Teach to the Test—But Make Better Tests

Tie reading passages in with curriculum to even playing field
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Mar 23, 2009 10:38 AM CDT
"Fill-in-the-bubble" testing can be useful--but it needs a reading-passage overhaul, writes ED Hirsch Jr.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Critics worry that the current system of “fill-in-the-bubble” school testing promotes teaching to the test—but maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing if we had tests “worth teaching to,” writes Ed Hirsch Jr in the New York Times. The tests themselves are highly reliable and valid, Hirsch notes; the problem is the “random” reading passages they feature.

Schools have wrongly “imagined that reading is merely a ‘skill’ that can be transferred from one passage to another,” when in fact comprehension depends on familiarity with a topic. Tests whose reading deals with the very material children have learned throughout the year would even the playing field in terms of subject familiarity. Then, “test preparation would focus on the content of the tests, rather than continue the fruitless attempt to teach test taking," and scores would improve, Hirsch writes.