Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Testing is Not Teaching" Reading Instructions

Our first reading discussion is scheduled for the day one of the institute. As you read Testing Is Not Teaching, select a line (or two) that strikes a chord with you and/or deserves discussion. In a comment to this post, record the line(s) and a brief response to it. We will use these responses to frame our discussion on June 24.

Happy reading!


  1. "Testing is Not Teaching" -- this title gave me pause, because, hadn't we learned that assessment informs instruction? Why are we testing? What is our purpose if not to inform instruction?

    According to Graves, much of our standardized testing was initiated after we passed the National Defense Education Act (after Sputnik) and continued after publication of "A Nation at Risk." We have continued here in Maine with the Maine Learning Results, the Core Curriculum Standards and the STEM initiative with what Graves calls "top down management approaches" to testing our children.

    My own reflections, after reading "Testing is Not Teaching" have made me realize that if I am honest with myself, I assess students not only to inform my instruction to meet individual learning pathways, but, like an earlier version of Donald Graves, to validate the efficacy of my pedagogy for others including parents, administrators as well as to answer the voices in my head still ringing from ETEP that shout "assessment informs instruction."

    Now I have added to those voices the voice of Donald Graves who talks of sharing power in kairos moments with the most important evaluators in the room -- the students themselves.

    I want to continue assessing with long-form essay questions and performance evaluation more often than selected response questions, and I want to give my student-evaluators a larger role in assessing their own writing and performance. I am on the right track involving them in complex thinking skills --- engaging them by appealing to their interests which may involve more motorcycle and snowmobile poetry than that of Frost--- but I can nonetheless improve my game by giving them more time to answer, to write, to reflect, and to self-assess, revise, and self-assess yet again.

    Just as prescription without diagnosis is malpractice in medicine, instruction without assessment is misguided pedagogy. We need to use all four of Stiggins' assessment models including long-form essay and performance evaluation, and we need to include the most important evaluators in each individualized diagnosis. Children are good learners. Left alone they will learn on their own. If we spend all our time with one-dimensional instruction "teaching to (standardized) tests" we get in the way of their learning processes. We want to be part of the process, our job is to help our children to learn to think.

    Alan Cartwright

  2. In Testing Is Not Teaching, Donald Graves discusses the importance of citizens contributions to a democracy: “Democracies depend on the quality of their citizens’ thinking. He goes on to say “One of the best ways to develop solid thinkers early on is by asking children to think clearly in writing” (p.58).

    A familiar path that one has taken before is an easier approach than the path one has never traveled. As a high school English teacher, I think it important to model such writing. “We cannot build a nation of educated people who can communicate effectively without teachers and administrators who value, understand, and practice writing themselves,” instructs Carl Nagin in Because Writing Matters (p.60)

    Recently, I brought the issue of The Eisenhower Memorial to the attention of my students. Fourteen years ago, Congress appropriated 68 million dollars for its design and construction, awarded to architect Frank Geary. Since that time, 34 million dollars have been spent, but no shovel has been turned, and debate about its design still rages.

    Using two essays, testimony before Congress by Susan Eisenhower who opposes the Geary design, a model editorial, as well as pictures of the proposed monument and grounds, students are studying the issues and researching the life of Eisenhower from boyhood to General and leader during World War II, to the accomplishments of his Presidency. It will not end their, because it is important, I believe, to make them accustomed to having their voices heard.

    The students are excited, and eager to write a letter to Senator Angus King to discuss their perspectives as young people who will inevitably be the ones who visit the memorial with their children. They are also inheriting the debt we baby boomers have created, and are eager to voice their perspectives with Senator King. I am confident that for many of these students, this is an important first step to making them comfortable with articulating their views to their elected representatives. They have been e-mailing me over the weekend, and hope to perhaps Skype with the Senator!

    Many of the students have commented to me that they were not sure of their viewpoint until they actually began writing. As the title of this chapter states, this is “What Writing Does.”

