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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 Seven: Bubble in B for Boredom


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Bubble IN B FOR Boredom


The growing import given to high-stakes tests brings to mind the state-run light bulb factories of the former Soviet Union. Those under-resourced factories were required to meet mandatory monthly quotas, not of the number of bulbs but of the total combined bulb wattage. So, in the last days of each month, if production was behind schedule, many factory managers instructed their workers to fabricate larger bulbs of higher wattage. Though the factories filled up with comically over-sized, useless bulbs too large for sockets, imposed quotas were met. Present-day public school teachers in the United States are required to meet state-imposed mandates with unintended consequences that are no less absurd. Required by educational reforms to foster students that excel on standardized tests, teachers are turning out better test takers, but also dulled young learners.

As a result of the “pervasive testing culture” (Moses & Nanna, 2007, p. 55) in public education, students on average now take more than 100 standardized tests during the course of their K–12 education (Carpenter, 2015; Sanchez, 2015), with students of color more likely to be over-tested (Dianis, Jackson, & Noguera, 2015). Additionally, more instructional time is spent on test preparation, at the expense of engaging and varied learning activities (Abrams, Pedulla, & Madaus, 2003; Shepard & Dougherty, 1991; Smith, Edelsky, Draper, Rottenberg, & Cherland, 1990). There is also substantial evidence of curricular narrowing...

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