In a recent conversation with a public school teacher I asked her if the Common Core State Standards will reduce or even eliminate "teaching to the test." Her response was honest, but sobering. She said that in her opinion, Common Core is clearly a step in the right direction; unfortunately, there are too many teachers who simply don't want to put in the hard work. Therefore, teaching to the test will continue to be their solution for preparing students to take the end-of-year's high stakes assessments.
Without doubt, the end-of-year tests put a great deal of pressure on public schools teachers; however, their students are poorly served by this practice - it is also not ethical. This is where good leadership can play a vital role in the success of our schools and their students. School principals and assistant principals need to make it absolutely clear that teaching to the test is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. In essence, the new Common Core standards offer us a wonderful opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to good teaching.
Our educational leaders should also use the new standards as an opportunity to either build or re-build a culture of success within their schools. This means that they need to lead by walking around - visiting their classrooms two to three hours each day. If done properly, there would be no reason why any school principal or assistant principal would not know that one of her or his teachers is teaching to the test. Additionally, if the administrators make it clear that they will review lesson plans, for content, each week, and go over student performance data, with the teachers, monthly, there will be no surprises at the end of the academic year.
Any teacher who feels that they need to teach to the test in order to survive in the profession is being ill served by her or his institutional leader. Our schools can do better - and our students certainly deserve the best.