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Assessment & evaluation

What about those weekly tests that come with our core reading program?

Teacher question:

Our core reading program includes weekly assessments. We are all supposed to give those tests every week, but to tell the truth, it is kind of hit or miss. The tests don’t seem to be linked to our accountability test, but our reading coordinator says that we have to do weekly testing if we are going to use the program “with fidelity.” What do you think?

Shanahan's response: 

I get what you want us not to do, but what should we do? Getting higher test scores.

Teacher question:
 
I truly want to help teachers strengthen their literacy instruction and students develop and strengthen their reading comprehension. I just viewed your online presentation on “How and How Not to Get Higher Test Scores” and I am intrigued. With only a few short months away from the testing frenzy as you can imagine administrators and teachers are in a panic.
 

Further Arguments About Too Much Testing

I hear you.

Last week I posted a blog challenging the amount of testing and test preparation in American reading classes. I got smacked, metaphorically, by friend and foe alike. Some posted their concerns, many more sent them to me directly.

Welcome 2017: Let’s Teach, Not Test

I believe in being upfront with my readers, so let me start with a confession: I don’t hate testing.

I know it is a horrible thing for a so-called “educator” to admit. It’s sort of a social disease.

Why an Overemphasis on Foundational Reading Skills Isn't Healthy for Kids

Principal's question:

District leadership has advised primary teachers to focus on the Foundational Skills Strand, and de-emphasize the other strands. The belief is that if students go into Grade 3 having mastered foundational skills, they will be prepared to master the rigor of the other strands.

How Can Reading Coaches Raise Reading Achievement?

Teacher question: I have just been hired as a reading coach in a school where I have been a third-grade teacher. My principal wants me to raise reading achievement and he says that he’ll follow my lead. I think I’m a good teacher, but what does it take to raise reading achievement in a whole school (K-5) with 24 teachers?
 
Shanahan's response:
 
It’s easy. Just do the following 9 things:

1. Improve leadership

On Teaching Nonsense Words

Lil Wayne can do rap, but he’d definitely be out of place at a Gospel Convention, sort of like a love affair with a happy ending in a Taylor Swift lyric.

So what’s out of place in reading education?

My nominee is the act of teaching kids to read nonsense words. Don’t do it. It doesn’t belong (it may even be worse than orange and green together).

Why, you might ask, would anyone teach nonsense words? I attribute this all-too-common error to a serious misunderstanding of tests and testing.

Opting Your Kid Out? Part 2

Last week, I wrote about the value of the information parents receive when their kids take common — or standardized — assessments.

Opting Your Kid Out? It Means Opting Out of Being a More Informed Parent

Some kids tell their parents everything that goes on in school.

At least, that’s what I’ve heard. My kids certainly never did. My older daughter, in particular, considered school to be her domain.

She established my outsider status her first day of nursery school, when I went to pick her up. Excited to hear about everything she had done, I asked her how her day went. Her response: “None of your business,” or something to that effect.

What Phonological Awareness Skill Should We Be Screening?

Teacher question: I read a research study (Kilpatrick, 2014) that questions the value of segmentation tests for measuring phonemic awareness, because such tests did not correlate well with first- and second-grade reading achievement. At our school we have used DIBELS in Kindergarten and Grade 1 to identify children at risk for reading difficulties. Is this really useful or are we identifying kids as needing help when they do not? Should we be using measures of blending and manipulation instead?
 
Shanahan's response:

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"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables