By Sarah Horvath ‘21
Before conducting my investigation, I was set on writing an op-ed about why reading quizzes are unfair and why English teachers should not give them. To me, reading quizzes often feel unnecessary, as the questions are much more complex than needed to check for basic plot retention. However, I now realize that I cannot write that article. After interviewing Head of the English Department Mari Tetzeli along with English teacher Elana Anderson, I learned about the purpose of the quizzes and how they add to the classroom discussion.
Tetzeli views reading quizzes as tools “to make sure kids are reading and to have some accountability in class.” Additionally, she sees them as a way to teach students to read at a high level. “They are designed to indicate what it means to be a close and a careful reader,” Tetzeli clarified. She explained that reading quizzes need to have a certain degree of specificity in order to check for this high-level reading. Tetzeli expects that students “read not as they were lying in bed ready to fall asleep, but read sitting up, alert, annotating, taking in details and specifics, the kind of reading you need to really dig in to a class discussion.” This rationale made sense to me.
Anderson explained to me her justification for reading quizzes, which was very similar to Tetzeli’s. To Anderson, the purpose is to “ensure that each student is not only reading, but reading in a meaningful way that increases the level of the discussion that we can have in class.” Anderson works hard to create different types of questions to offer an accurate representation of whether the students are reading in that meaningful, deep way. “Reading quizzes are a way for me to assess how students are doing. That way I know whether to reach out to the people who are struggling, if they need help,” Anderson said.
I wished I had learned this earlier in my Heschel experience. I had always thought that reading quizzes were supposed to be basic questions to see if you have been reading. They aren’t, and all students deserve to know this. Before I spoke to Tetzeli and Anderson, my friends and I would complain about our failing grades on the quizzes and justify them because the quizzes were simply “too hard.” With this information, I plan to explain to my friends why the quizzes are helpful and how we can do a better job reading the texts.