Why is it appropriate to Prepare Students for High Stakes Assessments?
Much is written in education literature about test preparation and/or practicing for a specific test. Much of the writing relates to questions regarding the efficacy and ethical appropriateness of test preparation for students taking high stakes, large scale assessments.
For this blog, I will distinguish between two concepts:
According to James Popham, the only types of acceptable test preparation must adhere to two specific test preparation standards. Popham’s first standard deals with ethical educational practices that might be violated with some inappropriate test practice activities. Popham’s second standard states that preparation for a test should reflect and be consistent with real gains in the domain being assessed.
With the advent of on-line assessments employed in most states, a new ethical challenge has been added to this debate. Teachers participating in a recent Pew survey reported that their low-income students encountered obstacles to using educational technology that were not encountered by their more affluent counterparts. Writing for Language Magazine, Keith Oelrich said, “Though broadband use and school hardware availability are at an all-time high, a new digital divide has appeared.” According to the Pew survey, “The rich and educated are still more likely than others to have good access to digital resources.”
The digital divide has especially far-reaching consequences when it comes to educational assessment. The technology-skills gap is even more consequential when we consider that online testing is required in most states that use either the PARCC or SBAC assessments.
According to Oelrich, the technology-skills gap is apparent in a recent national analysis of PARCC and SBAC scores. Additionally, “In 2016, a district in Arizona did a study among its students that showed those with strong digital literacy skills scored higher than those with marginal or low digital literacy skills on their state’s online assessment. This suggests that lower online test scores can be linked to insufficient digital literacy skills.”
While adhering to test preparation ethics and Popham’s test preparation standards, what is an appropriate approach to preparing students to take the SBAC or PARCC examinations? I think it is a given that all teachers in all schools should employ research-based best practices, effective strategies, and standards-based curricula that enable students to master and apply the skills and knowledge inherent in every domain they teach. Given the well documented technology skills gap, it is equally important and ethically appropriate to directly teach; and allow students to practice the specific technology skills required to demonstrate their actual levels of mastery on the PARCC and SBAC assessments. If schools and school districts do not step up and teach their students how to deal with the technology-specific skills required to perform on these high stakes assessments, they are doing themselves and their students a great disservice.