Frequent assessments of student progress reduce pressure on teachers to teach to the test
A major criticism of No Child Left Behind is that it puts pressure on teachers
to drill students so that they will perform adequately in statewide assessments
with the potential consequence of a narrowed curriculum. Texas is considered a
forerunner in changes that are expected under NCLB because of its early adoption
of a high-stakes testing program. To help reduce the pressure of testing on
teachers and students, some school districts have implemented assessment
programs that provide rapid diagnostic information about student progress to
Study: Study: "Can Rapid Assessment Moderate the
Consequences of High-Stakes Testing?" by Stuart S. Yeh, Education and Urban
Society, Volume 39, Number 1, November 2006, pp. 91-112.
Conclusion: Frequent assessments of student progress can
give teachers a sense of greater control over student achievement and reduce the
pressure teachers feel to increase test scores through whole-class drill and
practice, concludes this study from Education and Urban
Society. The study found that most teachers in a district that used
rapid assessments had positive attitudes towards state-mandated testing and used
test results to guide their teaching. Results suggest that use of a rapid
feedback system can help teachers prepare students for state-mandated tests
while maintaining a balanced curriculum.
Main research question: How did teachers in a district that
had used a rapid assessment system for several years view the impact of
state-mandated testing on the curriculum? Did they view it as having a positive
or negative effect? Did the teachers feel that district- and state-mandated test
results improved instruction in a balanced way? How did teachers and
administrators in the district feel about state-mandated testing?
- Frequent assessment of student progress can reduce pressure on teachers and
help them avoid teaching a narrowed curriculum. Previous research has shown that
districts respond well in conditions where stakes are high, but pressure is low.
- Providing teachers with periodic assessments of student progress supports
more effective and efficient individualized instruction that keep students at
- High-stakes tests may be viewed by teachers as having positive effects if a
state-mandated test is aligned with the curriculum.
Participants: Teachers, administrators and other staff in
the McKinney, Texas school district. The participants included 37 teachers for
grades 2-12, 11 principals and assistant principals and librarians in 8 schools.
The district had used a curriculum-based rapid assessment system from
StandardsMaster since 1999.
Method: Participants were
interviewed individually for 50 minutes using a semi-structured interview
protocol. Researchers conducted observations in 10 randomly selected classrooms
and interviewed three to five randomly selected students from each classroom to
assess quality of instruction.
Findings: A majority of teachers (77.6%) in this district
believe that state-mandated testing had a positive impact on the curriculum.
They agreed that the state-mandated test encouraged teachers to focus
instruction in a positive way on key skills and knowledge.
Most teachers (89.8%) reported using results from the periodic
curriculum-based tests and state-mandated tests to systematically improve
instruction. Teachers said they used results to identify areas of difficulty and
to decide how much time to spend on particular topics. Some 65.3% reported that
they used the results to identify and teach missing skills, including higher
order thinking skills and basic skills. Teachers noted that the curriculum is
determined by the state and that it was not the test results that caused
narrowing of the curriculum.
Although one-half of the teachers (49%) reported that they have reduced the
amount of time they spend on projects, almost all (91.7%)reported that they
eliminated unimportant projects and refocused the remaining projects in a way
that benefited students.
From Assessment for Learning: 12 recent studies on formative
assessment and aligning assessments with learning goals, published by
Educational Research Newsletter August 2007