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The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools [Paperback]

by Alfie Kohn, Lois Bridges
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 8, 2000 0325003254 978-3250032540 5 - 17 years
Our students are tested to an extent that is unprecedented in American history and unparalleled anywhere in the world. Politicians and businesspeople, determined to get tough with students and teachers, have increased the pressure to raise standardized test scores. Unfortunately, the effort to do so typically comes at the expense of more meaningful forms of learning.

That disturbing conclusion emerges from Alfie Kohn's devastating new indictment of standardized testing. Drawing from the latest research, he concisely explains just how little test results really tell us and just how harmful a test-driven curriculum can be. Written in a highly readable question-and-answer format, The Case Against Standardized Testing will help readers respond to common questions and challenges-showing, for example, that:

  • high scores often signify relatively superficial thinking
  • many of the leading tests were never intended to measure teaching or learning
  • a school that improves its test results may well have lowered its standards to do so
  • far from helping to "close the gap," the use of standardized testing is most damaging for low-income and minority students
  • as much as 90 percent of the variations in test scores among schools or states have nothing to do with the quality of instruction
  • far more meaningful measures of student learning-or school quality-are available.
Kohn's central message is that standardized tests are "not like the weather, something to which we must resign ourselves. . . . They are not a force of nature but a force of politics-and political decisions can be questioned, challenged, and ultimately reversed." The final section demonstrates how teachers, parents, and students can turn their frustration into action and successfully turn back the testing juggernaut in order to create classrooms that focus on learning.

Also available on Audiotape: The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools, read by Alfie Kohn.

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The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools + Standardized Minds: The High Price Of America's Testing Culture And What We Can Do To Change It
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Editorial Reviews


“The more we learn about standardized testing.the more likely we are to be appalled. And the more appalled we are, the more inclined we will be to do what is necessary to protect our children.”–Alfie Kohn

About the Author

Alfie Kohn was recently described by Time magazine as "perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades [and] test scores." He is the author of seven previous books on education and human behavior, including Punished by Rewards (1993), Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community (1996), and The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and "Tougher Standards" (1999). A former teacher, Kohn now works with educators across the country and speaks regularly at national conferences. He lives (actually) in Belmont, Mass. and (virtually) at www.alfiekohn.org.

Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 17 years
  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Heinemann (September 8, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0325003254
  • ISBN-13: 978-3250032540
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. He is the author of twelve books and hundreds of articles. Kohn has been described by Time Magazine as "perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades and test scores." He has appeared twice on "Oprah," as well as on "The Today Show," NPR's "Talk of the Nation," and on many other TV and radio programs. He spends much of his time speaking at education conferences, as well as to parent groups, school faculties, and researchers. Kohn lives (actually) in the Boston area - and (virtually) at www.alfiekohn.org.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We've got it in Canada, too. . . June 23, 2001
High stakes testing is the foot and mouth disease of both the United States and Canada. This fall I'm heading back to teach in Oregon after 15 years in Canada. I was hoping that I would be able to have a respite for my kids (not for me!) and my brother tells me that they are doing the same thing in Oregon.
High Stakes testing closes the door on our middle of the road kids, the late bloomers, and of course the others discussed in Kohn's book.
But the sad thing is is that the parents who should spearhead the effort to end this modern day gristmill--the dismal paper chase of childhood--are the very ones who say "only for my child," or openly brag about their children's test scores.
He's right--those test scores only measure the square footage of the homes that surround the schools. And worse, teachers participate by earning their blood money by marking the tests! I've had kids give up hope when faced with the test at the end of the tunnel, things are so bad that in Calgary, in my daughter's middle class high school, only 52% of the students graduated. They flood the adult education centre in efforts to "upgrade." Finally they renamed the centre to Chinook College.
I love Kohn's book, and heard him speak, the only depressing thing is that in two combined nations of over 300 million, I am the fourth review!
Forget about making teachers accountable. I'd trade my tenure anyday in an effort to get rid of these tests. . .
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Standardized Testing--A Call to Action December 20, 2000
Death and taxes are often quoted as givens in our society. In the world of education, one might add standardized testing to this grouping. If we examine the current call for educational standards in this country and the accompanying emphasis on high stakes standardized testing, one may immediately recall the discomfort of sitting in a room of silent test takers, usually a gymnasium with only the sounds of the proctors and their wing-tipped shoes creaking up and down the rows as answers are feverishly bubbled in with number two pencils. Alfie Kohn, reseracher and an outspoken critic of our public school system and its emphasis on competition, brings to light in this book, a need for a modern day "call to arms." For Kohn, establishes a strong framework from the start, as he characterizes standardized tests as having "swelled and mutated, like a creature in one of those old horror movies to the point that it now threatens to swallow our school whole." Over the course of just 94 pages, Kohn writes a deftly crafted text, with chapter titles that in and of themselves provoke, such as, "Measuring What Matters Least," "The Worst Tests," and "Burnt at the High Stakes," just to name three of the six section titles. This book is a must read for every parent and educator. Kohn aptly sets the stage for his final section, entitled, "Fighting the Tests," a call to action by teachers, adminstrators, parents and students to resist in any way possible the onslaught of standardized testing and standards. Kohn, puts forth very concrete ways to resist current efforts that are being imposed by various government agencies throughout our country. Read more ›
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazon should stock this surefire potential bestseller! October 12, 2000
This is an extremely important book written by a courageous thoughtful and articulate spokesman for children. Kohn explains to citizens, school administrators and parents punch-drunk with an insatiable quest for tests and test scores just how much their simplistic efforts at school 'improvement' damage our schools and the learning potential of kids.
The costs are just too high for this national obsession and escalation of educational violence to go unchecked. The testing war is financed by textbook publishers, corporations and dubious politicians, like George W. Bush, who equate learning with measurement, the casualties are children and creative teachers.
Those advocating nutty ideas like annual (or even more frequent) mandatory standardized testing are transforming our public schools from social institutions where intellect and creativity are socially constructed into corporatized sterile test-preparation centers.
Alfie Kohn's new book should be purchased in quantity and distributed at school parent nights, school board meetings, cocktail parties and teacher lounges. Alfie Kohn is a 21st Century Patriot whose timely book should be a clarion call to all concerned with children and the future of our schools.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Power to the Resistance! November 25, 2000
They ought to call this book "Why Standardized Tests are Dumb - for Dummies" and put it in one of those glaring yellow-and-black covers. Then maybe Alfie Kohn would become the household name he deserves to be! There is no more cogent explanation for the inequities of standrdized testing than that which is presented by Kohn in this slim, easy-to-read, practical, and VITAL volume. Early on Kohn points out that the arguement stating that standardized tests prepare students for the workplace is not only faulty, but riddled with ludicrously laughable "logic". After all, as he says, "How often are we forbidden to ask coworkers for help, or to depend on a larger organization for support...?" And, he goes on, "when someone is going to judge the quality of your work, whether you are a sculptor, a refrigerator repairman, a reporter, or a therapist, how common is it for you to be given a seret paper-and-pencil exam? Isn't it far more likely that the evaluator will look at examples of what you've already done, or perhaps watch you perform your normal tasks?" (p. 6) Kohn states in clear terms the basic inequalities of standardized tests, describes the dangers of "high stakes" testing schemes, links testing to the poor teaching that often infects the classrooms of our poorest children, and offers assessment alternatives that are both sane and authentic. Read this book before spring testing fever hits your school district -valuable for educators, parents, and students; vital for society.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very satisfied
It was quite an interesting read. Anyone connected with education should read this book. There are only 66 pages plus notes so it is a quick book to read.
Published 22 months ago by Janice B Franklin
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Summary of Case Against Standardized Testing
An excellent and straight-forward explanation of the short-comings of standardized tests. It is brief, 66 pages of text, and one-sided; but it does not pull any punches. Read more
Published on February 22, 2009 by Steven L. Weinberg
4.0 out of 5 stars Fill In the Dots, La, La, La.
In the past fifteen years or so Alfie Kohn has become one of the nation's most outspoken critics of the public school system. Read more
Published on January 26, 2007 by tvtv3
4.0 out of 5 stars Great challenge to the current testing hype
This book is a great overview of what standardized testing really is. The book describes how standardized tests are formulated and debates whether or not they are a real measure... Read more
Published on January 10, 2007 by J. Hardy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
This book is easily read and speaks volumes about the way testing our students is ruinous. The way Alfie Kohn presents the information is easily followed and gives the reader... Read more
Published on May 26, 2005 by A. Shirley
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! Must read for teachers
As a teacher, I have been frustrated the last few years with our extreme focus on raising test scores in public education. Read more
Published on February 9, 2005 by Tammy Vickroy
5.0 out of 5 stars A focused indictment of the obsession with standards.
It has been asserted with regard to this book that the author was never a teacher and has no qualifications. That's not true. Read more
Published on January 9, 2005 by A. Abruzzese
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This offers excellent material for the case against standardized testing. I am not a teacher (but may be someday! Read more
Published on February 6, 2004 by Randy Given
4.0 out of 5 stars An Educators Delight
This book sheds light on the cases against standardized testing. As a future educator, I was please that my Professor chose this book. Read more
Published on June 29, 2003 by Heather
4.0 out of 5 stars To Test or not to Test
Tests are all too common for students, parents, and eductors. The Case Against Standardized Testing by Alfie Kohn takes the reader to the world of unfamiliarity and raises the... Read more
Published on August 22, 2002 by Joan
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