Books are Enough

The Power of Free, Self-Selected Reading

You DON’T Master Literacy Standards

DATA obsessed apparatchiks and common core lovers are obsessed with the incorrect belief that literacy standards can be “mastered.” How arrogant. Teachers are often asked to keep massive DATA notebooks on scores and scores of skills that students are to master. If a student scores 85% 44% 71% and 65% on skill assessments- did they master them?  The DATA minders will ask us to assign an arbitrary percentage to determine mastery. Maybe they will tell us 80% is mastery. Huh?

As we know- reading is an “in the head” process. When someone tells me a student is having problems with a certain skill- let’s say “cause and effect”- I giggle. If I ask the student why they were late to school today I will get an answer. Interest, text difficulty, and other factors all influence how students perform. 

Students- and adults- are always adjusting to text. The idea of mastery is simply a way to justify diverting millions more to testing and test prep materials. We should be allowing students access to books and the time to read them so they can see how things work. Sometimes in both fiction and non-fiction text there is no cause revealed for an event. It is up to the reader to debate, think, and explore possibilities. This is what literacy is about- THINKING. 

The idea of standards mastery shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the way reading works. Good heavens! I got 70% on my skills tests. I am terrible huh? Stop killing the love of reading with this attack on readers. Get out of my head! Let me read and become more sophisticated as I go.

More valuable than standards testing would be book discussions. Talking about what you read has been shown to increase comprehension. All that matters is if you understand what is on the page. Students looking at DATA folders is utterly futile and BORING. Many states want students to spend hours tracking their progress on endless assessments. I know a teacher who was held up as wizard for her great DATA notebook. Of course her kids hated reading. My DATA notebook has one page. It lists the names of students and how many books they have read. Seeing a student go from ZERO or one book in middle school to over 40 book in just one year is what matters. Funny, but avid readers who have been reading since early on- usually do great on testing, in school, and in college. They also have a life activity that exercises the mind and is fun.

Students growing up in poverty rarely have access to books at home – much less the time to read. When schools fail to correct this it is a crime. Sadly, federal, state, and local policies that lead to the spending of billions on packaged programs – are felonies.

Can I please read now and not have to worry about answering insipid questions?

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