How the Tests Drive the
Q. What is meant by "curriculum
olden days, your teacher would select just a couple of thousand facts, dates,
names, ideas, patterns and topics from the whole universe of things that he or
she could choose to teach you in any given subject. To get ready for a test,
you would study and study, never knowing exactly what would be on the test. You
would be relieved if you knew most of the material you were asked, and never
stopped to think about all the things that you learned that you were never
tested on . . . but still learned, and oftentimes, you learned a lot extra.
things are different now. Now, teachers don't have as much leeway. There are
certain things that they know are going to be on the standardized tests that
you are going to have to take, and so they focus on teaching you those things,
and those things alone, very well. Oh, the good ones slip in extra topics and
material, but class time is getting so chopped up, the extras are possible less
and less. So maybe you do very well on the assessment, because you studied what
you were taught. But guess what? You weren't taught much else extra, that
WASN'T on the assessment . . . so you didn't learn anything extra.
why some people - people like me - raged against the "school restructuring"
movement of the 1990s. This is what we knew would happen. And now it's hard to
see a way out of it.
the term "Outcome-Based Education"? It's from the 1980s. Do you remember that
it was controversial among parents and teachers, but got put in place, anyway?
They changed the wording from "outcomes" to "standards," but it was the same
thing - the curriculum.
how policymakers were all saying that we need to run our schools more like businesses,
and make them "performance-based," and put continuously-evaluated "Management
By Objective" systems in place?
did it. And now we have systematized, programmatic schools based on
standardized, benchmarked curriculum measurement by pre-engineered assessments
that have reshaped the curriculum through the back door into pretty much the
same curriculum in schools nationwide.
means is that the assessment drives the curriculum. If you know what your
students are going to be asked on an important test - the state standards that
are "benchmarked" to your statewide assessment -- you make sure that you teach
that material so that they will have a good chance at scoring well on the test.
called "curriculum alignment."
Since the learning
standards in the various school subjects that have been adopted by state
legislatures all around the country are virtually the same, we have a de facto national curriculum, even
though the various statewide assessments might be slightly different. Some
people believe it's only a matter of time, though, before we'll have one national
assessment, probably the National Assessment of Educational Progress. There are
lots of hazards over having just one exam for the entire student population of
a country, but the powers that be decided this would be best, and so this is
what we have.
Homework: There's a good explanation of
curriculum alignment on page A-164 of the appendix of the book, The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America
by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt, which is available online at www.deliberatedumbingdown.com