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FAIR TESTING Rescuing Our Schools from "Tougher Standards"


A plague has been sweeping through American schools, wiping out the most innovative instruction and beating down some of the best teachers and administrators. Ironically, that plague has been unleashed in the name of improving schools. Invoking such terms as "tougher standards," "accountability," and "raising the bar," people with little understanding of how children learn have imposed a heavy-handed, top-down, test-driven version of school reform that is lowering the quality of education in this country.

It has taken some educators and parents a while to realize that the rhetoric of "standards" is turning schools into giant test-prep centers, effectively closing off intellectual inquiry and undermining enthusiasm for learning (and teaching). It has taken even longer to realize that this is not a fact of life, like the weather -- that is, a reality to be coped with -- but rather a political movement that must be opposed.

Find links Below
Two recent books on standards: WILL STANDARDS SAVE PUBLIC EDUCATION?, a short essay by Deborah Meier followed by comments from other thinkers, published by Beacon Press; and ONE SIZE FITS FEW: The Folly of Educational Standards, by Susan Ohanian, published by Heinemann.

Other recent books about testing: Linda McNeil, CONTRADICTIONS OF SCHOOL REFORM: Educational Costs of Standardized Testing (Routledge, 2000); Peter Sacks, STANDARDIZED MINDS (Perseus, 1999); Kathy Swope and Barbara Miner, eds., FAILING OUR KIDS: Why the Testing Craze Won't Fix Our Schools (Rethinking Schools, 2000); W. James Popham, TESTING! TESTING!: What Every Parent Should Know About School Tests (Allyn and Bacon, 2000); and Gerald
Bracey, PUT TO THE TEST: An Educator's and Consumer's Guide to Standardized Testing (Phi Delta Kappa, 1998).

Information from and about FairTest, the leading national organization offering a critical perspective on standardized testing. Its website,, includes an evaluation of every state's testing policy and links to a listserv called the Assessment Reform Network. A related group, the Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education (CARE), which is opposed to the new testing program in Massachusetts, recently drafted an alternative assessment proposal -- a very useful document for anyone who may be asked, "If not standardized tests, then what?"

A devastating analysis, based on the high-stakes TAAS test in Texas, of how efforts to raise scores effectively undermine the quality of teaching and learning -- and how this effect is most pronounced in schools that serve poor and minority students. Click here for this report by Linda McNeil and Angela Valenzuela. For the most recent and comprehensive analysis of the effects of testing in Texas, click here to be linked to a lengthy article by Walt Haney.

Special issues of School Administrator (December 2000), Rethinking Schools (Spring 1999), Phi Delta Kappan (November 1997 and November 1999) and Educational Researcher (November 1996) devoted to the issue.

Research demonstrating that when teachers are held accountable for raising standards and test scores, they tend to become so controlling in their teaching style that the quality of students' performance actually declines:Flink et al., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 59, 1990: 916-24.Deci et al., Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 74, 1982: 852-59.

Find Strategies
Some States have organized in order to fight the tests themselves.
AZ: (also see
MA: and (student-oriented)

A List of State Coordinators For a list of websites and other resources created by advocates for testing reform.

Bonnie Bracey

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