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Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805080827
ISBN-10: 0805080821
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though the jury is still out regarding the controversial 2001 education act known as "No Child Left Behind," it's safe to call it a mixed blessing for at-risk "Title 1" schools who rely on federal funding to pay teachers and support staff: under the new policy, federal funding can be taken away if schools fail to make "adequate yearly progress," as measured by country-wide standardized testing. Education reporter and author Perlstein (Not Much Just Chillin') uses an engaging, up-close-and-personal style to examine one such school, suburban Maryland's Tyler Heights Elementary-a failing institution destined for a big turnaround-to discover the positives and negatives of the "school accountability movement" in which "No Child" is rooted; in particular, Perlstein wants to know, "What were the test scores about?" Tales of third graders prepping for an exam prove genuinely, surprisingly dramatic; Perlstein crafts a gripping narrative out of the day-to-day business of education through solid reporting, taking into consideration the politics, goals, interests and architects of the program ("Lobbyists for testing and school improvement businesses had a far greater role in the law's creation than... actual educators"). The faces of children, teachers and administrators emerge vividly, and Perlstein largely avoids taking sides in favor of an honest, enlightening look at the complex reality of this much-debated policy.
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From Booklist

The predominately minority and low-income students at Tyler Heights Elementary School in Annapolis, Maryland, showed huge improvement in their state standardized tests, securing the future of their teachers and principal—and pleasing parents—until the next round of tests the following year. Could they sustain the level of improvement when so many children came to school hungry, abused, or poisoned by lead paint? The state looked at overall improvement year to year rather than the progress of individual students. Could the teachers and principal Tina McKnight continue to perform under the pressure? Perlstein (Not Much, Just Chillin', 2003) details how McKnight and the teachers at the once-failing elementary school spend much of their day strategizing about the test, under scrutiny by the local board of education. Perlstein brings telling details, engagement, and perception to her investigation of how a single school coped with the high stakes attached to standardized tests. As educators and lawmakers ponder the renewal of No Child Left Behind, this book offers some piercing insight into the reality of reliance on standardized tests to measure a school's effectiveness. Bush, Vanessa

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1st edition (July 24, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805080821
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805080827
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,301,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Linda Perlstein's TESTED should be required reading for all politicians, bureaucrats, and administrators who propose or implement education policy. As a 4th grade teacher in a county adjacent to the one highlighted in the book, I can attest to the accuracy of Perlstein's account of the impact testing mania has had on teaching over the past few years. The book is very readable--not weighed down by education jargon--and gives the reader a clear, real-world sense of the good, the bad, and the ugly of No Child Left Behind.
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Format: Hardcover
"Tested" by Linda Perlstein should be required reading for anyone going into teaching and also every politician who thinks they are an expert of what is happening in our schools as a result of No Child Left Behind. I recently finished reading this book and then wrote a letter to Senator Clinton and inserted it into my copy of the book and gave it to one of her campaign coordinators. This book portrays the reduction of curriculum to teaching to the test especially for Title I schools who can suffer greatly if they do not hit the mark of making adequate yearly progress. As a middle school counselor involved in testing over 1100 students the annual testing required in our building has resulted in students experiencing test anxiety and loosing valuable learning time devoted to the test itself. Linda Perlstein's accounting of one elementary school's exoerience is on the mark when it comes to the loss of creativity and risk taking by seasoned professionals who in spite of knowing what is best for kids have to constrain their efforts to mandated curriculum, schedules and more. Buy this book and then share it with everyone you know so they can understand what public schools that are underfunded face each day.
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Format: Hardcover
No Child Left Behind inspires passionate rhetoric from both its supporters and its critics. If you're a supporter, NCLB is a watershed law that finally pulls failing urban and rural schools into the light of day. If you're a critic, NCLB is an oppressive law that cruelly burdens teachers under siege with even more demeaning job requirements. For laymen trying to get an informed position on the law, it's very hard to find books and articles where you can familiarize yourself with the issues and come up with your own opinion. In "Tested", Perlstein provides a powerful story that shows how a successful NCLB school in Annapolis develops a laserlike focus on the tests and ends up getting the scores.

Perlstein clearly dislikes the law and strongly criticizes NCLB in every way. A teacher Perlstein admires ends up leaving the school at the end of the year after becoming overly stressed by the school's focus on test success at the expense of learing. We frequently see some of the artificial techniques that are used to help boost scores such as breathing exercises, incentive plans and even a mascot led assembly. She portrays students as losing the meaning and the life of education as they seek to become masters of BCRs, the mechancially graded Brief Constructed Response questions. And in the end, she questions whether the tests measure anything useful. In the later portions of the book, she alludes to how the test writing process is flawed and how students who struggled with basic writing ended up getting scores that surprised the adults. The third graders who teachers are convinced will fail based on their day to day experiences working with the kids often surprise their teachers with passing scores.

This book falls short of being a definitive text on No Child Left Behind.
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Format: Hardcover
A couple of years ago we lived in Anne Arundel County and our elementary school was in some respects worse than the school described. The administration in our school ELIMINATED recess, Halloween and Valentine's DAy parties, assemblies, and field trips in order to raise those all-important MSA scores. And the elaborate discipline system they had to put into place to handle a bunch of six-year-olds who hadn't been able to move all day was ridiculous.

The crazy thing was, we were a 100% military-dependent school on a military post, and no one in the school would be staying in Maryland more than a year or two. Even the most involved parents couldn't have cared less how the school did on the MSAs-- but it seemed to be the only thing the principals and teachers cared about.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
TESTED is an excellent book about the meaning of the test-and-punish philosophy embedded in our federal education law, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

TESTED resounts the choices that the principal and teachers in one Maryland elementary school believe NCLB forces upon them. Perlstein tells the story of the entire 2005-2006 school year she spent at Tyler Heights Elementary, a school that serves very poor children and teeters on the brink of making or losing the Adequate Yearly Progress rating NCLB awards to a 'successful' school.

"Bombard, bombard, bombard those children with the kinds of questions they'll have on the test," the principal rationalizes. "You want the students at a level of automaticity with reading those test-like questions."

The reader spends days stretching into months with the third-grade teaching team. We watch them collaboratively plan each day to the minute, and we listen as the children yearn for more at school---to do some science, read for fun, perform a play. Will the school raise its scores enough? Suspense mounts until the last chapter. Then the reader must weigh the benefits and costs.
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