Rosenthal: Teaching to the student, not the test

Published 9:32 am Friday, May 31, 2019

Recently, the news coverage has been focusing on a practice commonly known as “cheating.”

As an educator, I saw this done many times by students who copied answers from someone else’s paper, lifted an entire essay from a published text or carried notes in his or her clothes.

When confronted, the student always confessed, took the zero and case was closed.

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These kids ages 12 to 18 knew the the consequences for their intentional actions.

The recent flurry of unethical behavior has reached a new height as it has been attributed to adults.

First, there was a group in an Eastern Kentucky county who had a special education population that was double the size of the state average. These students had been put in this category so they could take the state test with additional help.

Another case involved a whole school district that had double the amount of student proficiency in reading and math compared to the state average. The data showed answers had been changed on the student papers from wrong to right. There were also cases of students being allowed additional help during the test and lack of test security.

Finally, the national scandal involving parents paying to have students receive scholarships and admittance to colleges by changing answers on national exams is even more disturbing.

As I have said many times before, testing in this country and this state is too expansive and puts the focus more on raising test scores than learning a skill that can be used in the future. It takes away teaching time and pretty much determines the grade level curriculum.

When I was teaching, and before the time of pressurized state testing, the creative side of being allowed to teach something that would be of interest to students was what I loved.

For example, I would always have the students give a speech on two famous people such as Abe Lincoln and Martin Luther King. This led to researching backgrounds on how they were alike and different. They learned so many skills from this project and actually enjoyed it.

At one time, enjoying school was an important element in the learning process for both teachers and students.

What is causing this focus on cheating?

The high stakes that our culture is promoting through its demand on achieving a standard some students are unable to meet.

The children even understand what score they need to have to be “proficient.”

Educating students should involve taking the student where he/she is performing and going higher. It should not be comparing a student to a uniformed standard.

I think educators realize learning a concept is more important than a test score but do not have an option when teaching.

Students also feel the pressure and they talk to parents who also become a part of the testing culture.

Too much testing will not ensure the students are learning nor will it prepare them for the future.

We must allow teachers to have freedom in their classrooms to teach the curriculum without worrying about the consequences of test scores.

What we have now is teach, intervene and test on a daily basis.

Pat Rosenthal is a former teacher and administrator for Clark County Public Schools.