed in the process while making salary schedules as arbitrary as our legal system there's no limit to how far the middle class will fall. This road leads to an utterly politicized administration, little to no job security, buts lots of fodder for the military and its perpetual war machine. Good times ahead. It's a Race To The Top.

Submitted by Fran on

I wanted to teach because I think learning is so exciting, and I wanted to encourage thinking and asking questions. I think grades are not very relevant in elementary school. I never got in trouble, but I did wear myself out trying to actually teach and trying to 'satisfy' the 'system' at the same time.

I actually interviewed at a Charter School where the lessons were scripted to the point that it indicated what the teacher should say and then what the students should say -word for word. I felt ill. A lot of learning occurs in questions or situations that come up spontaneously. Not that you don't have a plan, but that you take off from there. It's a bit like a musician playing to the room. You need to feel where they are responding.

I once helped my kid, who did not particularly like school, to study for a history test. He got a 98 and said - How did you know what questions were going to be asked?! Indeed. Not the questions I would have asked, but I knew how the system worked.

I have found the whole situation upsetting for many years now.

I recently read 'Empire of Illusion, the End of literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle' by Chris Hedges. He has a chapter, The Illusion of Wisdom' that slams the elite schools in their ability to train truly competent leaders.

"The elite universities disdain honest intellectual inquiry, which is by its nature distrustful of authority, fiercely independent, and often subversive." He argues that these schools are training people to serve the existing structure and that is why those people are so unable to 'fix' the problems.