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Tests flunk, study find.

Tests administered to most elementary and high-school students in the United States exert a strong detrimental influence on science and math teaching, according to a new $1 million study performed for the National Science Foundation. And because schools with high minority enrollments generally place a greater reliance on scores from these tests, the study finds, there tends to be "a gap in instructional emphases between high- and low-minority classrooms that conflicts with our national concern for equity in the quality of education."

George F. Madaus and his colleagues at Boston College analyzed not only the six most widely used national standardized tests, but also the tests designed to accompany the four most commonly used science and math texts in fourth-grade, eighth-grade, and high-school classrooms. Though curriculum experts argue that schools should place greater emphasis on problem solving and reasoning, the new study indicates that the tests focus on lower-level skills -- primarily rote memorization and application of routine formulas.

That's a serious problem, the authors charge, because these tests inadvertently set the agendas of many teachers.

Researchers surveyed more than 2,200 math and science instructors, interviewing in depth some 300 teachers and administrators. Especially in schools with high minority enrollments, teachers reported feeling pressured to help students perform well on these tests. Some states judge schools and some schools determine teacher assignments based on students' test scores.

With so much at stake, Madaus says, teachers feel compelled to focus their instruction on drilling what the tests will measure -- at the expense of the more valuable, higher-level skills.
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Title Annotation:typical school science tests emphasize rote and routine formula application rather than problem-solving and reasoning
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Oct 24, 1992
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