Saturday, March 14, 2015
Saturday Sayings: Test Prep
All kindergarten through third grade students in my state take a timed reading test at least two times a year called the IRI (Idaho Reading Indicator). By the end of first grade, my students are expected to read at least 53 words per minute on the IRI. The numbers all these little people produce form this test have much clout at the state level with dollar signs, reprimands, parental anxiety, and media attention attached.
As with anything that drizzles down from the state level, there are rules and regulations that don't always make sense to those of us in the classroom. For example, there's a certain window they call it, when our kids can take the test, and this year our window is around mid-April instead of its normal home of mid-May. In fact, the first window they assigned us was in early April, which was changed to a few weeks later after much begging and pleading.
With a state test in the near future, arriving sooner than normal, I'm certain teachers are feeling the heat. I've for sure got a few readers who could use an extra few weeks of instruction under their belts before being asked to read 53 words per minute. It's safe to say all classrooms have those kids, and their scores will greatly matter to someone, somewhere, resulting in teachers who feel the stress. I get it. Even though I view this assessment with a grain of salt, I'd like my scores to reflect well on my instruction too, but bringing out the stop watch and random reading passages isn't the way to go. That tactic might or might not improve scores, but it for sure won't teach them anything about being more strategic readers. My goal for these learners is quality instruction and authentic practice. Will they get to 53 words per minute by mid-April? Maybe. Maybe not, but they will have learned something long-lasting along the way.