  3. In Testing Is Not Teaching, Donald Graves says the following about the way testing is currently designed: “our current assessments are only interested in the quick thinkers. With the stakes for students, teachers, and school systems thus fixed, we bend our instruction to both raise and identify one kind of thinker” (54). I suppose I was most struck by this chapter on long vs. quick thinking because I am by nature a long thinker, which is probably why I have always gravitated toward the subject of English. Many of my students are long thinkers as well and need time to process ideas and formulate questions.

    The process of reading and the process of writing take time and reflection. Graves mentions one of the challenges we face as teachers of reading: “the alliterate reader, a reader who can read but doesn’t. Until students read on their own, books have not become a part of their lives and the function of reading has not been understood” (45). I know this reader well; I see him in my classroom every year. I came into teaching at the height of the No Child Left Behind initiative, and I can’t help but wonder if he is a byproduct of the push for meeting standards and improving test scores.

    I agree with Graves in that if we want students to be better readers, we need to teach them how to make reading a part of their lives; then, we teach them how to demonstrate what they are learning through the literature they have selected in a way that is meaningful and authentic. I think we teach this in the classroom already. The question is how to make this a part of how they are assessed in state and national assessment.

    Quick thinking skills are important. There is no doubt that my students will face scenarios where they need to problem solve in the moment and be able to react to situations quickly. There is a place for quick thinking in the English classroom. However, when it comes to assessing what they really know about reading and writing, I much prefer Donald Graves’s model of reading and writing assessment, which would give students the power to reflect, create, and think deeply on a topic that is meaningful to them.

  4. The two quotes that struck a chord with me in the book Testing is not Teaching by Donald Graves were, "In reality, most of the tests the children take are really assessing the teachers." (page 19) and "standardized tests have build in failure rates of roughly 18 percent." (page 21) I work as a resource room ELA teacher and most of my students have difficulty on standardized tests due to their reading and writing difficulties. Whether or not the test is really assessing my teaching, I always feel under the gun when my students have to take these tests. In addition, administrators have let the special education teachers know that our population is not progressing as fast as they should, even though our students have made gains every year, just not as fast as required. However, if the tests have a built in failure rate of 18 percent, I wonder if it is possible for our students to meet the administrator's expectations.

    My students are one to two years behind in reading, and they struggle to write. Before my students can be successful in most standardized tests they will need to be able to read, interpret questions, and be able to write a clear written response. For my students to be successful they will need to have a lot of writing practice. After researching schools with successful writing programs, Donald Graves writes, "effective change took from five to eleven years and heavy investments were made in inservice that emphasized developing local expertise." (page 52) With the push to get students proficient in standardized testing and the realization that it will take many years for a school to have a successful writing program, I wonder if it will be too late for my students.

  5. I was skeptical when I started reading this because I feared this book would be an attempt to reduce one man’s observations about teaching into neat little packaged essays. Turns out I was partly right. In the acknowledgements (I know, it’s weird that I read those, but for some reason I did for this book) Graves explains that his book is modelled on another collection of pithy essays about medicine. This is a great format for the writer himself--it allows him to capture his ideas in snapshot form and frame his different experiences neatly. The problem for the reader is that as soon as the essay begins, it’s over, and sometimes it felt like the writer was just looking for conclusions instead of expanding upon his arguments. Some of the pieces end with a call to action that rang a little hollow to me. I was hoping for even more concrete examples of alternatives to testing.

    There were a few gems in here, though:

    “Good teaching means showing students how to read their work in relation to what they are trying to say (31)”. I would also add that good teaching helps the student determine how well she meets the criteria of a particular assignment. I no longer coldly attach rubrics to any formal writing assessments and actually expect that kids are reading them. Instead, we look carefully at the rubric, checklist, or whatever scoring method is supplied, and together we figure out what needs to be done in order to get their ideas across. I guess this seems to fly in the face of the book’s entire premise, that authentic writing is not bound by criteria. But I find that when I give my students a frame, and a goal, they produce good writing. I also want them to be able to follow the parameters of an assignment, because this is good practice for the parameters they will inevitably be forced into as adults. In some ways I might be trying to subvert the whole testing craze by helping my students learn to play the game that is school and at the same time improve their ability to clearly express in writing “what they are trying to say.”

