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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 Nine: The Role of Assessment in Empowering/Disempowering Students in the Critical Pedagogy Classroom


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The Role OF Assessment IN Empowering/Disempowering Students IN THE Critical Pedagogy Classroom


In the American educational system, the role of assessment has taken on a far greater importance than it’s ever had. While assessment has always had a prominent place in American education, its prominence has grown with the publication of A Nation at Risk (Gardner, 1983). Although A Nation at Risk appropriately pointed out concerns with American education, such as the gap in achievement between white and minority students, its publication ultimately resulted in the current emphasis, some would say overemphasis, upon assessment through the standards movement, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 2001, better known as No Child Left Behind, and its child, Race to the Top. All rely heavily upon standardized testing to improve schools.

In general, standardized tests are not well integrated with the learning process. Standardized testing is often disruptive. McNeil and Valenzuela (2000) describe how precious resources and time are spent preparing for the standardized tests:

One teacher … had spent considerable time and money assembling a rich collection of historical and literary works of importance in Latino culture. … Her students responded to her initiative with real enthusiasm to study and learn. She was dismayed to see, upon returning one day from lunch, that the books for her week’s lessons had been set aside. In the center...

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