Thursday, June 6, 2013

Who Cares if Betsy Can't Spell

For the record, this will not be the only post I ever write about standardized testing.

I got to look at my students' standardized test scores today. I was impressed at how well some of them did. How do I know they did well? I looked at the bars on the graph.

We take the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. The report we receive has all these bars on it. At the top, there's a graph that lists the component on left side and a bar on the right that passes (or at least is supposed to pass) through a gray area. The gray area means the child is proficient. Most of my class had bars that passed through or at least were in the gray area. That means they did well. And I am proud of them.

The bottom of the report has more bars (no gray area, however) that represent, in the simplest of terms, strengths and weaknesses. This is the part I like to look at most closely. Here's where real information is. This section also usually confirms what I already knew. It's my job to know the strengths and weaknesses of my kids. Of course, not every child is proficient in all areas. They're all different. Duh! I knew that a three months ago. I could even tell you that Betsy probably wasn't going to be proficient in spelling. (She wasn't.)

It's not that I don't care about Betsy's spelling development. I do. And it's not that I didn't try researched based methods to improve her spelling and bring her to proficiency. I did. The fact of the matter is, Betsy is not a good speller.

Neither am I. As I'm writing this blog the red line that shows up under the misspelled (there it is again) word pops up all the time. I can empathize with Betsy. But my lack of spelling skills doesn't keep me from communicating. Nor am I particularly (darn, again) concerned you won't be able to comprehend what I write. Frankly, I don't need to be a good speller.

In today's world, I'm not sure spelling is fundamental skill worthy of standardized testing. Sure, you need to get close to correct. (That makes the red line pop up.) And phonemic awareness is absolutely critical to reading proficiently. But, in the case of Betsy, and those like her who are very proficient readers, who cares?
So she has to edit her work, re-read, use a dictionary, or check the "ways to make e" anchor chart. She's capable of that. And it doesn't bother her a bit when she has to use those tools.

So now, Betsy will possibly be targeted for remediation in spelling. And it's all my fault. I could have pulled her from a collaborative project, where she was busy communicating, problem solving and thinking critically, for some one-on-one time memorizing spelling words that will be on the test. I could have disrupted her partner reading time during which she was comparing two versions of Cinderella to find similarities in the plot and theme, and sent her with an aide to write her words ten times. I certainly could have asked her to stop doing research on The Statue of Liberty. Had I done that she might have been proficient in spelling on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

Instead, she's not. I'm sorry, but I'm all right with that.

No comments:

Post a Comment