Reading test design should attempt to reflect reading theory rather than previous test designs. The theoretical realignment in reading requires the development of dramatically different basic skills tests. Test designs need to be more in accord with modern theory and with the empirical descriptions of reading that proceed from this theory. This paper focused on three ongoing development efforts that have created tests to be used with very different populations and purposes than those common in basic skills programs. Nevertheless, the issues addressed by these innovative projects are at least as relevant in basic skills programs. If the purpose of basic skills tests is to describe reading ability in a valid manner, then issues of prior knowledge, reasoning in reading, meaningfulness of questions, textual coherence and quality, and the representativeness of reading tasks are critical and must be addressed. Unless we are willing to make our test designs reflect the nature of reading, we will continue to make decisions on the basis of information that provides neither a useful guide to practice, nor a reasonable description of the abilities of our students.
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