Five Reasons Teaching the Test is Dead

Five Reasons Teaching the Test is Dead

Want better scores on student achievement tests like the ACT, SAT, or your state end-of-course exams? There are so many ways to move the needle, but the most frequently used one, teaching to the test, won’t work.


1. Lightning never strikes twice.

Educators take last year’s test and teach students how to answer that. Small problem: that test will never show up again. It’s rare to have even one repeated item. This teaching strategy causes overfitting, where what students learn is too closely matched to the example test. What students prep for doesn’t help them on the upcoming exam.

2. It short-circuits learning.

Rigor is how students develop meaningful skills that translate into better test performance. Rigor is defined by thoroughness and complexity. If your learning objective is answering a multiple-choice question correctly, rigor is no longer the goal and is nigh unachievable.

3. Assessments are not curriculum.

Test questions are randomly sequenced. They don’t build on one another. They are not pedagogically sound. They aren’t a learning pathway; they’re a learning labyrinth without exit.

4. “This will be on the test,” wears thin.

That phrase works only once or twice to get student attention. Basing an entire learning program on that concept is extremely demotivating to students. No wonder they’re disengaged.

5. Not what teachers signed up for.

“I want to dedicate my life to helping students bubble answer sheets accurately,” said no educator ever. You can’t expect unmotivated educators to motivate students, and you can expect that unmotivated students won’t learn.

So if you can’t teach to the test, what do you teach to, to improve performance? I’m glad you asked. We discuss this exactly in this blog post: If I Can’t Teach to the Test, What Should I Teach To?

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