Teaching English simply for test preparation rather than to develop a love of literature is a mistake.
Call it serendiptiy. Call it Irony. I dunno. I've had this article open in my browser for days while I've been busy struggling to figure out how to measure the impact that the Google Lit Trips project has on engaging students in literary reading so that I can better position the project to be attractive to philanthropic funding sources.
This article's author nails the dilemma. Current assessment structure do NOT address the important data, because the true value of literary reading can not be reduced to selecting a "correct answer" on a multiple choice question. Current assessment structures as Sir Ken Robinson has pointed out, "...have a tendency to make the measurable important versus the important measurable."
Like many of my literary loving colleagues, I am concerned about the Common Core Standards' 50% devaluation of literary reading. Though, I support increased attention to informational reading.
But to pit one important set of reading skills against another seems more than counter productive; it may well have destructive, perhaps devastating impact on one of humankind's longest lasting and most universally cherished modes of passing wisdom from one generation to the next; that of storytelling.
From Aesop's Fables to biblical parables; from Zuess to Dr. Seuss, the greatest truths of the human condition have been passed through the generations of every culture since the beginning of time via the ENGAGING power of FICTION.
However, unlike many of my literary loving colleagues, I am not opposed to the desire to hold both students and educators accountable. Truth be told, I was taught to hate Shakespeare before I was taught to love Shakespeare. In retrospect I realize that at times I was a bit more of a challenge to reach than other students and that I certainly could have done more to improve my receptiveness to what I had not previously been receptive to. But, there were teachers who worked much more effectively with "that me" than others who in too many cases assumed that expressing scorn and disappointment was an effective mode of opening my eyes, my mind, and...if they cared, my heart. Looking back, though admittedly I was a large part of the problem, I realize that too many of my teachers had much to learn about learning.
Neither do I object to funders expecting to see results from their philanthropic generosity.
The question is how do we who teach the great questions through fiction assess our effectiveness? This article articulates the dilemma fairly effectively. though the author's proposed solutions seem as "unviable" as they have always proven to be.
Much of our current data driven assessment structures do not measure what we hope to accomplish through literary reading. And much of those structures, well-intended as they may be, not only measures the measurable but less important, but in not measuring the truly important, misdirect student learning and teacher efforts away from the actual values of literary reading.
How CAN we measure the truly valuable aspects of literary reading? If we who love literature do not help meet the need for quality assessment and accountability, then perhaps, as I once learned through literary reading, we are as guilty as Nero.
And for those of you who may not remember the details of Nero's choice to fiddle while Rome was burning (IF the story is even true) might find it ironic that Nero apparently was more interested in promoting culture than taking care of business.
Are we fiddling while Rome is burning?
Perhaps we ought to be figuring out ways to truly measure the IMPORTANT value of literary reading before there are only the ashes of literary reading left in the curriculum.
Dare I ask if complaining about the status quo of assessment needs is merely fiddling?
Can we do better at helping those who need to know whether literary reading education is valuable or effective, find a better way to measure that value or effectiveness?