by David Safier
[In a 1988 study], Experimenters separated seventh- and eighth-grade students into two groups — strong and weak readers as measured by standard reading tests. The students in each group were subdivided according to their baseball knowledge. Then they were all given a reading test with passages about baseball. Low-level readers with high baseball knowledge significantly outperformed strong readers with little background knowledge.
That's beautiful. As he says elsewhere, when you give inner city kids a passage about hiking in the Appalachians, they're lost. And my experience tells me, if students are interested in the topic, they can read and comprehend far above their tested reading levels. Culturally biased tests yield culturally biased results.
If the reading passages on each test were culled from each grade’s specific curricular content in literature, science, history, geography and the arts, the tests would exhibit what researchers call “consequential validity” — meaning that the tests would actually help improve education. Test preparation would focus on the content of the tests, rather than continue the fruitless attempt to teach test taking.