These are the words of four graduate students who are excited about becoming English teachers as of September 2016. Notice anything about their reasons for teaching? No one mentions wanting to increase students’ test scores. We believe that you would be hard-pressed to find a teacher candidate or practicing teacher who chose this profession because of a passion for test preparation, but as teachers and students are facing mandated standardized assessments like PARCC, Smarter Balanced, the new SAT and ACT, as well as local measures to determine student growth, we are growing concerned that the level of importance placed on these assessments will lead to teaching to the test in order to ensure student promotion and teacher retention. According to Neill, “humans learn best through active thinking. ‘Learning’ while not thinking is like remembering lists of phone numbers one will never call. Memorization of facts and procedures has its place, but deep learning must engage the brain and spur thinking. Teaching to the test rarely accomplishes either” (43). This phone number analogy brings to light the importance of authentic learning experiences rather than test prep; however, many teachers may believe that they can only teach effectively if they close the classroom door to surreptitiously engage students in authentic learning experiences that don’t look like standardized test prep. We believe that the door needs to stay open, and teachers and students alike need to make the case that learning is about more than a test score.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/vicky-giouroukakis/7/