- Series: Critical Social Thought
- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Routledge (April 30, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415920744
- ISBN-13: 978-0415920742
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,154,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Contradictions of School Reform: Educational Costs of Standardized Testing (Critical Social Thought)
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"High-stakes state-mandated standardization is rapidly spreading throughout the United States. McNeil examines the widely emulated accountability system in Texas and concludes that it has adverse effects on teaching and learning, stifles democratic discourse, and perpetuates inequities for minority students."
-Kappan June 2000
"The complex narratives in this book are entertaining... McNeil exposes the sameness of education-manifested in standardized tests-as a pseudonym for inequality.."
-American School Board Journal, August 2001
"" Contradictions of School Reform tackles head-on the issue of race - in particular, the myth that test-based reform is a way to institute higher standards for students of color. . . The beauty of McNeil's book is that she combines a solid theoretical grounding with a close-up of what actually happened in Houston [Texas] schools. . . Next time someone starts spouting about the Texas educational miracle, give that person a copy of McNeil's book."
-Barbara Miner in" Progressive, August 2000
"McNeil punctures the myth that test-driven curricula raise the floor of student achievement. She found that Houston's magnet schools and many other classrooms throughout the system compromised higher academic quality by adopting a system to identify bad teachers, a system that forced teachers to divorce their subject knowledge from their classroom lessons.."
-Education Review, July 13, 2001.
"McNeil's detailed account clearly shows that the consequences of educational reform in Texas - particulaarly high stakes standardized testing - produced the unintended consequences of deskilling teachers and redefining the education in inner city schoolsto focus on standardized test taking. This dismantled authentic education and created classrooms in which teachers and students colluded to create lowered educational expectations.."
-Teachers College Record', Vol. 104, 2001
About the Author
of Education at Rice University. A past vice-president of the American Educational Research Association, she is the author of Contradictions of Control (Routledge, 1986).
Top customer reviews
The second major impact of Contradictions of School Reform is what it has to offer to the national discussion on school accountability. Her longitudinal studies on the same schools before and after the institution of various state and local reform measures provide clear evidence on the impact of these reforms and the costs to the students. It appears that tests, which originally had a useful purpose, have now been misapplied and misused to everyone's detriment. Furthermore, her evidence shows that the high stakes tests are creating a false sense of accountability in addition to being harmful to children's learning.
Deborah Meier says on the cover of the book, "It's a story that everyone needs to read from start to finish." As a teacher and a mother, I heartily agree.
From her classroom observation come examples that illuminate the frustration and loss occurring when teachers try to maintain enriched instruction while also serving the higher authorities that give credence to only one form of assessment-a multiple choice test of minimum skills.
Many teachers and parents see a more complex picture of the ways children learn and can demonstrate that development. Why have their insights been ignored? Addressing this issue, McNeil returns to the beginnings of the Perot movement for school reform, showing how its original intent was perverted by powerful political players who used standardized assessment to create a closed hierarchical system, with teachers, of course, occupying the lowest level. She shows that this "de-democratization" of public schools marginalizes anyone who does not speak the language of authority, the language of the standardized test.
McNeil provides in-depth social and political perspective, but she also captures the salient moments in schools-- like the teacher of eighth graders who had failed at least two years being told he could no longer do the oral reading they loved because "they are too busy preparing for their TAAS test" or the students in a daily pep rally on test-taking strategies for TAAS chanting "Three in a row? No,No, No! [Three answers `b' in a row? No, No, No!]"
Public schools could be helping young people acquire the deep understandings of concepts and the habits of rigorous analysis that will allow them to take active part in an age of technology and information. Instead many kids are learning that the classroom has nothing to do with real life or real learning or real engagement. It is instead a place where they have no voice but are at the mercy of the routine and mundane. And who can blame their cynicism when they once came to school so eager to learn?
When the stakes are so high, the discussion cannot be limited. McNeil does us a great service with her penetrating analysis of the damage being done to children, particularly those in most need of constructing a new future. Her clear language allows us to see what we had only glimpsed in part. With this articulation comes the realization that the present problems are not inevitable.
Her study of specific classrooms suggests what teachers and students, allowed to focus on full, deep learning, could accomplish.
It is this faith in kids and hope for their future that seems to drive McNeil's writing, urging us to think more clearly about the limits imposed by a system that could be expanding the possibilities.