Situational Ethics in Testing

Many teachers in North Carolina are asked to teach "character" in the classroom. We better work harder at it, because the folks at the State Board of Education seem to believe ethics are something that an institution can simply "delete" and "replace" at the word processor, if it is expedient to do so.

Teachers in 1988 were asked by the state to adhere to a code of ethics to maintain the validity of its norm-referenced tests. If classrooms or schools deviated from this code, then the scores would not be valid. Why? Because the students would have differing vantage points other than those created by superior instruction on the teacher's part, and superior learning on the student's part.

The 1988 Code of Ethics stated:

"Coaching of students on specific test content or dissemination of test materials (including reproductions or modifications) prior to testing is not permitted. Such procedures will make results invalid. However, it is desirable to teach students general test-taking skills in order to make them aware of strategies that could enhance their performance on tests."

"Instructional content should not be geared solely to preparing students to score well on standardized tests."

"Although students should be told the general content of any upcoming standardized test and taught good test-taking skills, they are not to be drilled or coached on specific test content."

"Scores on standardized tests must not be the sole determinant of whether a student is to be retained or promoted."

"The curriculum is not to be taught to simply raise test scores. The weaknesses of students as revealed by test scores are expected to be considered in curriculum planning."


The 1996 revision (the "current" ethics) only states the following:

"{Preparation should include} teaching the tested curriculum and test-preparation skills."

That's it. That's all. Notice the shift from "test-taking" skills to "test-preparation" skills. Almost all barriers to teaching "to the test" have been removed and the collective conscience has been absolved from any guilt from possibly making the test invalid. What is the message being sent from Raleigh? And what is the message our children are receiving?