I used Quipio to create this photo of Scout. Little did I know it would come in so handy. Yesterday, I followed a link on Twitter to a story at the Atlanta Joural Constitution online edityion: http://m.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2013/jul/25/teaching-test-it-can-work-kids/. Here is someone proud of "teaching to the test." First, with all due respect, it is impossible to teach to the SAT and ACT. If it were, surely there would be hundreds if not thousands more National Merit Scholarship students. Yes, you can give me vocabulary instruction; I recommend a basic root word and affix approach with Greek and Latin, something I would do for my middle school kids (though not through a "system" nor an "interactive game" which this author has created and, I assume, sells). But that is not my basic quarrel with this piece.
Here is the piece that made me want to scream (I opted to walk away from the computer and read instead until I was calm and rational again): "Many English teachers spend most classroom time talking about literature instead of teaching reading and writing. Their classes are run like book clubs, and while book clubs are wonderful social constructs, they are not what should be conducted in our schools." Here is someone who does not really understand the purpose of classrooms where kids read and write in authentic ways. She believes it is to some sort of social construct that has not validity in the real world. I guess she does not see this as "college and career ready." How sad, because I see this as getting kids ready to become lifelong learners. You see, those who love reading and writing are more likely to engage in it without the push of standardized tests. They will read and write as adults. They will be literate members of society. There is absolutely NO evidence that suggests that the teach to the test approach works. In fact, if NAEP is to be believed, it is a miserable failure.
But, wait, there is more (does this sound like a cheesy commercial for a product you do not need one of let alone two?). At the end, we have this sentence: "The maelstrom of educational decline can be staunched and it begins in the English classes in every school in America because that is where reading and writing is taught, so that is where thinking is learned." I actually agree with the latter half of the sentence (the first half is a mixed metaphor that confounds me, hence the photo of Scout above). However, I need to reword it a bit: "Reading and writing is ONE of the places where thinking is ENCOURAGED."
When we share books with kids (in the social construct this author sneers at, BTW), we encourage thinking, reflection. Writing can do the same. For instance, there are folks whose blogs I read every single day. Postings at the Nerdy Book Club (nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/), Katherine Sokolowski's blog (readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com), and the blog Mr. Schu (http://mrschureads.blogspot.com/) maintains to name just 3. They inspire me to read and to write, but most importantly, the encourage me to THINK. Read these folks and see how they do it because, you know what?: this is how they do it with their kids as well. It IS a social construct, one that creates a COMMUNITY of readers, the kids I want to become college students, the ones I want to become the next generation of thoughtful employees.
I do not want to diminish the obvious passion of the author of this article/essay. I do, however, want to request that she stop criticizing other teachers who prefer a different approach, who understand that test scores are numbers and kids are people.