Schools Value Speed and Accuracy. Here’s Why That’s a Problem.

When I was in the first grade, I was a tiger at reading. Tigers were fast. We knew how to tear through the text with speed and precision. But we weren’t nearly as fast as jaguars. The jaguars sat at the front table, where they got to to do choice reading every single day. To me, that sounded amazing. I loved to read and the choice-based reading felt like I was cheating the system; like I was sneaking desert into dinnertime.

However, on the rare occasion that jaguars slowed down, after the Very Important Test, I would meet up with the dejected-looking new tiger who would join our second-best reading group as a punishment for slowing down in their reading fluency. I get it. They were Coke. We were Pepsi. But at least we weren’t Shasta Cola.

We weren’t supposed to know our reading levels. After all, our teacher told us that all the big cats were equally important. But kids talk. They compare. They rate one another. And, our cat-based ranking system didn’t fool anyone. We knew better. We knew that the jaguars were the best readers and the lions were the losers — much like the football team that bared the same name. For what it’s worth, I have a tattoo on my bicep of every Super Bowl victory the Lions have had. It’s a bare arm.

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