5 Steps to Preparing Students to Succeed on the New Common Core-Aligned Tests

Reading tests do not measure question-answering skills. Old-style test prep won’t work!

By Tim Shanahan

  • Reading comprehension tests do not measure question-answering skills, but instead estimate how well students can read particular kinds of texts with understanding.
  • PARCC and SBAC are pointedly avoiding making claims that their assessments will reveal whether students are meeting particular standards, but instead provide an overall estimate of reading comprehension.
  • Reading comprehension tests measure how well students read texts, not how well they execute particular reading skills.
  • So, item analysis is not an effective strategy for improving reading comprehension. 
  • PARCC and SBAC tests are, won’t they be able to provide specific diagnostic information.
5 Steps to making students sophisticated and powerful readers:

  1. Have students read extensively within instruction.
  2. Have students read increasing amounts of text without guidance or support.
  3. Make sure the texts are rich in content and sufficiently challenging.
  4. Have students explain their answers and provide text evidence supporting their claims.
  5. Engage students in writing about text, not just in replying to multiple-choice questions.


Source: onlinelibrary.wiley.com

  1. Good instruction and literacy instruction are one in the same.
  2. Reading increasingly complex text, with appropriate support, improves reading comprehension.
  3. Writing about what you read improves reading comprehension.
  4. Students cannot become better readers by listening to teachers talk.
  5. Reading and writing should be purposeful and teachers should hold students accountable for gaining knowledge and understanding from what they are asked to read.
  6. Students writing should be persuasive in nature and they should be asked to make claims and provide supporting evidence from text.
  7. Teacher constructed assessments should use fewer multiple-choice items and should require students to read and write about the text.

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