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Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America's Schools

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ISBN-13: 978-1891792359
ISBN-10: 1891792350
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Nichols and Berliner provide a hard-hitting and thoughtful critique of today’s overreliance on high-stakes testing. This is a must-read for anyone concerned about the unintended consequences of education reform.” — Paul D. Houston, Executive Director, American Association of School Administrators


“The cumulative impact of the accounts Nichols and Berliner lay out before us is staggering. They punch it home: The moral impact of NCLB may be as dangerous as its educational effects.” — Deborah Meier, Senior Scholar, New York University


Collateral Damage delivers a healthy dose of hard truth. It should be required reading for policymakers and concerned citizens.” — Jeannie Oakes, Presidential Professor and Director, UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education, and Acces


“Nichols and Berliner provide a carefully reasoned analysis laced with frightening accounts drawn from public schools. This readable volume eviscerates the premise that our schools can be evaluated with a single indicator. If you care about public schooling, this book is essential.” — W. James Popham, Professor Emeritus, UCLA

From the Back Cover

For more than a decade, the debate over high-stakes testing has dominated the field of education. In this passionate and provocative book, Sharon Nichols and David Berliner document the ways that high-stakes testing threatens the purposes and ideals of American education. Their analysis is grounded in the application of Campbell’s law, which posits that the greater the social consequences associated with a quantitative indicator (such as test scores), the more likely it is that the indicator itself will become corrupted—and that its use will corrupt the social processes it was intended to monitor.

Nichols and Berliner show how the pressures of high-stakes testing erode the validity of test scores and distort the integrity of the education system. Their analysis provides a comprehensive intellectual framework for arguments against high-stakes testing, while putting a compelling human face on the data marshaled in support of those arguments.

“Nichols and Berliner provide a hard-hitting and thoughtful critique of today’s overreliance on high-stakes testing. This is a must-read for anyone concerned about the unintended consequences of education reform.” — Paul D. Houston, Executive Director, American Association of School Administrators

“The cumulative impact of the accounts Nichols and Berliner lay out before us is staggering. They punch it home: The moral impact of NCLB may be as dangerous as its educational effects.” — Deborah Meier, Senior Scholar, New York University

Collateral Damage delivers a healthy dose of hard truth. It should be required reading for policymakers and concerned citizens.” — Jeannie Oakes, Presidential Professor and Director, UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access

“Nichols and Berliner provide a carefully reasoned analysis laced with frightening accounts drawn from public schools. This readable volume eviscerates the premise that our schools can be evaluated with a single indicator. If you care about public schooling, this book is essential.” — W. James Popham, Professor Emeritus, UCLA

Sharon L. Nichols is an assistant professor at the University of Texas at San Antonia. David C. Berliner is the Regents’ Professor of Education at Arizona State University in Tempe. He is a past president of the American Educational Research Association and a member of the National Academy of Education.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Education Press (March 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1891792350
  • ISBN-13: 978-1891792359
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By J-Rock on March 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
Berliner and Nichols take on high-stakes testing at a critical time in this book. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is currently up for renewal and revision, and the broad, bipartisan coalition that passed the initial legislation must decide whether to strengthen the law, modify the law, or radically dismantle it. Berliner and Nichols argue against high-stakes testing due to the corruptive influence of high-stakes tests on educators, students, and parents. Much of their evidence is taken from extensive research in the newspapers along with some analysis of the types of programs and results achieved in states thus far.

A great deal of their analysis rests on applying Campbell's Law to the arena of high stakes test. Campbell's Law states that any time a sociological measure is attached to high stakes consequences, the efforts of people to avoid the high stakes consequences will corrupt the effectiveness of the indicator. Anyone familiar with NCLB will have heard complaints about how the law drives educators to teach to the test; this work goes into far greater detail and systematically analyzes how high-stakes tests are not merely stressful, they invalidate what they are trying to measure. There are many powerful stories in this books of diplomas denied, educators demoralized, and children injured by high-stakes tests. Anyone who has been hurt by NCLB will gather food from this work.

Unfortunately, this book will not sway the politicians who are committed to NCLB very much. Opponents will attempt to muster their own stories of how schools were motivated to get their act together when they had to fear the consequences of the law.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Matthew J. Chesnut on August 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
The authors of this text make a very pointed and specific argument: that attaching high-stakes to test scores corrupts and invalidates the measure. The extent of cheating and malfeasance is found at the student, teacher, district, and state levels because of the enormous pressure put on all parties to raise standards according to the required standardized testing mandated by 2001's No Child Left Behind Act.

Nichols and Berliner describe an environment where schools have taken the power out of the teacher's hands to determine what should be taught. Instead, state standardized testing with high stakes (which is to say funding, employment status for teachers, graduation status for students, and school operability are at stake if certain benchmarks are not met) create an impetus for school administrators to narrow the curriculum to focus the school's energy on that which is being tested. Because there are such high stakes attached almost exclusively to the test results of the students, the authors argue that Campbell's law comes into play: "The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor."

Their body of evidence includes news articles from across the country detailing a number of examples of such corruption, as well as interviews with educators who have witnessed the educational environment change firsthand. The examples can become repetitive, but that may be reason enough to be concerned about the unintended consequences of high-stakes accountability in education.

Perhaps most importantly, the authors do not suggest that accountability should be removed from the classroom.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gene V. Glass on May 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
Many years ago an educator from Britain and I were discussing the direction that public education in America was taking. The signs of the "accountability" movement were becoming evident even then. After a while, my visitor remarked, "What a shame. In England, we don't just test, we teach." That judgment is more true today than ever in the history of American education. What a shame! We have created these tests, and now testing has supplanted teaching in our schools...unless of course you count "teaching the test" as actually teaching, which I do not.
Nichols and Berliner have sounded the wake-up call. Who will listen?
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By Breanna on January 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Current administrators and teachers can greatly benefit from the eye opening issues discussed in this book. Powerful anecdotes and thoughtful solutions are offered.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Wayne E. Wright on June 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is perhaps the most important book to date on the perverse effects of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its mandates for high-stakes testing. The authors provide irrefutable evidence of the problems of a school accountability system which relies on a single indicator--test scores. They explain how when a single social indicator is used to measure something, it corrupts the very thing it is attempting to measure. The authors provide example after example of how the pressure to raise test scores has led to questionable ethical behavior which is harmful to students, schools, and our nation as a whole.

Despite the depressing content, the authors write in a highly accessible and entertaining style, and even manage to interject a bit of humor to lighten the heavy burden which comes when one comtemplates the implications of their findings.

It is a must read for all educators, parents, and policy makers. Indeed, I hope the latter will read this book and make changes the authors suggest for a more reasonable acountability system.
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