  6. One of the lines that stood out to me was “The teacher has to be the chief learner in the classroom.” My teaching experience is a bit different from most people; I taught fourth and fifth grade for eight years directly out of college. Then I stayed home with my children and worked different part time positions in education for 12 years. I am now an ed tech in a third grade classroom and a resource room. Therefore, my perspective on this quote has definitely changed over the years. When I had my own classroom, I felt more like a director than a learner. I led the class in directed reading groups and writing mini lessons. Sometimes I used students’ work for the mini lessons, but I usually just took the skill needed from their writing.

    Now that I have returned to school, I am learning how I need to model reading and writing with my own pieces. I understand that I not only have to know of good books to suggest, I must read the books also to understand which books will be best for certain students. Using the philosophy of being the chief learner brings you to a new level of intellectual intimacy. The students develop more of a trust and respect for you. When you write, you are able to understand their frustrations with writing. When you share your pieces, you feel the students’ vulnerability. Students become your teachers. For me, being the chief learner adds a new facet to the role of the educator.

    1. I loved reading your post. Half way through the school year, I started writing in front of the students. The enthusiasm and the way they looked at me changed after that first lesson where I wrote a narrative and thought out loud through it. I honestly think it was the first time they saw a teacher think out loud through the process...and struggle. After that, the students had no problem opening up to me and talking to me about their struggles as a writer. When the students see their teacher as a learner as well, it does open up a whole new facet.

  7. June 11, 2013

    When I sent out an email to our staff asking if anyone had a copy of Testing Is Not Teaching," I received a few responses back from folks asking what class I was reading this text for, and if I did purchase it, could they read it next. Definitely the concern about over-testing is a rather widespread one for many folks.

    Recently a former teacher from Falmouth High School returned from two years teaching in China. I know we keep hearing in the states about how the Chinese are overtaking us in mathematics and science, but listening to this young man speak about what it is like to attend a school in China definitely confirmed for me that we don’t want to model our educational program on what the Chinese are doing. During Graves chapter entitled “The Freedom Factor,” he writes that “If you accommodate diversity within children and teachers, as well as the community, then the freedom factor has the best chance to produce what is best in America” (5). We need to stop focusing on teaching and assessing students in standardized fashions, and focus on allowing students to show us in diverse ways what they are passionate about and what they know. China is all about standardization. There is too little creativity, problem solving, or passion being exhibited in China’s schools. Routinely, students in Mr. Paul’s class were pulled from creative electives- the few that were offered- to study for exams. Routinely, students would cheat on exams or lie in their college application essays in order to achieve a certain score or be accepted by a certain institution.

    As much as possible, I ask my students to develop a personal response to the issues we are investigating in English class. Students need to be able to connect to situations, they need to be able to put themselves in others’ shoes, and they need to be able to write with clarity and voice. I can teach parallel structure and subject-verb agreement until I am blue in the face, and maybe students will really get these concepts, but if they don’t have anything to say, then the power of writing is lost. We must nurture students to realize they have important ideas to share with the world, and writing is a powerful tool that can help them focus their thinking and then share their thoughts in an clear and meaningful manner.

    The goal of many Chinese students is to come to the states for higher learning, because they understand that our institutions push each and every student to identify problems, promote solutions, and hopefully impact the world in a positive way.

    Julie Blodgett

  8. Here are Christina's thoughts:

    Testing is Not Teaching....okay, full disclosure, when I first read the title, I was thinking, why exactly am I reading this? It's like preaching to the choir, as they say. Teachers worth anything so already know this mantra, and are in quite a bit of pain because of standardized testing these days. So, my thoughts were, seriously, have administrators, school board, the public read this book, not the teachers!

