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State Testing and Mathematics Teaching in New Jersey: The Effects of a Test Without Other Supports

Roberta Y. Schorr, William A. Firestone, Lora Monfils 

November 2003, Volume 34, Issue 5, Page 373

Abstract:
Conflicting findings about the effects of state testing on mathematics teaching have a number of roots, including the strong ideological positions of advocates and opponents of state tests and the fact that state policies vary such that one is likely to find different results in different states. The pressure that students, teachers, and administrators may feel toward high test scores and the opportunities that teachers and administrators may have regarding  related professional development can also confound findings on the effects of tests on actual classroom teaching. This article describes the teaching practices of fourth-grade teachers in New Jersey, a state with a fourth-grade mathematics test designed to be aligned with state and national standards. The intent of this test is to challenge conventional practice. However, there is a lack of strong pressure to produce high test scores or effective guidance on the kinds of learning opportunities that must complement those tests in order to lead to fundamental  change in teaching. Through interviews and observations of 63 teachers, we found that the teachers reported that they changed their practices in ways compatible with state and national standards and the test. For example, they reported asking their students to solve more open-ended problems and to explain their thinking. However, direct observations  suggested that teachers have adopted specific strategies without changing their basic instructional  approach. The results from our investigation suggest that in the absence of effective professional development, testing leads to minimal changes in teaching practice.

Keywords:
Grade 4
Article
Assessment / Testing
Math Coordinator / Coach
Numbers and Operations
Teacher
Manipulatives
Survey Studies
Theory