April 28, 2015

Teachers who use rubrics often have discussions about cut-lines, what differentiates a 2 from a 3, or a 1 from a 2, and the like.  It occurred to me recently, that perhaps a 4-point rubric is part of the problem of surface reading that teachers face with young readers.  It’s possible that they have progressed up through reading levels by riding just a point above the cut-line.  What would that mean for readers?  Yes, they pass, but do they ever really connect with a story, infer a feeling or motive, fall in love with a character, or stay riveted to a rising action?

I’m coming to believe that this is partly my fault, if I have been one to “pass students” up the levels without ever really requiring and even demanding that their twos become threes and their threes become fours.  I feel bad about this and have made a commitment to myself to really consider how to stop the practice at my school of accepting mediocre reading comprehension year after year.  Teachers are under pressure to have students make at least a year’s progress, but is it really progress just to move up?  What about what can be learned by moving out–by reading broadly, across genres, deeper into characters, and across curricular boundaries?  I have been lulled by linear progress when I know in my heart of hearts that progress is dynamic in all directions.  I don’t know the word for that (it’s probably a math word), but I’m loving the idea and challenge of taking kids “off-road,” of getting them off the “just left of the cut-line” reading that satisfies no one.

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