“Teaching to the Test” in the NCLB Era: How Test Predictability Affects Our Understanding of Student Performance

Nov. 10, 2014

Source: Educational Researcher, 43(8), November 2014, p. 381-389.

This article explores one variant of the concept “teaching to the test".
It analyzes test item–level data from three states’ mathematics and reading tests.

The findings show that NCLB-era state tests predictably emphasized some state standards while consistently excluding others.
The article finds that students performed better on items testing frequently assessed standards—those that composed a larger fraction of the state test in prior years.
These findings suggest that teachers targeted their instruction towards these predictably tested skills.
It concludes by describing general principles that should guide high-stakes test construction if a policy goal is to ensure that test score gains accurately represent gains in student learning.

Updated: Feb. 11, 2015