Testing: The Real Crisis in Education

K-12 Testing

FairTest Examiner - April 2008

Why corporate leaders have been major backers of high-stakes testing at the state and national levels has long been a source of debate. University of Rochester professor David Hursh, a long-time assessment reform activist, links their support to the development of national and international economic policies often termed "neoliberalism" that prioritize the market and support privatization of public services such as education. Neoliberalism, he charges in his new, readable book, is the underlying basis for "the real crisis in education," defined by his title as High-Stakes Testing and the Decline of Teaching and Learning.

Part of what makes this book accessible is that Hursh roots much of his discussion in his own experiences as a working class youth and as a teacher in progressive schools. Avoiding jargon, he has assembled a rich array of evidence of the economic and social effects of neoliberalism, focusing on its consequences for education. He also details the many forms of damage caused by high-stakes testing, contrasting test-driven schooling with high-quality teaching and assessment practices.

Chapters recount the rise of high-stakes testing in Texas, New York, and Chicago, as well as its nationalization through NCLB. He also uncovers how neoliberal economic assumptions now commonly frame debates over educational policy, making test-based "reform" seem reasonable despite the evidence of its damage to teaching and learning. He concludes with a call for teachers to reject the neoliberal framework and participate in wider political efforts to ensure both high quality schooling and other programs that support human and social needs.

- David Hursh, High-Stakes Testing and the Decline of Teaching and Learning: The Real Crisis in Education, Rowan & Littlefield, pap.