Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Is Test Preparation Getting a Bad Rap?

July 11, 2006 1 min read

To the Editor:

In their May 24, 2006, Commentary “Bridging Differences,” Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch joined other distinguished educators in concluding that we should devote fewer classroom hours to test preparation. Essentially, their argument is that test preparation only develops lower-order reading skills; that reading should be directed to the development of higher-order thinking skills; and that we therefore should reduce time spent on test preparation.

Test-prep classes focus on the limited number of reading skills, usually about 10, included on state assessments. Selections in test-prep books are drawn from the same wide variety of sources as those found on state tests. Students read a passage and answer the usual critical-reading questions: Typically, they are required to provide a summary, understand a character’s motivation, or select the most important reason supporting an argument. If instruction is good and students receive adequate practice, they learn to answer these and similar questions, and thereby become good readers.

State standards do a good job of defining key reading skills. Giving a student good books and hoping for the best does not develop these skills. As P. David Pearson, the dean of education at the University of California, Berkeley, has indicated, average and weaker students need explicit comprehension instruction.

At present, such instruction is primarily provided in test-prep classes. Test-prep books spend little time on such basic reading skills as recall of factual information. They instead focus on the critical-reading skills called for in the standards, while test-prep activities develop the key reading skills needed for life. We must be sure to invest adequate time in this activity.

Stuart Margulies

Woodstock, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the July 12, 2006 edition of Education Week as Is Test Preparation Getting a Bad Rap?

Events

School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Branding your district matters. This webinar will provide you with practical tips and strategies to elevate your brand from three veteran professionals, each of whom has been directly responsible for building their own district’s brand.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Nearly two-thirds of U.S. school districts are using hybrid learning right now with varying degrees of success. Students and teachers are getting restless and frustrated with online learning, making curriculum engagement difficult and disjointed. While
Content provided by Samsung

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read