Recently, I’ve made some (what I would hope to be perceived as) gentle (though utterly failed) attempts to coax my colleagues into a discussion about what I see as our confused priorities when it comes to reading education.
Beginning with the premise that “What gets measured gets done,” I have shared my observations that our measurement focus seems to be on Short Run goals totally ignoring the Long Run.
Long run goals are the whole point of working on the Short Run in the first place…unless we don’t really care about the Long Run…or worse, don’t even actually know that there IS a Long Run.
At no point have I suggested that the Short Run goals of teaching children what goes into learning HOW to read is not important. It surely is, but more so in what I refer to as the Short Run (once again, as measured by the yearly tests) than in the Long Run (which doesn’t seem to get measured at all). This singular goal, the ultimate goal of reading instruction, is for children to actually BECOME lifelong, joyful readers.
In my view, that ultimate goal of avid reading, should command the balance of our attention as parents and educators. It is this goal that is the WHY we shape and guide our teaching children the skills and strategies of HOW to read. However, I defy you to find much conversation about this disparity at all. It doesn’t get measured, so it doesn’t get done.
Tests, the testing of reading, and the scores from those tests are constant and ubiquitous topics of attention in the media and in the minds of teachers and parents. Reading skills are being taught constantly and so they must be, given our assessment focus. However, my concern is that we are so busy working to boost test scores, we are forgetting WHY we are so interested in them.
That Long Run goal of avid reading, should command the balance of our attention as parents and educators. It is that goal that should shape and guide in some ways how we approach the Short Run of teaching children the skills and strategies of HOW to read. However, I defy you to find much conversation or writing about this relationship at all.
There are a frightening percentage of children who CAN read “just well enough” for no one to actually notice, that they DON’T read … at all. Think about children who were dragged to piano lessons that actually did learn to play, but then never really wanted to, or athletes who were pulled into playing their father’s favorite sport but would really rather be involved in something else. We are clearly capable of focusing on the height of individual trees while our forest remains less than healthy.
In a 2007 report from the National Endowment of the Arts* a 2002 statistic showed that “Nearly half of all Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure.” That was down 12% from their 1992 figure … and 2002 was a dozen years ago.
If we accept that the Short Run is important only in service to success in the Long Run, then we must accept that ignoring that relationship has at least in part contributed to what brought us to where we are.
How and when do we measure THIS inauspicious accomplishment?