OK, a bit of a background here. Over the last few days, my Twitter feed has been lighting up with tweets from colleagues in various places sitting in PD workshops where "professionals" are selling programs. The programs include all manner of things, but it seems they are all missing one thing: real books (oh and the need for the teacher to actually BE a reader). I want to go back to a reference I made yesterday about the landmark BECOMING A NATION OF READERS. One of the points made in the book was that testing does not measure everything. Look at that last sentence again: testing does not measure everything. Five simple words and yet those words speak volumes. What does a test NOT measure?
A test cannot measure the passion one has for reading. Yes, there are some attitudinal scales that can help us determine someone's attitude toward books and reading. I used them with my middle school kids at the beginning of a school year to see which kids loved/hated reading and books. But the scale does not really measure passion, just attitude. Ask me about my attitude one day and you might get a different response the next day. Attitudes shift. Passions tend to be more stable.
A test cannot measure the "worth" of one book over another. The listservs are now heating up with talk about which are the best books of the year, which books might be announced as award winners in January at the ALA press conference. While there is some agreement, the list of "best" books is a lengthy one. Additionally, for almost every title mentioned, there is at least one post that basically says, "Are you crazy? That book?" I try to read many if not all of the award winners each year (if I have not already done so). Sometimes the experience is one that is rewarding; other times it is not. There are wonderful books that win no awards that are still important to me and to the others for whom the reading has been a satisfying experience.
A test cannot measure what is gained from the reading beyond simple comprehension. How did the book make me feel? What character did I want to slap? Which setting was so vibrant I wanted to go there to live? Tests never will be able to measure the aesthetics of reading. Nor can they trace the changes in me after I have read a book. How am I changed? Different? Improved?
So, what do we do instead of testing? That is where the UNprogram comes into play. Tune in tomorrow for an Uninteresting and UNinformative set of suggestions.