Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Testing, used properly, can lay the groundwork for success for all (The Vancouver Sun, 18 Mar 2009, Page A11)

... better still, so can lots of reading! This blog post allows me to expound on my thoughts exactly on assessment for learning in school libraries, whether you like it or not!

Geoff Johnson, a frequent educational editorial contributor to The Vancouver Sun Op Ed page, is a former colleague from my very first years in New Westminster as a teacher of English. In light of the comments of some of our colleagues that emerged from the recent BCTF AGM, I do very much appreciate the perspective from which Geoff's article (below) comes.

In schools, we teach children and everything we do is about building their chances of success. And aren't you glad that we teacher-librarians work in the best place in the school to stimulate the love of words, that we don't have to administer spelling tests, for example, or deal with zeroes and speculate on curricular dumbing-down -- rather, we know that assessment for learning (AFL) in our space means knowing each child well enough that you have no difficulty finding "just the right book for just the right child at just the right time."

Please read Meredyth`s lateliteracy blog this week (Teacher-librarians, April 4) as she describes the delight with which she viewed our Pam of Waverly in a frenzy of matching books and kids. To my Literacy colleagues I do need to ask, can you see it? Are there those places where you see classrooms committed to reading by using the school library program and you know that success in that building hinges on the relationships that have been developed to promote the love and culture of reading. Thanks, Meredyth, for this description. Oh, and for posting the very cool poster of Obama in the library.

Thanks, Meredyth, for this description of our super-colleague. Oh, and for posting the very cool poster of Obama in the library which I am blatantly borrowing because he belongs here too.

We know, and would love someone like Geoff Johnson to write about this phenomenon called school library, where reading improves with reading, and reading also improves spelling, vocabulary, grammar, writing ... well, Krashen argues this best, and I am preaching to the converted here! But for all the Ministry-driven rhetoric about improving literacy and student achievement, it still amazes me that decades of research correlating strong school library programs and student success, as well as free voluntary reading and student success, are ignored as we continue to face erosion of our capacity to administer the treatment that works best. Did I see a report that literacy scores are down, Mr Gorman? Stephen Krashen has something to say about that. Hello, is there anyone over there?

I am reminded of Krashen`s question: What, he asked metaphorically, if there was a country experiencing a drought and famine, and the experts deemed that the children there needed painful and expensive surgery? Everyone would say, no, feed them! Similarly, children don’t need painful and expensive intensive phonics programs (and perhaps I can add, more testing), they need books!

If you need to re-read about Krashen and his work, check my summary of his talk at the IASL conference in Berkeley this summer (Fall 2008 Bookmark, pp 10-11). And, Geoff, you were there in New West when Hooked on Books was what drove our instruction in English. I'll be in touch! Read Geoff Johnson (Sun, 18 March 2009) below ... .

Testing, used properly, can lay the groundwork for success for all
The Vancouver Sun
18 Mar 2009

It was 1968 and like every “ newbie” teacher in New South Wales, Australia, I was subject to inspection by a state-appointed inspector. And I wasn’t doing well. Grade 12 English in those days still included the teaching of spelling — thought to be more...

Assessment for learning not รข€�dumbing down’

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