    I was stopped in my presumptive tracks though, on page one(no, really, page one) when, and I'm not sure comedy was intended here, I lost all reading composure with the line "If scores go up, this must mean children have become better readers." The line was so blatantly incorrect, I found it hilarious. Fortunately, the author had a more serious capacity than myself and proceeded to build solid arguments against the folly of constant testing in schools.

    Eventually, once I came upon kronos and kairos, the Greeks having two words for time, and then sentence that read..." Good teachers...know when to suspend kronos and enter into (a) teachable
    moment"... I realized I was not letting the book far from me any more. Clearly, the book was offering arguments to support teachers long suffering case against testing and it became my new desk side buddy. Maybe, it can be slipped into the administrators reading folder for the summer even...

  9. “…yesterday’s information becomes obsolete within a matter of weeks. This means that learners must constantly begin again…”

    A question on one of the intelligence tests that I administer asks a child about problems with rapid changes in science and technology. A “two point answer” will talk about both the unknown consequences of the new technology and the difficulty of adopting new information and practices into the institutions of our wider social community. Graves’ discussion of the necessary qualities in the 21st century learner makes me think about these concepts as they are playing out in educational institutions right now.

    The consequences of social networking and distracted consciousness are obvious risks that we worry about for teenagers, and there is really a whole new safety curriculum of considerations around just those immediate practices. On another level, I have heard some people suggest a link between submersion in technological tools and a failure to develop social skills like eye contact and conversational reciprocity that may account for some of the increase in diagnoses on the Autism Spectrum that has occurred in the recent decade. It was interesting to me to read the specific skills and personal qualities that Graves lists as essential to the 21st century learner: initiative, self-regulation, sensitivity, curiosity, ability to discriminate, and expressiveness. Many of these qualities as described make me think of “executive functions” of the brain (the way our brains orchestrate the discrete skills we have to produce higher level thinking and productivity). Interestingly, executive function deficits are characteristic of both autism and ADHD.

    The struggles and reluctance that many teachers that I know have had in adopting digital technology into the classroom are another illustration of the potential problems with rapid change. If the teacher stepping down from the expert chair to be the “chief learner” as writer is threatening, the prospect of the teacher being digitally illiterate in the midst of “digital native” students is immobilizing! I took a class last fall on digital literacy and there was a lot of discussion of whether digital literacy was a subset of overall literacy or a category in and of itself. I don’t know that the question was ever resolved in my mind, but I do have to say that change can bring out the best and worst of all of us. The speed of change that occurs now has so much to do with the opportunities that we have for communication. Even though it now has to share its place with the emoticon and snapchat, the written word is an ever vital tool for democratic communication... especially in 140 characters or less…. : )

  10. One of lines that stood out to me appeared on page 51- "My greatest concern is that teachers will look to the 'wisdom' of power and authority instead of down to the children who are the source of what needs to be taught."

    A teacher's job is to observe, reflect, and adapt. If we simply follow orders, school is not meaningful for children. Not only should we allow children to inform us about their needs, we also need to help them follow their passions. Their needs and passions sometimes do not match up with the standards or a set mandated curriculum.

    Maybe it's too late to debate the Common Core State Standards, but accepting them as the law of the land does not model democracy for our students. I find that some teachers are rule followers and are not willing to question or challenge this authority. Simply "doing what you're told" often leads to unhappy, disengaged children and uninspired teachers. If the answer to the question, "is this what's right for this student or group" is "no" then it doesn't matter where an edict came from in the hierarchy.

    Trusting the wisdom of teachers and students leads to true learning. It's great when the standards and the curriculum meet the needs of students, but force-feeding a mismatch leads to severe dissatisfaction. When making a choice to proceed in a manner that was not mandated, I like to ask this question- would I mind being on the cover of the newspaper because I was fired for doing this? If the answer is no, then I'm listening to my students and myself.

  11. When approaching the task of reading Testing is Not Teaching, I did so with reluctance. This was not the first book/article I've read about the downside of standardized testing. From years ago in ETEP and during my teaching experience, much time has been spent discussing how standardized testing is destroying education. I certainly do not feel that testing is a clear definition of a student or of the instructional practices of a teacher. However, I do know that I can't escape testing if I am going to teach in the public school system.

