Professional Educators

Thinkers or Test Takers?

By Shellie Sallas, National Board Certified Teacher. She teaches 5th grade at Mitchell Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona.

Every year, on the first day of school I asked my students what the goal of reading is…with great enthusiasm they always respond, “To read FAST!” This breaks my heart.

How can students reach 5th grade and not understand that reading was about so much more than speed? If my students have this perception, then other students probably have the same thoughts on reading. Certain reading programs place significant emphasis on reading with great speed and fluency, and funding was based heavily on students’ fluency rates. This results in 5th graders who are reading 230 words in one minute, but comprehend little to none of what they read.

In this age of teacher accountability, many teachers are afraid of losing their jobs so they are abandoning their best practices and shifting their focus to preparation for the state tests and away from developing thoughtful learners.  The instructional focus needs to shift back.

If we are simply teaching reading, math, science, etc. to students instead of teaching students to become thinkers, innovators, and problem solvers, we are truly doing our future generations a disservice. If we want students to achieve success and be prepared to solve the problems of tomorrow, we must teach them how to think and support them as they learn how to explain their thinking. If students can think well, they WILL achieve success in a variety of contexts, including the state tests.

This post is part of a series from National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT) who have been invited to blog about their experiences working in a priority school.

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