27th October 2000 at 01:00
LITERACY IMPACT. By Liz Twist and Frances Brill. National Foundation for Educational Research.

NFER Nelson. specimen set pound;16. Reading test booklets (pack of 10) pound;18. Writing test booklets (pack of 10) pound;18 It has arrived. The test for children's readiness to be tested. Don't get me wrong, Literacy Impact is well written and informative. It is designed to identify children who are borderline between national curriculum English levels 3 and 4, to suggest effective intervention for these pupils and to measure progress made by the intervention.

The pack includes pre-intervention tests for reading and writing, detailed guidance for scoring and interpreting the children's work, suggestions for teaching, then post-intervention tests. In other words you test, you teach to the tests, then you test again, and all to prepare the children for more tests.

Yes, I know, Literacy Impact undoubtedly addresses a perceived need in schools and it will be snapped up by key stage 2 teachers worried about performance targets. It is practical and easy to administer to groups, althogh at 50 minutes each for reading and writing tests before intervention and the same again after, as well as time for marking, scoring and assessing each child's performance, don't expect an early night.

Drawing on their research, Liz Twist and Frances Brill have interesting observations and sound advice. For example "pupils on the borderline of levels 3 and 4 most frequently omit to develop the notion of authorial intent and instead focus on the interpretation of a specific word or phrase." That's useful to know and, even more usefully, they give practical suggestions for teaching about authorial intent. But there it is again... "(teaching) suggestions focus on the most mark heavy assessment categories".

So there you have it, Literacy Impact is not about education but about plugging the gaps in test performance and as such it is likely to be a popular assessment tool. But isn't it sad that we feel we need it?

Julia Douetil is trainer and national co-ordinator of the Reading Recovery National Network, Institute of Education, University of London

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