A recent reading exam taken by over 60,000 students in Britain has left teachers and school administrators unimpressed, according to The Daily Telegraph. Teachers identified a number of problems with the test, including the fact that it was too difficult, wasn’t well suited for high-ability students and didn’t provide a way forward for teachers to follow when it comes to improving the language ability of their underperforming students — and especially those enrolled in special ed or those who come from a family where English isn’t spoken.
In addition, teachers from around the country didn’t take kindly to being forced to teach reading using the phonics system favored by the Government instead of being allowed to find an approach that works best for their individual students.
The conclusions will be seen as a blow to the Coalition which has ordered state primaries across the country to introduce the new assessment.
As part of the reforms, pupils are supposed to accurately “decode” a list of 40 words using phonics – the back-to-basics method in which words are broken down into constituent parts.
The list includes a number of made-up words such as “voo”, “terg”, “bim”, “thazz” and “spron” to ensure pupils are properly employing the phonics system.
It is intended to mark out pupils struggling the most after a year of compulsory education – allowing teachers to target them with extra help.
According to the Department of Education, the new test was supposed to be able to identify more than 235,000 pupils who were not reading at grade level when the test as administered last summer. Yet the results could have been skewed somewhat because subsequent research found that a substantial number of students didn’t apply themselves when they took them exam because they thought it didn’t matter.
The follow-up report was clear: based on interviews with nearly 1,000 teachers and 850 literacy teachers, most felt that the exam results did not provide any useful insight into how well their students are progressing with their literacy skills.
“Most of the teachers interviewed as part of the case-study visits to schools reported that the check would have minimal, if any, impact on the standard of reading and writing in their school in the future.
“This view appeared to stem from the fact that many thought the outcomes from the check told them nothing new.”
Children across England will set the phonics check in mid-June – only the second time it has been employed.
Ministers believe that phonics should be used as the only method to teach children to read.