In the article, “I’m Not Stupid”: How Assessment Drives (In)Appropriate Reading Instruction, by Danielle V. Dennis, standardized testing results and frequent misuses of those results are analyzed with better suggestions made for their use. The title is derived from a comment that was made by a student to the author. Dennis apparently took the comment to heart, and rightfully so. She is working with middle school students who do not want to be treated like children reading from young children’s readers that are obviously geared towards the second or third grade student. In many cases, as she demonstrates in her article, it is not even necessary. There are better ways to help these students who are struggling with their reading improve their skills.
Dennis states that all students who do not do well on the state assessment may not need intervention. They may have just not tested well. Additionally, she also believes that for those that did not test well, all students do not need the same level or types of intervention. Instead, they should receive a battery of tests to specifically identify the target areas where they are in need of intervention and it is those specific areas where the concentrated efforts to assist them should be made. Additionally, these students need to be treated as the middle school students that they are when they are receiving their remediation. Reading from readers that are on a subpar grade level is insulting. Instead, reading from grade appropriate text material that is written to cover their subject matter but also on their reading level will enable them to enhance their reading skills while being treated with dignity and respect.
Although Dennis has many suggestions that are positive and praiseworthy, they are not always practical in school districts where the dollars just are not there to implement her strategies. In impoverished school districts, there is not enough staff, including instructional aides, to have three or four or five different reading groups in a given grade level to work on different skill sets. Even though I can see the benefits of this situation, it just is not possible or practical to have five different groups simultaneously occurring with adequate supervision and support so that each student can have only their own problem areas reinforced.
It would be nice to have the supports in place that Dennis discusses. It is true that all children deserve this support. It is true that No Child Left Behind calls for this type of support. But, in reality, school budgets in many districts do not support these types of specialized services. Teachers see the benefits. Taxpayers either do not see them or simply do not have the money to pay for them. It is often not a case of not wanting to help the children succeed, but an inability of being able to pay for the services needed to help the children succeed to the best of our ability. Instead, teachers do the best they can as teachers with the resources that are available.
Using the program that Dennis demonstrates, teachers would be able to target each student’s areas of weakness and use their current texts and other instructional strategies to focus on these specific areas to increase their understanding and comprehension in these areas. Students would be able to be retested so teachers could see how well they are improving and make any necessary adjustments. Students would most likely thrive in this type of supportive environment. The supportive services they would be receiving would be individually created to target the areas that in which each student needed to improve. It would be beneficial to all students if they lived in areas that offered such supportive services. Unfortunately, this is not the case for too many students in this affluent country.
Dennis, D. V. (2009). “I’m not stupid”: How assessment drives (in)appropriate reading
instruction. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 53(4). P. 283-290.