What Teachers Think About High-Stakes, Mandated Testing

Government-mandated testing requires schools and students to meet certain standards, and has become a big part of educational reform. A study called “Standards and Assessment: Coherence from the Teacher’s Perspective” explored teachers’ viewpoints and practices related to the tests. The research, published in Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, was conducted by Professors Sarah M. Bonner and Peggy P. Chen at Hunter College, and Camila Torres Rivera, a lecturer at Guttman Community College, CUNY.

The researchers surveyed 185 high school teachers from a large urban district, then followed up with nine interviews. They found that teachers’ views fell into three broad categories.

About a third of the teachers viewed external testing negatively. They expressed “resentment, worry, and fear” about the system, but felt they had to comply with it “either to keep their jobs” or to ensure their students would meet graduation requirements.  Although they expressed support for alternative assessment methods, they mostly used traditional testing methods in the classroom.

Another 39 percent generally supported external testing. They were comfortable gearing their teaching toward the tests and said results aligned with their sense of their students’ achievements.

The third group, 28 percent of the sample, had mixed feelings, described by the researchers as “thoughtful dualism.” Paradoxically, while these teachers questioned the value of such testing, they also said they rejected alternative assessment methods. And yet this group was creative in the classroom. One teacher “taught to the test” in a “protective way,” preparing his students for “trick” questions. Another had students draw a comic strip to demonstrate evolution. Another went beyond the tests’ “pre-structured’ format by requiring students to support ideas with detailed arguments.

The researchers concluded that teachers often comply with state-mandated testing “through practices that they do not believe in.” A more “coherent” system, they said, would include “respect for autonomous express of teacher professional knowledge” and could lead to “sustained improved instruction.”

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Explore This Work
“Standards and assessment: coherence from the teacher’s perspective”

Work By
Sarah M. Bonner (Associate Professor, School of Education) | Profile 1
Peggy P. Chen (Associate Professor, Department of Educational Foundations & Counseling Programs) | Profile 1

Colleges and Schools
Hunter College
Guttman Community College

Bonus Content
“Validity in classroom assessment: Purposes, properties, and principles” (Sage Handbook)

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