    On page 33, Graves discusses schools that emphasize test prep and in doing so take away from the vital classroom instruction. "Enormous amounts of time that should be spent in teaching are stolen by these preparation efforts...teachers need to teach the skills that will, in fact, make students better readers." I believe this is true. Yet, administrator after administrator has carved out time in the school day for teachers to run through test prep instruction approximately one month before the test is taken. My experience has been that only a small amount of instruction on multiple choice strategies is really needed. I do believe that if we instead focus on the skills and make students confident readers and writers, they'll become better test-takers and will score in the proficient range.

    Graves also states, "My greatest concern is that teachers will look up to the wisdom of power and authority instead of down to the children who are the source of what needs to be taught." I don't believe any of the teachers are blindly following authority and teaching to the test. Majority of us are trapped - forced to analyze and focus on test scores and then forced to look at what we're doing wrong and how that translates into student performance. We want to teach the curriculum, construct meaningful lessons, celebrate student successes and use our own means of assessment to determine student learning. We also want to see how our students are doing compared to others and to make sure they're learning what they need to. The problem is schools lose funding if the standardized scores aren't up to par; teachers are fired; the public condemns districts according to a state rating; and students begin to realize that the score is what matters.

    Graves wrote this text over 10 years ago hoping for change. I hate to say it but I believe it's become more of a high stakes game. Common Core will help in eliminating the "fill in the bubble" testing as it requires written responses. Maybe a step in the right direction?

    Since we can't get rid of standardized testing, we should definitely focus on what effective prep looks like (student focused, not test focused) and how we can incorporate it into our daily practices.

  12. There were many engaging and provocative passages I could have gone with but one that really stands out to me is one that resonates with my own practice because I have recently seen the power of the idea it raises. As he discusses the notion of function in education he states, "How can we prepare our children to become proficient in something if we haven't attached a personal sense of functional power to the act?" I have seen the magic of having students see the purpose in the work they are doing. We use the idea of authentic audiences who need to or have an interest in hearing what the students have to say on any given topic. We recently had them do an investigation into the "hidden history" of Malaga Island. The kids were so engaged and outraged by the topic. We had them write a piece of historical fiction that allowed them to be creative and also had the research teeth to it, as they had to use and cite at least 5 historical facts. The authentic audience piece came in when we held a "symposium"/"Public Reading" of excerpts from their historical fictions. We invited professors, authors, artists, and others who were "experts" in some way relating to Malaga Island, As well as anyone who was interested in learning more. We had students who had not completed any writing the whole year, get engaged and complete this piece with gusto. Students are clear-eyed in their questioning and have a healthy dose of cynism about what is being imposed upon them. If they believe there is a true function and purpose behind what they are doiing, they will more often than not do it to the best of their ability. Then we can really see what they may be capable of doing. Otherwise, all we see is a disaffected, seemingly apathetic or hostile student with little skills. I am still amazed at the power that this idea holds.

  13. I purchased "Testing is Not Teaching" several years ago when I was employed at a private/public school. At the time my school was considering whether or not to participate in State/District-wide testing. Being a private/public school afforded them the option to test or not to test. I will admit that I read only the first chapter or two and then put it aside; it didn't grab my attention for whatever reason. And well, my school opted out of testing. Well, I read it this time around....it was not as "bad" as I remembered!

