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Teaching To the Test Hinders Learning


When nearly 50 students voluntarily give up their entire Saturday to solve a  multifaceted situational problem— with no guarantee of success— it’s clear that the school they attend is doing something right. When more than 300 seniors clamor over five-week long job placements, that success is even more apparent.

The school is essentially alone among its peers in fostering the kind of critical thinking exemplified by January’s Staples Spectacular Student Challenge and one of the few to offer senior internships.

Principal John Dodig’s passion for real-life, hands-on applications of education is not only forward-thinking—it is what sets this school apart. Rather than focusing so much on CAPT preparation, the school should begin to rely more on interdisciplinary projects like the Cablevision Challenge to evaluate students.

After all, school graduates are far likelier to need to solve problems like the environmental challenge posed in January than the interdisciplinary reading section on CAPT.

The main problem with standardized testing is it dilutes the educational mission of this school. Rather than fostering independent thought, it requires students to simplify their ideas to a minimal level of sophistication.

While this paper recognizes the need to measure levels of educational progress across the state and the rest of the country, the Westport Public Schools place too much emphasis on test preparation. The same kind of thought processes that go into critical thinking can be applied to all standardized testing. Spending time on rote repetition of prompt writing or CAPT math problems eliminates valuable class days that could be better spent on more practical, thought-provoking lessons.

In a world where students from every country are on an increasingly level playing field, it is necessary for American schools to prepare their graduates for the realities of the 21st century. Being able to compose a CAPT essay won’t be of much help on the job market. Being able to solve a day-long problem with decade-long benefits just might.

Click here to see the Inklinations for teaching the CAPT test!

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