Friday, March 13, 2009

K-12 Topic: Reading Response on State Tests

10-second review: State tests emphasize literal recall and teachers teach for literal recall. Therefore, teachers are not teaching students to think about what they have read—the real purpose for reading.

Title: “The Assessment of Thoughtful Literacy in NAEP: Why the States Aren’t Measuring Up.” AJ Applegate, et al. Reading Teacher (February 2009), 372-381. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Summary/Quote: “Finally, let us return to the hypothesis of Black and Williams (1998) who suggested that many teachers emphasize literal recall in their classrooms under the mistaken assumption that their students will perform well on accountability measures. Our analysis suggests that such literal-minded teachers may not be so mistaken after all, if we stay the course and continue to assess comprehension as if it consisted primarily of literal recall. But we run the risk of creating a growing number of students who perform well on state tests, yet continue to view reading as an exercise in literal recall of information, an exercise that does not require a spontaneous thoughtful response.” p. 381.

Summary/Quote: “Our analysis of the content of state tests and NAEP suggests that teachers who encourage their students to engage thoughtfully with text and attend to the ways that details support thoughtful conclusions will prepare them to do well on both state and national accountability assessment. But as literacy professionals, we must call upon our state accountability tests to do much more to assess higher order interpretation of text if more of our children are ever to achieve the vision of mature reading that stands at the very core of the field of reading and literacy instruction.”

Comment: I remember in one of my graduate reading courses, a professor, Dr. Sheldon from Syracuse University, assigned articles from professional journals for the students, all teachers, to read. All of the students in the class responded to the articles in the same way—they summarized the ideas in the articles. It took Dr. Sheldon half a semester to teach these teachers to respond thoughtfully to the summarized information, to reflect on it, to agree or not to agree with it, and to extend the ideas in the articles, the implications.

All of these teachers, I included, assumed that reading was gaining ideas and information; we did not think about using those ideas. It was a lesson about reading that I never forgot. Dr. Sheldon was a man who had thought about thinking and reading. For him, reading was thinking.

And that is why I think the last part of the directed reading assignment, using the ideas gained from reading, is not emphasized by most teachers. They build up the background information. They pre-teach the unfamiliar vocabulary. They set purpose or have the students set purpose. But they do not take the process one step further, using the ideas gained from reading. RayS.

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