Teaching to the test?

In my education evaluation class (in which I am a graduate student) we’ve been learning about, well, evaluation — through the framework of Kirkpatrick’s four levels.
Kirkpatrick’s level 2 deals with learning assessment. That is, tests students take.

Courtesy Allison Wood CC 3.0

On my brief commute, I’ve been listening to Diane Ravitch’s book The Death and Life of the Great American School System.
Ravitch, addressing primarily K-12 education, holds that teaching to the exam leads to narrowing the curriculum, particularly in English and mathematics. She explains that exams are imperfect one time measures of a student’s overall learning, and do not account for myriad characteristics that cannot accurately be tested, many of which have a significant influence on the ultimate success of a student.
In addition to my class and commute listen, I recently read a statement on the educational philosophy of Dr. Corey Schou, who was my own masters thesis supervisor.
Schou decries approaches that teach to the exam. He believes that the educational experience should be sufficient to prepare the student for the exam.
Schou was an early member of the (ISC)2 organization, which certifies information security professionals. The major component of that certification is passing an exam.
Schou expects his students to pass the (ISC)2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) exam upon exit of his program, and explains that his graduates have a 100% pass rate of the CISSP since his first graduate took it 15 years ago.
To be fair, I know that his students do spend time directly preparing for the exam (who wants the shame of breaking that trend?); but, it is absolutely true that he does not teach to it.
Other education thinkers, including training expert Robert Mager, do believe in teaching to the exam. In his view, if the exam appropriately reflects what a student really needs to know, then why wouldn’t you teach to it?
How are we addressing this in the ISU Industrial Cybersecurity program? Come back next time to find out!

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