Standardized Testing: The Monster that Ate American Education

Diane Ravitch: The rise of the testing movement can be traced through the twentieth century.  But what we’re living now with is not just the rise of the testing movement but the overwhelming dominance of testing.  It has become almost like the monster that ate American education.  And we are so test-obsessed that schools are being closed based on test scores, even when those test scores reflect that the schools have a heavy enrollment of very poor kids or heavy enrollment of children with disabilities and children with all kinds of other needs.  We don't look at the needs.  We don't evaluate the problems that need to be solved in that school.  We just say "These are low scores.  We have to close the school."  

I am very deeply concerned about what years and years of standardized testing does to children’s brains.  I think it actually becomes destructive.  If we think about what our needs are for the twenty-first century, and not just how do we compete in the world but how do we live in the world, how do we survive in the world, we need a generation of people who will succeed us who are thoughtful, who can reflect, who can think.  You know, the expression is "think critically," and that's certainly important, but also who have imagination.

None of the characteristics that are important for thriving in the world of the twenty-first century are encouraged by standardized testing.  In fact, they’re all squashed.  So we’re doing something that is, actually, long term, harmful to children’s brains.  We’re saying to them, year after year, "You will be judged by whether you can select the right answer, whether you can put your X in the right bubble."  That's wrong. Whether we do it on a computer or do it with a number two pencil, it’s wrong, because we’re teaching children that every question has four possible answers, one of which is right and three of which are wrong.  

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

None of the characteristics that are important for thriving in the world of the twenty-first century are encouraged by standardized testing, argues Diane Ravitch, one of the most respected educational historians in the world. What we need is a generation of students who can think critically and creatively.

Why a great education means engaging with controversy

Jonathan Zimmerman explains why teachers should invite, not censor, tough classroom debates.

Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • During times of war or national crisis in the U.S., school boards and officials are much more wary about allowing teachers and kids to say what they think.
  • If our teachers avoid controversial questions in the classroom, kids won't get the experience they need to know how to engage with difficult questions and with criticism.
  • Jonathan Zimmerman argues that controversial issues should be taught in schools as they naturally arise. Otherwise kids will learn from TV news what politics looks like – which is more often a rant than a healthy debate.
Keep reading Show less

Are these 100 people killing the planet?

Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Image: Jordan Engel, reused via Decolonial Media License 0.1
Strange Maps
  • Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
  • This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
  • The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
Keep reading Show less

SpaceX catches Falcon Heavy nosecone with net-outfitted boat

It marks another milestone in SpaceX's long-standing effort to make spaceflight cheaper.

Technology & Innovation
  • SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy into space early Tuesday morning.
  • A part of its nosecone – known as a fairing – descended back to Earth using special parachutes.
  • A net-outfitted boat in the Atlantic Ocean successfully caught the reusable fairing, likely saving the company millions of dollars.
Keep reading Show less