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The Ambiguity of Test Preparation: A Multimethod Analysis in One State


"We studied test preparation activity among fourth-grade math and science teachers in New Jersey, using a survey of almost 300 teachers and observations of and interviews with almost 60. New Jersey uses a mix of open-ended and multiple-choice tests; links few stakes to test results, except for publication of scores; and offers limited professional development to teachers. New Jersey teachers are adopting specific techniques associated with more inquiry-oriented instruction, but their basic approach does not appear to be changing. Teachers do teach the content on the test with a new wrinkle. When more students are passing a test in one subject area than in another, emphasis shifts to the area with low scores. We found more direct instruction in lower socioeconomic districts but not less inquiry-oriented instruction. Finally, principal support has more influence on the test preparation strategies teachers use than does pressure to comply."

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