Last week, Caroline took her first standardized test. For four days, her mornings were full of reading and writing passages and multiple choice questions. Fortunately, all the children came out of the testing feeling confident in their performance. Many of them, my daughter included, rather liked the week because it meant no homework.
However, Caroline hadn’t felt so positive in the weeks leading up to the testing. Precisely because our amazing school has a fantastic reading and writing program, the students required explicit instruction in test taking. For example, the students needed to learn how to write a passage in 30 minutes not over days as they, and real writers, often do.
One night, the week before the test, through tears, Caroline said, “Mom. Reading and writing used to be fun. Now it’s not at all.”
I feel relatively lucky because our school takes only a few weeks out of the year for test preparation. There are many schools in our nation, those at risk of failing, who are forced to spend nearly their entire year prepping their students for state tests. These students have no sense of comparison between the good days of reading and the bad. It is all bad.
I had almost blocked this whole terrible conversation out of my mind, when the latest copy of Language Arts, a journal of the National Council of Teachers of English arrived yesterday. Within it’s covers is an article titled, “Reclaiming Pleasure in the Teaching of Reading.”
Something seems pretty obvious to me. If we don’t change something about our education system, and change it fast, we are at risk. We are at risk of losing a generation of teachers and worse, a generation of readers and writers.
Big huge sigh.