Is Test Prep the Mint of Education?

Close reading has been my mind a lot lately. I recently read What Readers Really Do, by Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton. I revisited Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading, by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst as well as Falling in Love With Close Reading, by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts. Yesterday, Tara Smith’s excellent post on reading journals gave me more to think about. This is important work. Work that will help our students “grow and develop new ideas and insights.” (Barnhouse & Vinton, pg. 152) I need time to process all this wisdom and work with my colleagues to determine how we’ll integrate these ideas into our teaching. I’ll be sharing more about this in the weeks to come. In the meantime, I want to share a post from 2013 that still holds true today.

Thank you, as always, to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for hosting Slice of Life each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Reading to the Core

Image via Wikimedia Commons

This morning as I was weeding my garden, it occurred to me that the mint that had overrun my herb garden was like standardized test prep. As schools across the country do their best to prepare students for the new CCSS-aligned assessments, test prep is running rampant. Just as the mint in my garden has choked out the basil and parsley, test prep, and the tests themselves, threaten to take over the school day, leaving no time to savor novels, delve into a character’s motivation, or write a deeply personal narrative.

I grow a variety of herbs in my garden because each herb has its own distinct flavor and use. The amount of the herb I use depends on what I’m cooking. The same is true for teaching. We have a wide variety of instructional resources and strategies available. As professionals, we take great care to make…

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4 thoughts on “Is Test Prep the Mint of Education?

  1. The irony is, the mint looks so healthy and so delicious. Why wouldn’t we want that in our garden? It isn’t until we see the damage it is doing– choking out the basel, parsley, and oregano– that we realize we have to be careful not to let it overrun the other herbs and need to pull it back. Leave a chunk, but keep watch that it doesn’t take over. Thanks for the gentle reminder.


  2. At my school, we value tools chosen for the individual needs, & do not have the pressure of the test, but the pressure that each child grows as a student from where he or she began. It’s a rocky road to follow if only working on test prep that many seem to be doing. I love that you too believe “variety is the spice of life” & you’ve used an apt analogy from your gardening that applies so well, Catherine! Thanks for doing good thinking for us all!


  3. I’m so glad you are going on the journey through those reads. I am looking forward to your wise words reflecting on how each could adds to your teaching. They are all great texts and offer so much. I loved Tara’s synthesis of what works for her kiddos. That is an art. Taking in all that information and making it come to life in a classroom.

    And your mint post will always hold true and what a great reminder.


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