This assumption robs teachers of a valuable piece of running a classroom: pacing. Because of the heavy stresses that are both actually imposed and self-imposed, teachers are operating constantly behind the gun…so much so that they actually have to make the unfortunate decision, often times, to press on rather than take an extra day or two on reading time or “ea” words. The test is the standard by which everything that occurs in that classroom will be measured, but because it is given on a specific day at a predestined time (usually way before June) teachers are fighting against the sands of time to meet everything that might be on the test and comprehension be damned, the content better have been touched. Students don’t have to understand topics as long as they’ve been exposed and when the day of the test comes teachers are biting their nails and crossing their fingers for immensely scary reasons:
Do the kids understand how to do this?
Did I teach this?
Was this in the test prep?
Is this going to be the end of my career?
Teacher performance review is tied directly to standardized testing results, and while administrations are talking about depth of knowledge and universal lesson planning, the fact of the matter is that in a testing year the most important thing is test prep. You see, the general criticism of an American public school education is that the areas covered are a mile wide and an inch deep—meaning that the surface of a lot of areas are scratched but are never investigated accordingly. When teachers have the ability to gauge their student’s understanding and design (or at least choose) their own assessments, or even better if students have the ability to prove their own knowledge through portfolio and culminating projects there is a better sense of the understanding a child has gained in that term in a particular area.