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.2017 - Volume 10, No 1
 
     

The “Teaching to the Test” Family of Fallacies

 
Richard P. Phelps
.Abstract

This article explains the various meanings and ambiguities of the phrase “teaching to the test” (TttT), describes its history and use as a pejorative, and outlines the policy implications of the popular, but fallacious, belief that “high stakes” testing induces TttT which, in turn, produces “test score inflation” or artificial test score gains. The history starts with the infamous “Lake Wobegon Effect” test score scandal in the US in the 1980s. John J. Cannell, a medical doctor, discovered that all US states administering national norm-referenced tests claimed their students’ average scores exceeded the national average, a mathematical impossibility. Cannell blamed educator cheating and lax security for the test score inflation, but education insiders managed to convince many that high stakes was the cause, despite the fact that Cannell’s tests had no stakes. Elevating the high stakes causes TttT, which causes test score inflation fallacy to dogma has served to divert attention from the endemic lax security with “internally administered” tests that should have encouraged policy makers to require more external controls in test administrations. The fallacy is partly responsible for promoting the ruinous practice of test preparation drilling on test format and administering practice tests as a substitute for genuine subject matter preparation. Finally, promoters of the fallacy have encouraged the practice of “auditing” allegedly untrustworthy high-stakes test score trends with score trends from allegedly trustworthy low-stakes tests, despite an abundance of evidence that low-stakes test scores are far less reliable, largely due to student disinterest.

.Key words
 

Test security, Educator cheating, Test score inflation, High stakes, Standardized tests, Education.

 
.Full Text
 
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.Reference
 

Phelps, R. P. (2017). The “teaching to the test” family of fallacies. Revista Iberoamericana de Evaluación Educativa, 10(1), 33-49.
https://doi.org/10.15366/riee2017.10.1.002

 
 

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