American public education system has endured many changes in the last few decades. It has gone from back to basics, to whole language learning, and then back to basics again. The system is constantly being scrutinized by the parents who send their children to it, the students themselves, experts in the field and politicians who use its flaws as a springboard for change, while using its successes as a platform for bragging rights. The American public school system is constantly being evaluated, and re-evaluated. A central criteria for the scrutinization of the system is the marks the students receive on the standardized testing that is administered each year.
Each school system or state system uses a standardized test of its choice to measure the student's progress through their academics. The school system administers the test to the students and the percentages are tallied to determine where on the national percentile the school falls. One of the problems that has begun to make its way to the forefront in recent years is that the test is also being used to judge the worth of the teachers within that system. The teachers are aware that this is occurring and in recent times have begun something called "teaching to the test." This term is used when teachers are teaching lessons geared to help the student get high marks on standardized tests, with little concern about other material. The entire system places an unfair amount of stress on the teachers, who struggle annually with making sure they teach whatever will show up on the standardized test for their students. The results are often published in local newspapers school by school, thereby making it even more stressful for teachers who have to answer not only to administrators but also to the public at large. This entire system has become a sort of witch hunt for teachers who may be doing an excellent job, but are not teaching to the test as their peers are doing. Many decisions are based on the results of the test including career ladder choices, pay scale raises, and hiring and firing decisions. The test has become such an important tool for evaluating teachers that instead of working to provide solid foundational educations to the students the teachers are concerning themselves mainly with making sure the test results come out in a positive light. Because the tests are becoming more about the teachers, and less about the students, the teachers are being put under stress to compete with other school systems and each other. The public comparing of the results combined with the outcome because of the results have caused standardized testing to become stressful for teachers across the nation.
This proposed study is designed to determine what it is about the tests that cause the stress for teachers. Once the main stressors are determined then steps can be taken to alleviate the stress and make the teacher's job go back to being about teaching, and not about testing. This study will also lay the foundation for future tests that will allow for the planning of academics to be sure the proper things are being covered within the scope of total teaching. The main question the study is designed to answer is how the stress of standardized teaching affects a teacher's ability to teach the students.
Because standardized testing has become so important in recent years in the evaluation of teachers and their abilities it has caused many teachers to forgo teaching academics for the purpose of teaching so that their students will score highly on the standardized testing instead. This can cause students to miss out on valuable instruction and valuable learning experiences as well as leave gaps in their education which the next teacher has to handle while she or he too tries to teach to the test for their students.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of the study is to determine how the implementation of standardized testing affects the teachers ability to teach. It has been changing for many years in the field of education and the standardized test has become one of the mainstay tools with which to evaluate teaching ability. It is something that districts and states have come to rely on as the scores are held against other scores across the nation. Schools use the standardized test scores within their school systems to advertise what a superior system it is. Conversely if a school does not do well on standardized testing, local politicians point to those numbers for the purpose of blaming their opponents for the poor education that their students are receiving. The standardized testing of students has become the single most important measure of a teacher's worth in recent years, thereby cutting out all creative abilities within the teaching system. The schools are working to compete with local schools as well as state and national scores as a measure of self-worth. This has caused teachers to stop trying to instill lifelong learning skills in their students and instead works to instill the right answers in the students for the purpose of the standardized test scores. The entire focus that has been placed on the results of standardized testing has caused increasing stress for the teachers in the school systems where the tests are administered. This study is designed to determine if the stress of standardized testing of students affects a teacher's ability to teach the students.
There have been many studies conducted on the effects of education changes and mandates. There are studies to cover the differences in systems, private and public. There are studies designed to ask whether a back to basic education or a whole language system is best. The majority of the studies tie directly to the question of standardized testing however, by their very nature. Standardized tests are what studies often use to measure the answer to the study questions. If a study wants to determine whether whole language learning or phonetic teaching is best, the study often turns to the scores on the standardized testing to determine the answer. If a study is designed to evaluate the worth of a core curriculum the study turns to the scores on standardized testing instruments to determine which curriculum seems to offer the most success. At the very basic foundation of the studies is support for this study as the studies are dependent on the fact that standardized testing scores are a valid message of a curriculum worth, or the abilities of a teacher or group of teachers.
There have been studies conducted throughout the years as well that measure many aspect of testing and alternative testing.
One study measured the success and profitability of using alternative assessment tests. In recent years the decision has been made by some school systems to remove the scores of their special education students before tallying and releasing the scores of their standardized tested students. This decision was made for the purpose of removing the ability of special education students to lower the overall scores of the systems (Kleinert, 1999). It is another indication that the standardized test scores are being used for the judgment of teachers more than the gauge of the students. In one recent study the use of alternative assessments was examined.
The use of alternative assessments allowed their students to be included in the overall scoring measures of the systems standardized testing results. "These teachers perceived benefits of including their students in state and school accountability measures, as well as their perceptions of the instructional impact of the alternate system upon student outcomes (Kleinert, 1999). The results of this survey indicated that teachers did realize such benefits, and perceived positive changes in both instructional programming (e.g., students' learning to follow their own individualized schedules, students' learning to assess their own performance) and enhanced student outcomes (an increased percentage of students having functional augmentative communication systems) (Kleinert, 1999). However, teachers also expressed frustration with the amount of time required to complete student assessment portfolios, and concern over scoring reliability and the extent to which the alternate assessment was more of a teacher assessment than a student assessment (Kleinert, 1999)." Which allows for the same stressor problems as the standardized testing that is the focus of this study.
The driving reason behind the development of alternative assessment of special education students was the fact that they are often being excluded in the overall measurement of students within their school systems. The alternative assessment idea allowed them to be included however, it places an additional burden or stress on the teachers who must provide the assessment and the evaluation of the assessment in addition to the stress of having to give a standardized test to the regular students as well.
Driving these federal requirements for the participation of students with disabilities in educational assessments, which entails developing alternate assessments for students who cannot participate in regular assessments, are several critical concerns (Kleinert, 1999):"