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05 September 2016 @ 08:30 am
Same old, same old  
A headline grabbed my attention: WHICH READING SKILLS ARE CRITICAL TO LEARN IN NINTH GRADE? (link: https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/07/17/which-reading-skills-are-critical-to-learn-in-the-ninth-grade/). So, I clicked on the link prepared to see some skills highlighted that were relegated to 9th grade even though I wondered about the targeting of a specific grade level and set of skills. Reading is not a discrete set of skills that can be parceled out in this manner (IMHO) but rather a sort of continuum of skills that grow sharper and perhaps deeper as readers develop.

Instead, what I discovered when I read this piece was so much of the same old, same old trotted out.

1. Kids are not reading hard enough books before they get to high school. Translation: YA is not worthy.

2. Kids are expected to read anything independently. Translation: read canonical works closely without any modeling, instruction, etc.

3. Too many kids take remedial courses in college. Translation: we are not doing enough in K-12 grades to prepare kids for college. (and the statistic offered is not quite accurate either)

4. NAEP scores show the horrific lack of skills kids possess. Translation: we are going to cherry pick results and rather than focusing on improvement, we are decrying those who are not at the ADVANCED level.

5. Kids need these skills (still not defined) for future courses. Translation: basically we take courses so we can all take AP courses next year or the year after that. This is a variation of the, "trust me, you will need this one day" argument for learning the 5 paragraph essay, etc.

So, what are those critical skills? One teacher is quoted as saying this: “But I have a hard time getting them to engage with the text, read for understanding and deeper meaning. I have a hard time getting them to read and think and write critically about fiction and nonfiction alike.”

So, the first concern is engagement with the text. I wonder if some of this is because students in these courses (in the school being highlighted at least) are reading only "canonical" texts (and there is no indication what those texts might actually be). The second part of the quote is a reference to close reading, analytical or critical reading I think. And, of course, the high school teachers blame the middle school teachers (this is familiar to me from my time working with middle school kids in the 70s and 80s).

So, instead of helping me build an ark, this piece is simply forecasting torrential rains.
 
 
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