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
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.