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Standardized tests

Laura A. Cox lcox at icarus.sfbr.org
Fri Jul 7 16:30:33 EST 2000

>There is a huge problem in our current "teach to the test" mentality.  Add to
>it the attitude that students are consumers, rather than students, and you
>they don't have an interest in intellectual accomplishment or learning, just
>in grades.  I hve PhD students come by asking me to regrade problem sets
>just on the chance they might get a better grade.   That they haven't
>earned it,
>or haven't mastered the material, they don't view as an impediment.
>What's scary is the number of  students who have the attitude
>that learning something not directly relevant to their benchwork is
>irrelevant.  i fear that in many cases we are turning out highly skilled
>hands but limited minds, who lack the creative breadth to be real scientists.
>perhaps this is the sorry triumph of the careerist over the intellectual.
>A broader question is whither education? Does paying fees entitle one to
>buy a degree?  does admission to a program  guarentee the degree
>(student as consumer) and should it ? What is the student's
>responsibility and what the faculty's?
>DON'T REPLY to the email address in header.
>It's an anti-spam.  Use the one below.
>S L Forsburg, PhD  Associate Professor
>Molecular Biology and Virology Lab
>The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA
>forsburg at salk.edu
>Women in Biology Internet Launch Page
>"These are my opinions.  I don't have
>time to speak for anyone else."

The attitudes begin in grade school with the standardized tests. There is
pressure on students, teachers, and administrators for students to do well
on these tests. Thus, teachers are required to teach to the test. The
extensive pressure on  teachers for all of the students to do well is
documented by examples of teachers prepping their students with answers
ahead of time with answers so the school can maintain or achieve ranking
within their district or state. Not only are teachers' jobs influenced by
the outcome of these standardized tests, schools accreditation status and
funding are also influenced by tests scores of their students.

How do you maintain children's natural curiosity in a system designed for
teaching to the test where only one correct answer for a question is
acceptable? The teach to the test and learn to the test mentality are
taught to our children very early in their education. It may be very
difficult to unteach that pattern. How do you educate a student that there
is more to learning than learning the test when all of their prior
educational success has been learning the test? It's never easy to discard
that which has helped you succeed. I think this problem is far deeper than
turning out skilled scientists.


Laura A. Cox, Ph.D.
Department of Genetics
Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research
PO Box 760549
San Antonio, TX 78245-0549
(office) 210-258-9687   (fax) 210-258-9883

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