In response to the 3/13/13 post, “The Common Assessment Process – Part 3,” a long time LYSer writes:

SC,

I had an interesting discussion about the implementation of common assessments and benchmarks with a state literacy expert.  What is abundantly clear is that the STAAR and EOC assessments are more than ever, reading literacy assessments. 

Students find themselves more challenged by the rigor and complexity of the assessments as the supported level of reading competency is progressively decreased from grade level to grade level.  How we got away from literacy, both academic and life literacy, and the development of interdisciplinary vocabularies is beyond me.  But, the fact remains that we have isolated core content areas from each other in a desire to specialize, especially at the secondary level. The impact of this can be seen in the urging of the use of common assessments as benchmarks. 

I tried to make the point that it is difficult to administer Social Studies assessments at the high school level when the assessments are built to specific literacy levels.  The same is true for all other content areas.  Complicating this reality, especially at campuses and districts that are working to dig out of being academically unacceptable because student performance is not at grade level, is the desire to administer benchmarks in lieu of common assessments. Testing students on the entirety of the content prior to the material being introduced seems detrimental to the learning process.  Such benchmarks do not focus on the supporting standards required and the pre-supporting standards that may not have been mastered either.  I have to wonder if we are actually caught in the eddy of assessed illiteracy, with no diagnostic or recommended response.

SC Response An excellent, reasoned extension of the discussion. 

I have to agree with your initial concern/observation.  If the rigor of an assessment is increased, that increased rigor necessitates increased literacy competency.  Which means that literacy instruction and support must be scaffolded, PK-12.  Which as we all know, isn’t the case.  This isn’t a new need.  The experts have been preaching this since I was in the classroom (very early 90’s).  In the long run, this situation can be corrected without a lot of effort (in fact the solution actually reduces the work stress loads for most teachers).  But the solution is rarely implemented because it looks slightly different from what we have always done.

In the short-run, at the secondary level (where you work) here is 80% solution. Start reading more, especially in ELA and Social Studies.  Start writing more, in all subject areas.  Start having students talk more, about what they have read, done, wrote about and/or will write about. Do this every day in every class.  Then with your short-term assessments, do your trend analysis and tackle the deepest hole and the deepest gap.  Don’t worry about the “bubble / almost got it” items.  You don’t have time to fix everything, all the time, so don’t try.  Instead make a purposeful baby step every day, every class. This adds up and the gaps will close.  But the expectation that one can fix years of deficits quick and easy is either a pipe dream or selective recruitment.   

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…

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