Reading & Literacy

Prepare Students for Tests With Knowledge

March 25, 2009 1 min read

In this New York Times op-ed, E.D. Hirsch Jr. calls for improvement in the reading passages on standardized tests to reflect the content of the curriculum. Hirsch has railed against the teaching of reading strategies over subject matter, and, as the founder of the Core Knowledge curriculum, promotes a rigorous, content-laden framework for K-12 schooling.

“Teachers can’t prepare for the content of the tests and so they substitute practice exams and countless hours of instruction in comprehension strategies like ‘finding the main idea,’” he wrote. Test scores have not show significant improvement, however, “because the schools have imagined that reading is merely a “skill” that can be transferred from one passage to another, and that reading scores can be raised by having young students endlessly practice strategies on trivial stories. Tragic amounts of time have been wasted that could have been devoted to enhancing knowledge and vocabulary, which would actually raise reading comprehension scores.”

There’s a lot of speculation about what the next federal reading initiative will look like. Hirsch has been critical of the kind of skills-driven instruction that defined Reading First, and has called for more attention to vocabulary and background knowledge.

What do you propose?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.

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