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Research Report

The Problem with Finding the Main Idea

Publication date:
This report shows how systemic assessments of student learning that isolate skills like “finding the main idea” encourage teachers to place an unhelpful emphasis on the teaching of these “skills”. Drawing on examples from the United States, the report explains why this approach fails to lead to improvements in student learning. Nevertheless, student assessment can be both aligned with high standards and help to encourage the kinds of effective teaching practice that support student learning. The report concludes by suggesting what a more productive approach to curriculum-aligned student assessment would look like.


The Problem with Finding the Main Idea (January 2019). Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and Learning First.