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Is the tide turning against teaching to the test?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Sep 18, 2018.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    ‘One of the most striking educational trends of the past few decades has been the rise of "teaching to the test". In both the UK and the US, high-stakes accountability systems have led schools to focus instruction ever more narrowly on what the tests cover. Assessment has become the driver of the curriculum.

    Of course, this trend has always had its critics, but in the last year or so I think we can see the tide turning against teaching to the test. Most notably, Ofsted has intervened. In a series of speeches and publications, Amanda Spielman has criticised the culture of "grade stickers" and made it clear that Ofsted inspections are there to look at the school as a whole, not just at the exam results.’

    Daisy Christodoulou is director of education at No More Marking and the author of Making Good Progress? and Seven Myths About Education.


    What are your views about teaching to the test? Are more schools aware of the short-term gains and hampering the longer-term successes in subjects by using this approach? Do you think there is a shift to move away from this method? Have you been asked or forced to use this approach before? What were the outcomes of using this method?
  2. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Schools are aware of this and say they regret teaching to the test, but will continue to do so until they don't feel under pressure to produce results above all.
    It will probably take a while for the mindset to change.
    stonerose, Catgirl1964, yasf and 2 others like this.
  3. nervousned

    nervousned Senior commenter

    There have always been noises about change but until Ofsted fails a school with excellent exam results there won't be any.
    stonerose, phlogiston and chelsea2 like this.
  4. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    ...and gives 'outstanding' (or 'good') to a school with poor exam results!
  5. install

    install Star commenter

    As long as we have Ofsted and League Tables - there will always be teaching to the test :cool:
    stonerose, Shedman, tterb and 4 others like this.
  6. simonCOAL

    simonCOAL Occasional commenter

    Yes. Agree @install

    Everyone will have to agree to not teach to the test. But that will never happen.
    There will be those that say they aren’t, but still will... and gloat about being at the top of the table.
  7. dleaf12

    dleaf12 Senior commenter

    Yep - one of life's trueisms - management get what the inspect not what they expect.
    stonerose, Bumptious and install like this.
  8. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Lead commenter

    My line manager has on his wall a poster stating

    "You cannot manage what you cannot measure"


    Seven little words that tell you all that is wrong in Education.

    I am sorely tempted to find a suitable Dilbert to put up alongside it.
    stonerose, dleaf12, Bumptious and 2 others like this.
  9. Sir_Henry

    Sir_Henry Occasional commenter

    You will have to remove PRP and the fear of capability before anything can change and that will almost certainly never happen.
  10. Grandsire

    Grandsire Senior commenter

    I taught to the test in a Year 6 for many years - in the sense that I taught my pupils everything they needed to know for the tests, and then taught them how not to get the answers wrong by making daft mistakes. I also taught the non-tested subjects with the same determination and expectation of accuracy. It was all very successful, everyone seemed to learn a lot and we all had fun, even me.

    I notice now that the Year 6 pupils don’t seem to do anything other than English and Maths. They certainly don’t get taught any Art, PE, French or Music, and I can’t seem to see much in-depth Science or History happening either. In the afternoons they work on with endless ‘Projects’ supervised by TAs while their teachers do their marking and go over maths and English papers with individual pupils and small groups. Our results have actually gone down.

    I think I prefer “teaching to the test”, or even just “teaching”.
    install likes this.
  11. JosieWhitehead

    JosieWhitehead Star commenter

    Rosaline - Can you think of other ways of keeping a check on the progress of children other than little tests? Before the National Curriculum schools just did, or didn't, do their own thing and children were judged at 11 not by intelligence but by what their teachers had or hadn't taught them. I know tests are not ideal, but what could be put in their place? We used to have spelling tests, times-table tests etc etc at school - - - (back in the middle-ages!) :)
  12. thyr

    thyr Occasional commenter

    I cant "measure" my health or my happiness or my contentment - but i can sure as heck manage them.
  13. bessiesmith

    bessiesmith Occasional commenter

    I attended school just before the National Curriculum was introduced and my impression as a child was that teachers did just do their own thing - which could be a very good or bad thing depending on the teacher. However, I'm not sure that there was a need to introduce high-stakes, formalised testing to solve the problem. A national curriculum can just be a guideline as to what content should be taught to each age group. Teachers can then use this to map out their own curriculum to ensure pupils cover all the things they need to learn, avoid overlapping (I did both the Romans and Normans twice in primary school) and are prepared for secondary school.

    By keeping the outline of a National Curriculum but removing the high stakes tests, teachers would also be able to spend more time ensuring ALL children mastered the basics, rather than rushing through fronted adverbials with those pupils who should still be focussing on becoming confident readers.
    Catgirl1964 likes this.
  14. JosieWhitehead

    JosieWhitehead Star commenter

    We had to move because of my husband's work, from the Midlands to Chippenham,Wilts. My daughter, aged 9, was put back onto the work she did when she was 5 years of age and others in her class were doing the same thing. Whilst children seemed to be working on their own, the headmaster was always in the local Co-op buying and smoking cigarattes. When I complained he grinned and said; 'Well, there are plenty of other schools for her!' I went into 7 of them and each class of 9 year olds were doing work of very different levels. We called a meeting at the school (because there were other parents grumbling) and it was decided to do as you've said, bring in guide-lines for each year group, so that children moving from one part of the country to another, would be put onto the same work. This was the start of the National Curriculum in 1969 I think it was. I didn't expect it would end up as it has.
  15. TCSC47

    TCSC47 Star commenter

    Perhaps somebody could define exactly what "teaching to the test" means. There is a syllabus in front of us and it is examined in a certain way. To deny either to our students is to do them a disservice and disadvantage them with respect to the those who have been versed in both.
  16. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    And the really worrying part is that that person probaby thinks it's a great quote and doesn¡'t realise how damaging it is. I'd love to think it was irony but too many believe it and they are the ones that get the promoted positions. I have very little hope for the future of education in this country and by extension for the country in general.
    dleaf12 likes this.
  17. Timothy_Blue

    Timothy_Blue Lead commenter

    ....in the sense that teaching to the test avoids deeper or wider understanding and imagination.
    install likes this.
  18. TCSC47

    TCSC47 Star commenter

    I don't think that is a definition. "Teaching to the test" is a criticism aimed at individual teachers. We have to follow the syllabus and we have to verse the students in how to sit the exam. I think your comments are correct in that we should always be teaching wider understanding. I would always try to do so, but we are stopped from doing that by the over full packed curriculum. It is the syllabus writers who that comment should be addressed to.
  19. scilady

    scilady New commenter


    What are your views about teaching to the test?[/QUOTE]

    No teacher worth the name in my school ever did teach to the test, since high grades and admission to top unis require understanding well beyond the current noddy syllabus. Some of my clever year 7 pupils mastered things not usually expected till age 18 eg error analysis in a study of projectile motion. Why would I stick to the KS3 syllabus for them?
  20. scilady

    scilady New commenter

    But that syllabus is too hard for some and too noddy for others....for the very bright you have to go way beyond it to secure really deep understanding.
    TCSC47 likes this.

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