The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing–But You Don't Have to Be

The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing–But You Don't Have to Be

Anya Kamenetz

Language: English

Pages: 324


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

No sooner is a child walking and talking than the ABCs and 1-2-3s give way to the full-on alphabet soup: the ERBs, the OLSAT, the IQ, the NCLB for AYP, the IEP for ELLs, the CHAT and PDDST for ASD or LD and G&T or ADD and ADHD, the PSATs, then the ACTs and SATs—all designed to assess and monitor a child's readiness for education. In many public schools, students are spending up to 28% of instructional time on testing and test prep.
Starting this year, the introduction of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in 45 states will bring an unprecedented level of new, more difficult, and longer mandatory tests to nearly every classroom in the nation up to five times a year—forcing our national testing obsession to a crisis point. Taxpayers are spending extravagant money on these tests—up to $1.4 billion per year—and excessive tests are stunting children's spirits, adding stress to family life, and slowly killing our country's future competitiveness. Yet even so, we still want our kids to score off the charts on every test they take, in elementary school and beyond. And there will be a lot of them.
How do we preserve space for self-directed learning and development, while also asking our children to make the score and make a mark? This book is an exploration of that dilemma, and a strategy for how to solve it.
[]iThe Test[/i] explores all sides of this problem—where these tests came from, why they're here to stay, and ultimately what you as a parent or teacher can do. It introduces a set of strategies borrowed from fields as diverse as games, neuroscience, social psychology, and ancient philosophy to help children do as well as they can on tests, and, just as important, how to use the experience of test-taking to do better in life. Like Paul Tough's bestseller How Children Succeed, it illuminates the emerging science of grit, curiosity and motivation, but takes a step further to explore innovations in education—emerging solutions to the over-testing crisis—that are not widely known but that you can adapt today, at home and at school. And it presents the stories of families of all kinds who are maneuvering within and beyond the existing educational system, playing and winning the testing game. You'll learn, for example, what Bill Gates, a strong public proponent of testing, does to stoke self-directed curiosity in his children, and how Mackenzie Bezos, wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and mother of three, creates individualized learning experiences for each of her children.
All parents want their children to be successful, and their schools to deliver true opportunities. Yet these goals are often as likely to result in stress and arguments as actual progress. The Test is a book to help us think about these problems, and ultimately, move our own children towards the future we want for them, from elementary to high school and beyond.











dreamed of conducting a grandiose-sounding Census of Abilities that would “categorize, sort, and route the entire population.” In the first decades of developing the SATs he experimented with psychological measures, such as the Myers-Briggs personality scale and the Thematic Apperception Test, to incorporate a fuller picture of human capability. But these posed logistical, cost, and sometimes ethical problems. Despite Thurstone’s interest in multiple intelligences, the ACE test, which he

bring in their own books, and the teacher said no. Or their daughter is a great reader who overthinks the answers on multiple-choice questions. Or their son loves math but is frustrated by the long word problems with written explanations used to satisfy the Common Core State Standards. Whatever subject the kid hates the most, “targeted interventions” on that subject grow to take over all of school. Instead of customizing learning to each student, standardization dictates one best way. In the end

(ALEC), the members of a group of wealthy financiers known as the Democrats for Education Reform, and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs. This influx of private wealthy interests has upset the apple cart of school reform, challenging old alliances. Although teachers’ unions remain a powerful force in both local and national politics, for example, many mainline Democrats and progressives, notably within the Obama administration, have “defected” to the ed-reform agenda that

longer have to cater to dozens or even hundreds of varying standards,” he told the crowd. “Instead, they can focus on creating the best applications that align with the core.” This idea about the power of standards is borrowed from the web. Online, interoperability rules allow developers to create pages and applications that are viewable and usable by anyone with a browser or mobile operating system. Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor and management business guru who

shortchanged too. Traditional standardized tests provide the most accurate information on students toward the middle of the intellectual bell curve. If a child either “hits the ceiling” with a perfect score or bottoms out on the test, her score will tell teachers very little about which areas she needs to work on. Not surprisingly, there is evidence that in the most test-driven school settings students who score well above or well below proficient get less individualized attention because

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