Testing the Tests, a review of George Hillocks: The Testing Trap: How State Writing Assessments Control Learning
The Testing Trap is more than a catchy alliterative title; it is an apt metaphor for the situation currently experienced by America's K-12 teachers who find themselves pressured in both subtle and painfully obvious ways to teach to the expectations of state writing tests. In this meticulously crafted volume, George Hillocks, Jr. analyzes the writing tests used in Texas, Illinois, New York, Kentucky, and Oregon in order to demonstrate their influences on classroom instruction. By choosing states with widely differing writing tests, he is able to reveal how each test shapes the concept of "good writing" within the state that uses it. Although Hillocks' analysis of the evidence from these five states strongly suggests that most current state writing tests promote neither good writing nor good writing instruction, the real value of this volume lies in his thorough exploration of the reasons for these failures.