Contradictions of School Reform: Educational Costs of Standardized Testing

By Linda M. McNeil | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Standardization, Defensive Teaching, and the Problems of Control

Standardization reduces the quality and quantity of what is taught and learned in schools. This immediate negative effect of standardization is the overwhelming finding of a study of schools where the imposition of standardized controls reduced the scope and quality of course content, diminished the role of teachers, and distanced students from active learning.

The long-term effects of standardization are even more damaging: over the long term, standardization creates inequities, widening the gap between the quality of education for poor and minority youth and that of more privileged students. The discriminatory effects of standardization are immediately evident in the reduction in both the quality and quantity of educational content for students who have historically scored low on standardized assessments. Over time, the longer standardized controls are in place, the wider the gap becomes as the system of testing and test preparation comes to substitute in minority schools for the curriculum available to more privileged students. These new structures of discrimination are being generated by the controls that began in the schools documented in this study and that in the succeeding years have become the dominant model of schooling in one of the nation’s largest and most diverse states, Texas. This book documents the immediate educational costs to curriculum, teaching, and children when the controls were first introduced. It then analyzes their growing power to damage the education of all children, but particularly those who are African American and Latino.

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