    On page 34, Donald Grave writes, "Currently, we are testing what we value, quick thinking." At the bottom of the same page he asserts that an enormous amount of time is spent either preparing students for tests or taking them and that this has "displaced writing and original, long thinking and dulled our students' thinking edge. " Graves writes, on page 54, "Unfortunately, our current assessments are only interested in the quick thinkers....we bend our instruction to both raise and identify only one kind of thinker." The majority of students on my caseload are quick thinkers not by choice but rather by circumstance. Because they struggle with sustaining attention and effort needed to be a long thinker, my students are used to and respond better to multiple choice testing. That is not to say that the instruction in my classes or in their content area classes has been entirely compromised because it has not. I regularly ask my students to respond to a number of writing prompts reflectively. Although their progress is slow, their tolerance and effort for long thinking is improving. Admittedly, I believe that some students are conditioned to only expect questions geared to the quick (?impulsive) thinker and if we do not require both to be accomplished well, we are not effectively preparing our students. At our school, we are expected to design our instruction with rigor and relevance in mind. A balance between quick thinking exercises and opportunities for long thinking is a challenge that we all face.

  14. As a long time follower of the ever wise Donald Graves, I looked forward to reading "Testing is Not Teaching." It has special meaning for me now, since his passing in 2010. In this book, he once again reveals his deep understanding of how children learn and reminds educators of what is most important, as we currently teach in an era of standardized testing and accountability.

    While there are so many excerpts worth discussing, I found myself struck by the chapter, "The Child is the Most Important Evaluator." This is so true. "In fact, the student, who is closest to the work in progress, whether in reading, writing, math, or science, ought to be and is the most important evaluator." When this type of approach is valued and used with children, I have seen powerful results.

    At my school, we are now taking the time to unpack our learning targets with our students and we are creating "I Can..." statements that our young learners understand. It is so exciting to hear students articulate what they are learning and how they will demonstrate their learning around a particular learning target. The demonstration piece requires them to also be active with the assessment/evaluation piece, through rubrics, etc.

    I will be further exploring this topic of student centered learning and evaluating this summer, as I participate in a book club around Alan November's new book "Who Owns the Learning?".

    Thank you, Donald Graves, for continuing to inspire me!

    1. The chapter "The Child is the Most Important Evaluator" had an impact on me as well. I found that the best lessons I had this year were the ones where the students felt that they were in charge of their learning and they "owned it". I attempted to "unpack" the standards in writing this year and although I have a long way to go, I could see the impact already.

  15. I found Testing is Not Teaching to be an easy read because of the fire it sparked in me. I read it two days after school ended and I was fantasizing about sprinting back into school, throwing the office doors open (they are closed because of the air conditioning) and demanding a certain person to READ THIS (please)!! As a first year teacher I was shocked and sickened about the pressure and stress that Standardized Testing placed on the students and on me. I slowly realized that the “good teachers” are the ones that have the highest test scores. We took several workshop days this year analyzing NECAP data to see how many students reached goals, how many were “partially proficient”, and how you could raise their scores to a “proficient” level. My lowest point this year was when one of my students cried because she didn’t meet her “goal” on the NWEA test and I (fearful of my reputation and stressed to the max) told her that she should have taken more time on it. The look she gave me was haunting. I will never do that again.

    Here are some quotes that really spoke to me. It was hard to choose.

    “We are well on the road to eliminating the educational methods that have produced the best teachers, who in turn challenge the thinkers in their classrooms”(p.7).
    ~If the “good teachers” are the ones with high test scores- why wouldn’t I just teach to the test? (I never would, but just saying…)

    “What young children can’t handle, and is dangerous to their health, is the look on the faces of adults, the tone in their voices, as they evaluate the scores.” (p. 19)

    “In reality, most of the tests the children take are really assessing their teachers” (p. 19)

    “Enormous amounts of time that should be spent in teaching are stolen by these preparation efforts, which unfortunately entail handling short-answer questions, reading short-answer questions, reading short paragraphs, and filling in bubbles with the correct answer.” (p. 33)
    ~ What a disservice to my students if this is what I taught all year…

    “Such abilities are not assessed, because doing so is too expensive and because it is extremely difficult to compare them across populations. But does a particular ability or skill become less important just because it cannot be tested effectively?” (p. 38)
    ~ I was thinking this all year. What about the questioning, the curiosity, the voice, the love of learning that I tried to instill in these children all year long? Do these skills not matter because they can’t be tested?

