If someone has a way of turning lemons into lemonade, it would have to be Rafe Esquith, an actual classroom teacher. In his most recent book Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire, he illustrates just what teaching to the test should be all about.
*"He puts a simple addition problem on the board: 63 plus 28 equals ? Below the problem he writes the standard A., B., C. and D., leaving the possible answers blank for the moment."
Rafe: All right, everybody. Let's pretend this is a question on your Stanford 9 test, which as we all know will determine your future happiness, success, and the amount of money you will have in the bank. (Giggling from the kids) Who can tell me the answer?
Rafe: Very good. Let's place that 91 by the letter C. Would someone like to tell me what will go by the letter A?
Rafe: Fantastic! Why 35, Isel?
Isel: That's for the kid who subtracts instead of adds.
Rafe: Exactly. Who has a wrong answer for B?
Kevin: 81. That's for the kids who forgets to carry the 1.
Rafe: Right again. Do I have a very sharp detective who can come up with an answer for D?
Paul: How about 811? That's for the kid who adds everything but doesn't carry anything.
That there folks, is the way it's done.
*Excerpts from Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire discussed in America's Best Classroom Teacher, Jay Matthews, Washington Post.