Peripatetic, itinerant, eclectic musings about books, politics, history, language, culture, and anything else that interests me.
That line from Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child” is what popped into my head when I read this paragraph from a recent New York Times op-ed by a New York City schoolteacher who believes that using literature to instill a love for reading is a better educational tool and a better way of measuring students’ understanding of complex ideas than spending hours each day prepping students to get high scores on standardized tests. Here’s the paragraph that brought that song to mind:
I may not be able to prove that my literature class makes a difference in my students’ test results, but there is a positive correlation between how much time students spend reading and higher scores. The problem is that low-income students, who begin school with a less-developed vocabulary and are less able to comprehend complex sentences than their more privileged peers, are also less likely to read at home. Many will read only during class time, with a teacher supporting their effort. But those are the same students who are more likely to lose out on literary reading in class in favor of extra test prep. By “using data to inform instruction,” as the Department of Education insists we do, we are sorting lower-achieving students into classes that provide less cultural capital than their already more successful peers receive in their more literary classes and depriving students who viscerally understand the violence and despair in Steinbeck’s novels of the opportunity to read them.
Hat tip to Baby Got Books.