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The recent proliferation of testing policies in the US has raised concerns about the consequences of 'teaching to the test'. Current studies of teaching and testing document patterns of teacher resistance and accommodations to external tests, but often fail to examine how these patterns influence teachers' and students' engagement with curricular texts. This study develops an inter-textual perspective to specify the discursive processes through which one external test entered into classroom tasks and talk about a novel in four urban high schools. The study illustrates how efforts to raise standards through testing policies can result in limiting students' opportunities to construct understandings of curricular texts and of the social ideas at their core.