    “Whatever can be more cheaply and easily scored by computer tends to be emphasized in instruction. Given the rewards attached to high-stakes testing, it is only natural that schools will try to match instruction to the test rather than emphasize qualities that contribute to longer-lasting learning.” (p. 44)
    ~So yes, I should give the administration at my school a little bit of a break. The pressure is coming from all over. But as a first year teacher, this was very hard to take in. It doesn’t have to be this way.

    “One of the major problems we have in the teaching of reading is the alliterate reader, a reader who can read but doesn’t. (p. 45).
    ~I am most proud of the students that have become TRUE readers. They start to steal moments of the day buried in their books. They beg me to continue the read-aloud. They get lost in the “reading zone” and don’t respond when a classmate calls their name. To instill a love of reading will carry them throughout life. These moments are my proud moments.

  16. It is easy to see that many of us are on the same wavelength by reading down through everyone's comments - many of the same passages rang true and gave me pause as well. I did find this book interesting and it began to start a fire about what I need to be doing differently in my classroom. There were many times I found myself highlighting, underlining, and jotting down notes in this book. Here's one area that struck me: "The compacted school day leads to sacrifices we may not recognize. When there is less time to teach and there are more frequent interruptions, we tend to teach by telling, "covering" a subject with short, snappy lectures." (p. 72). Every year there is more and more added to our plate - I would even venture to say daily. More extra curricular, organizing, curriculum, projects, assessments...Something always has to go when something new gets added, and we can't afford less time in any area, especially writing. I noticed this year with the addition of standards based work in our district and all the other demands, that writing is what got left behind. It wasn't until weeks before school got out that I realized that I didn't leave time for genuine, heart felt writing. Yes, we did write summaries, comparison papers, and we wrote a fairy tale, but I did not leave time for true choice writing. Time is such a huge factor in a school day already shortened by lunch, recess, specials, swish, special events, walking through the halls...We cannot afford to lose more time to writing when students already struggle with this area and don't see much value in it. I am happy to note that next year there are writing blocks worked into the schedule because so many found the same phenomenon in their rooms, and I will be deliberate in my scheduling and organizing for the new school year.

    Donald also mentioned a way for students to achieve distance from their work that I am excited to try in the fall. "I direct them to choose four papers from their folders...Put the papers in order from best to least best. Write in one sentence why your best paper is number one, and then write why your least best paper is not as good..." (p. 30). Mr. Graves continues on with next steps about how they are to look at their own papers and evaluate them on their own to give them valuable insight about their own writing - not my comments on their papers that are meaningless. They know what they're trying to say, and they can read critically enough to determine if they've said it - much better than I! This will really help students to grow and develop as writers - I can't wait to give it a shot!

  17. Testing Is Not Teaching, by Donald Graves.

    Oh, great: another book about the incompetence of standardized testing.

    Having just finishing reading and begrudgingly grading the sixth draft of the fourth-best research paper on abortion written by a freshman this year, a disappointing sense of "here we go again" set in as I picked up the first book to be discussed in the much-anticipated Summer Institute. Even if this Graves fella had neat new ways of blasting Testing, I didn't much care to hear them; in fact, I was pretty sure that, this time around, I would take the antithetical approach and attempt to discredit the author's every point, just in an attempt to make the reading experience more interesting. After all, listening to the choir sing to you can only be interesting for so long.
    That plan did not last very long. On page 45, my plan derailed entirely when Graves warns that, “[u]ntil students read on their own, books have not become a part of their lives and the function of reading has not been understood” (45). The author then goes on to propose a strategy for reading assessment in which the students read “at least ten books” of mixed complexity levels and get evaluated on a random selection of three.

    I loved this. Having grappled with how to get students to read without being evaluated ad nausea on a skill I profess to be “fun” while also ensuring that they do, actually, read and do, actually, think about what they are reading, this idea washed over my ideas for next year and seemed immediately to baptize my future reading instruction. Whereas up to this point I had found myself dog-earing pages and underlining passages, here I double-starred, bracketed, underlines and dog-eared! So much for playing the devil’s advocate!