What We Assess Often Drives Teaching

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Thinking out loud so bear with me…

An important question that we should ask often;

What is the purpose of school? 

Is it a means to an end or is there a bigger purpose?

If you “teach to the test,” can some skills be learned in that process? Resiliency? Focus? Dedication? I have seen some posts on social media where the instruction is geared to how we do on exams and things like “pep rallies” getting students psyched up to do tests. Please know that whether I agree with this or not, I do know the intent of the teachers and schools doing this is something positive. My gut tells me that how much these classrooms focus on the “test” is usually a reflection of what leadership (local or state/provincial) is saying is essential, or communicating.

What we assess often drives our teaching, not the other way around. If you know your “effectiveness” is measured by how well students do on specific tests, you will probably place a significant focus on helping students do well, and the focus can be narrow.

So is school about doing well on tests or something more? I will always believe it is something more but if we were to ask students, what would they say? I know what many educators would say but do our students feel the same way?  I remember having a conversation with a student who was doing EVERYTHING they could to accelerate their graduation and get credits done as soon as possible.  They had no interest in staying in school and longer and saw it as a checklist to complete.

If you asked the following question, “what is the purpose of school?” to a group of teachers, students, parents, and community members, what would they say? Would their answers be aligned or close in nature or misaligned?

I am not judging, but I am asking. I have been thinking a lot about this lately and wondering where there are connections and disconnections in this question.

I would love to know if any schools or districts are asking their community the question and what they are getting back for answers. What are you doing with that information? How are you aligning what you do to those answers?

*After I wrote this post, I saw this post from Blake Harvard focused on a very similar topic where he asks “What is the purpose of education?” What is interesting to think about is what is the difference of that question and “What is the purpose of school?”  Are these different questions?

Source: George Couros