When I heard Lucy speak these words, I felt a wave of relief. Could it be that we finally have the research we need to say to those purchasing workbooks and wasting school duplicating resources on test prep packets to STOP! We’re doing more harm than good?
In 2006, in his book What Really Matters for Struggling Readers, Richard Allington wrote,
“The best guideline for test preparation would seem to be to practice a couple of days before the test to familiarize students with the test format and to introduce or review, general test-taking strategies. But daily periods of test preparation across the school year seems more likely to result in lower performances because most test preparation involves little, if any, teaching of useful reading strategies or development of word knowledge.”
Allington has obviously known for years what Lucy is trying to make mainstream, but how can we help classroom teachers buy in? I know so many who attribute their students’ successes to test prep. For whatever reason, they don’t see the value in the quality of their teaching.
I have a fantasy of being a school superintendent issuing a dictum that no school dollars would be used to purchase commercially produced test prep materials. I would forbid the practice of using packets filled with short passages and literal level comprehension questions as reading instruction and add that anybody caught disobeying these orders would be written up for insubordination.
Without the support of administrators, teachers will continue to attribute their test results to test prep. The emphasis MUST be on good teaching. Good teaching makes a difference in student achievement. Not Xerox or March to May or whatever other nonsense they publish to “prepare” students for the state exam.
The test is almost here and we are all preparing to breathe a collective sigh of relief. But before next year’s scramble begins again, perhaps we need to rethink this insanity and refocus on what’s really important: Good teachers + Good Reading Instruction = More Proficient Readers. It’s that simple.