Should We Be Quantifying Our Students’ Reading Abilities? by Matt Renwick

I always enjoy posting on the Nerdy Book Club blog. I don’t know of any other group blog that has such loyal and knowledgable followers. In this post, I attempt to describe how my thinking changed (for the better) about the use of quantitative assessments when measuring students’ reading abilities.

Nerdy Book Club

When I was still in the classroom, I would take my 5th and 6th grade students to a local creek. Our purpose was to assess the water quality. The students were taught how to use a variety of tests, involving various indicators and kits. One of the tests measured the nitrates in the water. Nitrates derive from animal waste. A high level would indicate the creek was a poor environment for living organisms, save bullheads and carp.

Not 200 yards upstream from out testing site was a cow pasture. We could see the cattle grazing from our location. Now, one would think that the levels of nitrates would be consistently high, considering the source. Yet for every time we got a high reading, we would get a normal one too. This is why we took three samples each in the fall and in the spring. When a student once got…

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Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

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