Saturday 2 January 2016

"Reading is improving" - is it?

This is part of a discussion that has gone on elsewhere (at David Didau's blog). The phonics community are claiming that the Year 2 assessments made by teachers show that the new curriculum of compulsory phonics teaching every day for KS1, is causing reading to improve.

I am querying that on several grounds:

1. To show that something is 'improving' you have to compare 'like with like'.
2. Are the tests administered over time, the same, so that like can be compared with like?
3. What constitutes 'reading' in the context of these tests? Is it a) 'reading out loud' b) comprehension c) both? If both, is it in the same proportions across all tests?
4. Are the tests standardised? In other words are teachers in one place using the same test as being used somewhere else? If not, then the test scores can't be 'aggregated'.
5. I have no problem with teacher-led assessment so long as we understand what it's good for and what it's not so good for. It can be good for teachers trying to understand where pupils are at. It can be good for pupils who are trying to understand where they're at - so long as that conversation takes place.
6. If you put schools under the threat of closure, take-over, humiliation and punishment, then teacher-led assessment becomes a problem. This is not to accuse teachers of doing wrong. The 'wrong' is the external force acting on schools in a punitive and politicised way. In other words, teacher-led assessment in this context becomes less about helping teaching and learning and more about how to fit the bill, satisfy those external punitive requirements.
7. In the context of finding out whether children are improving their reading - supposedly because one kind of programme has been brought in, this is yet another reason to query a finding claiming to prove that reading is improving.