Download PDF What Every Elementary Teacher Needs to Know About Reading Tests: (From Someone Who Has Written Them)

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What Education Schools Aren't Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning

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Instead, these teachers believed that good instruction, rich instruction, would lead to enhanced test performances. The data bore out their beliefs. It was in the less-effective teachers' classrooms that we observed as part of our sub-study that we found much test preparation activity. It seems that less-effective teachers truly don't know what to do and, as a result, drift towards the use of packaged test-preparation activities in the hopes that such activities will make up for less-effective teaching throughout the year.

One danger in reducing complex activity to a bulleted list of key features is that such deconstructing risks oversimplifying the true complexity of the expert activity. Such seems the case here. While the six Ts offer a shorthand, of sorts, for describing exemplary elementary grades teaching, they also oversimplify the complex nature of good teaching.

For instance, the six Ts actually operate interactively. That is, it doesn't seem likely that we could choose a single T to isolate and attempt to develop teaching that reflects that T alone. If we want, for instance, to substantially enhance the volume of reading that children do and I would argue that is but one absolutely necessary modification needed if we hope to enhance reading proficiency , it would seem important that children had books they could read and choices as to which books they would read.

Likewise, crafting a supportive conversational environment where students talk to their teacher and to their peers about the books they are reading would be an important component for sustaining increased reading. And, of course, adding active teaching of useful reading strategies would expand the array of books that children could read. Finally, shifting the evaluation to an effort and improvement scheme would foster enhanced motivation for reading. In other words, creating and supporting exemplary teaching of the sort we observed is complicated.

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What Every Elementary Teacher Needs to Know About Reading Tests | Stenhouse Publishers

But it seems unfortunate that so many of the exemplary teachers we studied were forced to "teach against the organizational grain. They had to reject scripted lessons and pacing schedules and grading schemes that presented a "one-size-fits-all" model for instruction. They too often had to search out appropriate instructional texts and materials on their own because the school or district provided lots of copies of but one text and often that text was neither of appropriate difficulty for most students and rarely offered accurate and engaging information of the sort that might work to entice students into sustained and effortful study.

Worse, in too many cases, these teachers were forced to spend their own funds to purchase the materials they needed to teach the students they were assigned. Good teaching, exemplary teaching, should not be so hard to accomplish. Schools and school districts must assume more responsibility in crafting instructional and curricular support so that exemplary teaching becomes more common and requires far less effort.

Good teaching should not have to work against the organizational grain. In closing, I will note that few of these exemplary teachers much credited their school districts for the development of their expertness. Some pointed to administrators who allowed them to experiment, encouraged them to "break the mold" and told them not worry about test scores or following the organizational plan. But most credited other exemplary teachers for supporting and encouraging them to become better teachers and to assume greater professional responsibility for the success of their students.

These teachers seemed to understand that personal professional responsibility rested on the fact that they chose how to teach, what to teach, and with what sorts of curricular materials and tasks. They seemed to feel no particular pressure from state testing schemes, perhaps because their students performed so well.

At the same time, because they were the architects of the instruction offered in their classrooms, they also reported a greater sense of personal professional responsibility for student outcomes. In other words, these teachers accepted the professional responsibility for developing high levels of reading proficiency, but insisted on the autonomy to act on their expertise McGill-Franzen, Educational leaders might do well to consider the nature of the instruction these teachers offered.

They might do well to ask whether current school policies seem likely to foster this sort of teaching.

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  8. They might ponder how the organizational plan, including the professional development opportunities and the curricular schemes, currently work to foster or undermine the emergence of exemplary elementary classroom teaching. In the end, enhanced reading proficiency rests largely on the capacity of classroom teachers to provide expert, exemplary reading instruction. Our study of these exemplary teachers suggests that such teaching cannot be packaged. Exemplary teaching is responsive to children's needs not regurgitation of a common script.

    However, the contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the sponsor. Adams, M. Beginning to read: Thinking and earning about print. Allington, R. The reading instruction provided readers of differing abilities.