Posted in: Aha! Blog > Wit & Wisdom Blog > Assessments News knowledge building > A Knowledge-Rich Approach Shouldn’t Stop on Testing Days: Wit & Wisdom’s Katie Waters Explains in the Dallas Morning News
Katie Waters, content lead for Wit & Wisdom®, has an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News on positive changes to the Texas state reading test, known as the STAAR test.
The op-ed can be found here, but it’s behind a paywall. If you don’t have a subscription, I’d like to share an overview of how the Texas Education Agency is moving to more content-rich reading tests and why that’s a big step in the right direction.
Beyond Discrete Reading Skills
As Waters explains, starting in the upcoming 2022–2023 school year, the Texas reading assessment will contain thoughtfully selected passages on content tied to important subjects, such as science and social studies. Historically, reading tests in Texas and in most states haven’t been connected to the knowledge-rich material students read about—or should read about—in the classroom. Instead, test passages are usually on fairly random topics and focused on assessing discrete reading skills like drawing an inference, finding the main idea, or summarizing a passage.
Reading well requires having those skills as well as building comprehension, which develops when students can decode words and really understand what they mean. By systematically helping students build background and content knowledge through the use of carefully curated, linked texts, which is what happens with Wit & Wisdom, students can become better readers.
So, in practice, if students are studying the American Revolution, they might read books about George Washington and King George and study the famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze. Students can then carry that knowledge to other books, including more complex ones, about US history.
Impact on the Classroom, Fairer Tests
As Waters explains, making the state reading tests more content rich should help promote the use of knowledge-building materials and strong instructional practices that go beyond an emphasis on discrete reading skills in the classroom.
“I’m optimistic we’ll see a change, since schools align instruction with the demands of state assessment. What gets tested gets done,” shares Waters.
She also notes that better alignment between what’s tested and taught will make the tests fairer and more accurate. “Right now, students who have background knowledge on the topics tested are typically getting that information outside of school. So, if a student comes from a home with a lot of books, or goes to a museum, or travels, the chances are higher that they’ll have some background knowledge about the material on the test,” she states.
As a mom of a soon-to-be kindergartner, Waters is personally excited about the change in her home state and says she’s looking forward to talking with her daughter about all the things she’s learning in school, not just how to find the main idea.
Chad brings more than 23 years of experience in communications to Great Minds. He has served in three state education agencies, which included time assisting New Mexico’s secretary of education with the adoption of new education reform initiatives; serving as the communications director at the Washington, D.C., Office of the State Superintendent of Education; and working as an assistant to the Florida Commissioner of Education. Chad also worked at the U.S. Department of Education from 2004 to 2009 and served as the deputy assistant secretary for media affairs and strategic communication during his final two years there. Chad is a native of Bloomington, Ill., and graduated from Florida State University.