Do State Tests Help Teachers Make Instructional Decisions?
A recent survey found that 50 percent of Hopkins junior high teachers agree state tests help and 50 percent disagree.
It’s no secret that standardized testing has become a lighting rod in discussions about school accountability. Dissatisfaction with the No Child Left Behind Act led several states to seek waivers from the requirements—with Minnesota just releasing results of its new accountability system last month.
But results from a pending study of Hopkins’ secondary education system shows that teachers are more split on how well state testing can be used to make instructional decisions, according to preliminary findings discussed at Thursday’s School Board meeting.
In a survey conducted at the end of March, half of the junior high teachers surveyed agreed that state tests can be used to make instructional decisions and half disagreed.
The response rate broke down like this:
- Strongly agree: 9 percent
- Agree: 19 percent
- Somewhat agree: 22 percent
- Somewhat disagree: 19 percent
- Disagree: 26 percent
- Strongly disagree: 5 percent
For a point of comparison, 81 percent of teachers said they agreed that professional learning communities—or groups of teachers that come together to collaboratively help students—helped them find the most effective instructional strategies.
Of course, 50 percent is hardly a groundswell of support and this is just one data point. But it may suggest that opposition to standardized testing is really opposition to specific applications of standardized testing.
That’s certainly part of why Minnesota asked for an alternative to the old No Child Left Behind system. The alternative that just went into effect doesn’t do away with proficiency or the annual Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments. But it does categorize the highest-performing schools as “reward schools” and take into account when teachers help struggling populations advance faster than average—even if those populations don’t reach their targets.
The report’s authors are still analyzing data and interviews for the secondary study. Final results will be presented Aug. 1.
In the meantime, I’d like to know what you think. Do state tests help teachers make instructional decisions? Are they useful for school accountability? Do they do both—or neither? Tell us what you think in the comments.
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