Tony Wagner in his book The Global Achievement Gap takes us back to high school to dive deeper into the world of state testing. Two questions that are explored are: to what extent state tests assess the skills that matter most for work, citizenship, and college; and what is the impact of teaching to these tests on students' motivation to learn and to stay in school? In terms of the first question, it probably isn't surprising that skills needed to survive in the workplace are not being met through testing. What employers found was that students coming out of high school were unable to apply the content learned to pass tests to solve real world problems. Similarly, state tests do not prepare students to be responsible citizens in our society, or help them succeed in college. So why is there still so much emphasis placed on performing well on state tests in order to show readiness for the workplace, citizenship, and college? Is the move toward the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) to assess what has become known as Common Core a step in the right direction? Will it get us closer to redefining rigor and to developing the Seven Survival Skills Wagner holds essential? Given the abundance of information and access to twenty-first century technologies, memorization of facts becomes less important. Students need to be able to apply what they know. Incorporating 21st century skills into the curriculum not only will accomplish this, but will help reverse the impact of teaching to these tests. Students might be more motivated to learn and to stay in school.
Do State tests assess the skills that matter most for work, citizenship, and college?
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Roxanne Pompilio is a History-Social Science Teacher at the School of Creative and Performing Arts. She currently teaches 7th and 10th grade World History.