Mandates Drive Test Preparation Sales
As standardized tests proliferate at the lower grades, study guides and programs have filled a growing market. Complementary texts are being sold to schools. Tutoring centers offer test prep for grade schoolers and book store shelves hold titles like "Let's Prepare for the Grade 4 Math Test."
The market is expected to expand when standardized tests for grade schoolers become the rule this fall under federal No Child Left Behind legislation.
"What's happened out there with NCLB has caught everyone's attention," said Timothy Conroy, executive vice president of Princeton Review's K-12 division. "We see parents clamoring for this stuff. We see teachers going out on their own looking for resources because schools are strapped."
New York school students take assessment tests beginning in fourth grade math and English Language Arts. In New York, assessments also help schools identify problem areas, though they are not used to decide whether a student advances or is held back.
State Education Commissioner Richard Mills has said teachers should not be teaching to a test, but teaching a deep understanding of the subject. A guide published by New York education officials says "students should not need extensive preparation to do well on state assessments" as long as their teachers and schools are doing a proper job.
Publishers say the market for elementary study guides is doing well and will only grow once the No Child Left Behind Act begins requiring annual tests in grades 3 through 8 by next school year.
Critics claim standardized tests inevitably skew the curriculum because educators concentrate on "teaching the test" at the cost of instilling a deeper understanding of reading, math or history.
Seppy Basili, vice president of Kaplan's K-12 learning services, said teaching the test is fine when the assessment accurately reflects academic standards. And it helps students to know what is on the tests, he said: "Every student, really regardless of their age, can benefit from understanding what a test is testing."
Michael Hill, Associated Press
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES