What If You Were Reading Well Below Grade Level?

What if? What if you were reading well below grade level and you were mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act to spend months prepping for a test that you will never pass. This testing model does not allow for an accurate representation of the child’s growth, as the format is multiple choice. If you can’t read on that level, you will not comprehend what you’ve read, and therefore you will not be capable of answering the questions responsibly. However, there’s a one in four chance of selecting the correct answer. So, make a pretty pattern with the dots and you never know what the outcome will be….

As a teacher of many years, I have seen horrible examples of poorly constructed, confusing questions. There are times when the brightest children get the answers wrong because they over-think things. Honestly, every test has a question or two that even teachers debate over which answer is the correct answer. Also, emphasizing use of multiple-choice questions encourages students to memorize trivial details, to the detriment of more important aspects of the curriculum. The test prep alone is detrimental to all aspects of education. Personally, I feel this type of test hinders the development of creativity and impedes writing, critical thinking, and problem solving skills, and most certainly does nothing for self-esteem. Plenty of researchers and professionals in the field of education agree with me.

The passage below was written by James Comber, the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry and the founder of the Yale Child Study Center. This article was included in the New York Times Room for Debate blog. He so eloquently states this same concept of failing our students by this testing mentality.

 Test scores are widely accepted in our country as a measure of student and school effectiveness. But the expressed purpose of education is to help prepare students to be successful in school and in life; to protect and promote their own health, development and learning, to be highly competent workers in school and beyond, to be competent and responsible family members (parents if they choose) community members and citizens capable of finding gratification and meaning in life. These outcomes are the product of a good developmental experience, and varied and rich curricular, instructional and assessment programs, in a caring school environment or culture created by adults who are selected, prepared and supported well in doing so….. Test driven, or force-fed, learning cannot enrich and promote the traits necessary for life success.

Even if force-fed, not all fourth graders read on a fourth grade level – some are higher, some much higher, and it only makes sense that some will be lower. This is true of any “grade” level. Why is age the deciding factor of how we group children? Let’s start testing reading levels, not grades. Let’s stop this practice of “teaching to the test.” Let’s set priorities, let’s start working on preparing our students for the real world.

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2 Responses to What If You Were Reading Well Below Grade Level?

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