Is training focused on understanding how the standards will be tested really professional development?
I guess it depends on what we believe a teacher’s job to be. If one considers a teacher’s sole purpose to train a child to pass a test, then I guess this would be appropriate professional development. By understanding how each standard is tested, the teacher can tailor instruction to the test expectations and thus be considered successful as a professional.
But I have a problem with this. I did not go into the teaching profession to teach kids to pass tests. I chose this profession to inspire greatness in my students, to help them realize their fullest potential, to make this world a better place. It’s insulting to think that my role has been so devalued. I refuse to consider myself simply a trainer for a bunch of test takers.
In my opinion, true professional development should be focused on inspiring students to be critical thinkers, creative problem solvers, and lifelong learners. These are the skills that enable students to reach their potential, motivate them to continue learning, and allow them to persevere when faced with challenges. Teach me ways to facilitate proficiency of these skills. Teach me the latest research on cognitive development. Teach me how to determine what critical thinking skills students are using well and which ones may need to be strengthened. Teach me how to design lessons that will engage my students in real world application of skills at a high level of rigor. But don’t try to convince me that knowing how the standards will be tested, and planning my lessons to match these assessment conditions, is sufficient for my students to attain critical thinking & problem solving skills that they can apply in the real world. In real life, does it really matter if standard X.Y.Q.1.2.3 is tested at a cognitive complexity level of 4 using a multiple choice format?
Don’t get me wrong. I do think it is important to know the test item specifications to be a well informed teacher, but please don’t provide training on this information, emphasizing that I should address each benchmark to a certain level of rigor with the justification of “this is how it will be tested,” and then assume that I have received quality professional development that will help me provide a better education for my students.
I guess it all comes down to this: Are teachers supposed to be preparing students for a test, or for life?