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de-testing and de-grading schools

Authentic Alternatives to Accountability and Standardization


Edited By Joe Bower and Paul L. Thomas

A century of education and education reform, along with more than three decades of high-stakes testing and accountability, reveals a disturbing paradox: education has a steadfast commitment to testing and grading. This commitment persists despite ample research, theory, and philosophy revealing the corrosive consequences of both testing and grading in an education system designed to support human agency and democratic principles. This revised edited volume brings together a collection of updated and new essays that confronts the failure of testing and grading. The book explores the historical failure of testing and grading; the theoretical and philosophical arguments against testing and grading; the negative influence of tests and grades on social justice, race, class, and gender; and the role that they play in perpetuating a deficit perspective of children. The chapters fall under two broad sections. Part I, Degrading Learning, Detesting Education: The Failure of High-Stake Accountability in Education, includes essays on the historical, theoretical, and philosophical arguments against testing and grading. Part II, De-Grading and De-Testing in a Time of High-Stakes Education Reform, presents practical experiments in de-testing and de-grading classrooms for authentic learning experiences.
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Chapter Six: Feeding the World = Reading the World: Let Them Eat Tests


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Feeding THE World = Reading THE World1

Let Them Eat Tests


“We can’t feed you, but we can test you”



A lot has happened since my first version of this chapter was included in the first edition of De-Testing and De-Grading. Technology moves faster than the average person can usually comprehend. And before we can digest (pun intended) the new uses of this information, edutech companies and corporate reformers are selling it to public education for use on children as their guinea pigs. In the first edition, I focused largely on the regime of standardized testing as the key vehicle toward manufacturing an educational system that resembles a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). Scientific and economic frameworks directly shape the ways in which we envision or construct models of education.

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