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de-testing and de-grading schools

Authentic Alternatives to Accountability and Standardization

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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 Eleven: Telling Time with a Broken Clock: Moving Beyond Standardized Testing

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

Telling Time WITH A Broken Clock

Moving Beyond Standardized Testing

JOE BOWER



“The more we learn about standardized testing, particularly in its high-stakes incarnation, the more likely we are to be appalled.”

—ALFIE KOHN

What do standardized test scores really tell us? Like many public policy issues, this is a complex question—yet too many people assume to know the answer. Whole school jurisdictions and entire nations define themselves by their standardized test results, including provincially administered examinations and international instruments such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). All of these programs, justified by their so-called impartiality and objectivity, share the assumption that the scores must be the public’s “transparent” window into the quality of our schools.

Bestselling author and blogger Seth Godin reminds us that the worst kind of clock is a clock that randomly runs fast or slow. “If there’s no clock,” Godin writes, “we go seeking the right time. But a wrong clock? We’re going to be tempted to accept what it tells us” (Godin, 2012). Godin’s message is that tracking the wrong data or misreading good data can get us into trouble. What if standardized test scores aren’t telling us what we think they are telling us? What if the scores are illusions that are giving us false confidence? What if our reliance on standardized testing to judge our schools is like relying...

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