Good teaching to the test

If the goal is higher test scores, the best strategy is to teach well, writes Craig Jerald on Quick and the Ed. He cites a three-year study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, which looked at elementary schools.

They found that students whose teachers assigned them more “authentic intellectual work”— tasks that called on disciplined inquiry, complex thinking, and deep conceptual learning — logged much higher test score gains than students whose teachers relied on “drill and kill” assignments normally associated with teaching to the test.

That means good teaching produces higher test scores than “teaching to the test”! Not coincidentally, it also produces better educated citizens equipped with a more powerful set of intellectual skills increasingly in demand in today’s workplace.

But low-performing schools don’t know how to teach well, Matt Yglesias writes. It’s a lot easier to do test prep, which boosts scores a little, than figure out how to engage disadvantaged students in authentic intellectual work.

Many states are using cheap, off-the-shelf tests that measure low-level skills, writes Sara Mead, plugging Ed Sector’s Margins of Error report. New England states are getting together to develop good standards-based tests.

Eduwonk has more.

About Joanne


  1. The catch-phrase du jour, “authentic intellectual work”. I suppose it’s necessary to differentiate authentic intellectual work from inauthentic intellectual work.

    Inauthentic intellectual work is identified by a distinct resemblence to authentic intellectual work in the manner of cargo cultists and for much the same reason: to invoke the sympathetic magic that brings prosperity. The difference between cargo cultists and trash researchers is that the trash researcher’s supplications generally are answered and the cargo cultists prayers are never answered.

    Too anyone with more patience or a better background in these matters, could you find where in the report the methodology used to measure authentic intellectual work is described? I’m making the, perhaps erroneous, assumption that there are varying degrees a facility in the use of “authentic intellectual work” as a teaching strategy, modality, approach, praxis and that researchers bent on comparing the effectiveness of authentic intellectual work versus “drill and kill” would want to normalize for teaching skill.

    Of course, I’m assuming that there are varying degrees of teaching skill and that the differences show up in the results. But I could be wrong.

  2. I’ve been making this point in my district and school for months. We have to stop looking for a quick fix to raise test scores and implement a long-term approach that emphasizes reading, writing, and critical thinking.