Tuesday, April 02, 2013

New Professional Book: Assessment in Perspective

So, last month, I begged for an advanced copy of Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan's new book ASSESSMENT IN PERSPECTIVE:  FOCUSING ON THE READER BEHIND THE NUMBERS. Tammy and Clare are good friends who I have known for years and I have been very excited about their work in assessment. I had no time to read the book when it arrived, so I thought I'd just skim through it until I had time a week or so later. Well, you can imagine how that went. I ended up reading it cover to cover in less than 24 hours. Then I told everyone I knew about it.  It is that kind of a book.

I love assessment. I believe good instruction is based on assessment. I love to look at data, to dig into my students' work looking for patterns to help me teach well. However, I am becoming a little alarmed at the ways we, as a country, have been talking about data and assessment during the last few years.  I have been worried that we have been talking more about numbers, than about children.

So, you can imagine how happy I was when I first heard the title and subtitle of this book!  Perfect! And the cover photo made me even happier. A teacher and a child reading together--that is assessment!

This is a book that speaks to teachers today. It reminds us to keep our eye on the reader but it does not discount the tremendous stress and mandates we are all dealing with when it comes to assessment. Tammy and Clare have figured out how to help teachers stay grounded with good literacy practice through this time.  In this book, they share their story.

The most important thing about this book is that it focuses on children and on authentic assessments every day.  It acknowledges that some assessments just don't give us information but they are part of a mandate. It acknowledges that one number doesn't tell a whole story. And it acknowledges that students have a key role in their assessment. So many important points in this one book.

I am excited about the conversations this book will start as it is purchased for school book talks. Chapter 1 is called, "Moving Beyond Numbers: Finding the Stories of Our Readers". In this chapter, the authors are honest about their own experiences with assessments-times things went well and times they didn't.  They acknowledge the fact that NCLB has caused many of us to "focus more on administering assessments, reporting quantitative data, and accountability, and less on understanding the assessments we are using and the type of information they can provide about our readers. Many of us have been so busy trying to implement an assessment plan that little time is left to use it to understand out students."

And they remind us that it is what we DO with the data and assessments that matter....because "Assessment and Instruction are Inseparable."

I cannot possibly share every important thing this book says or every line I underlined. What I can tell you is that this book made me happy.  Happy because it is the conversation we need to be having right now. It is the conversation that is about teacher agency and teacher decision making. It is the conversation about the story behind the reader. It is the conversation that will get us back to what we, as teachers, know assessment is really all about.

This is not a quick read (yes, I read it quickly but I'll read it again:-). It is also not a book you'll want to read alone. Trust me, you will want to talk about this book.

Data-driven instruction is a reality teachers everywhere are living with. And it is not a bad reality.  I don't know one teacher who believes we should not be using assessment to inform our instruction. But sometimes we lose sight of the child behind the numbers.  This book is a about assessment, about our students' stories and about teacher agency--things that matter to all of us.

A must read for sure!
(The book should be available this week from Stenhouse. In the meantime, you can preview the whole book online!)


  1. Franki~
    The emotion in your post has me wanting to send this off to my literacy team and my building principal! I have already pinned this "must read" on my new TBR board!

  2. Oh, I DO want to read this book. Like right now. :) Thanks for the post, Franki! I'm really getting excited about the possibility of teaching 6th grade readers next year through the reading workshop method!!!!!!!!!!


  3. Wow, what a great review. You had me at, "It is that kind of a book." Then as you went on to explain why, all of those reasons really speak to me as well (as I am sure it would to most/all educators right now). I'm excited to see the new post today now to hear more!


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