Sunday, April 27, 2008

Assessment Tests

The purpose of this blog is to share interesting ideas I have found in American professional publications dealing with the teaching of English at all levels, elementary, secondary and college.

Topic: Assessment Tests

Title: “Are Assessment Data Really Driving Middle School Reading Instruction? What We Can Learn from One Student’s experience.” Danielle V. Dennis. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (April 2008), 578-587.

Summary: Author suggests that teachers receive much data from assessment tests, but they really do not understand the meaning or use of that data. We need to help teachers fully understand and learn how to use the data from assessment tests: “Teachers must be trained not only to understand the results of tests but also to make curricular decisions based on those results.” p. 588.

[Comments: I’ll never forget a very short little article by Morton Botel of the University of Pennsylvania in one of the journals of the International Reading Association. I’ll have to paraphrase because I can’t recall the specific diagnostic tests to which he refers. Botel said that reading specialists use many diagnostic tests to gather much detail about the reading problems of students, but whatever data they find, they always use the same materials to remediate them: The SRA reading series. The SRA reading series consists of cards with stories and questions. Each card is a generic “read-the-passage-and-answer-the-questions” technique that has little to do with the specific information found by the reading specialist after hours of testing.

I worked for many years with reading psychologists; I found the same thing true. The psychologists spent hours and hours diagnosing problems, and the methods for dealing with those problems were usually some standard useless techniques like playing a game of “Go Fish.”

I disagreed with Dr. Botel many times during my career—he doesn’t know it and couldn’t care less—but I salute him for his making clear that the medical approach to reading problems through diagnosis and remediation was a fraud. Botel’s article was both hilarious and devastating. RayS.]

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