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A High Price for a Standardized Mind

Most Americans take standardized mental tests as a rite of passage from the day they enter kindergarten. Gatekeepers of Americas meritocracyeducators, academic institutions, and employershave used test scores to label people as bright or not gifted, as worthy academically or not worthy enough to hold a mop. Indeed, not only is it a stigma, but one largely unrecognized in our culture. Standardized tests and the scores that they spew have become the defining motif of what passes for measuring school reform and progress in this day and age. Across the country, students, teachers, and schools are being rewarded or punished based on a set of tolerable test scores. Whether you consider yourself to be intelligent, dense, lethargic, or diligent the only measure a student has (or that society recognizes) is how fast and how accurately they can darken the circles on a multiple-choice test.This test-based reform model began about a decade ago with a call for elevated standards. This metamorphisized into a reliance on standardized tests to determine if high standards were being met. Today, children are being held back, denied access to a preferred program or school, and even refused a high school diploma on the basis of a single standardized test. As Mack points out, the obsession with test scores is not likely to go away any time soon, despite growing criticism from parents and teachers that tests are not the true measure of potential from todays students. Scores of politicians, corporate leaders, and think tanks have embraced test-based reform as the only way to shake up public schools and get more bang for the taxpayers' buck.Currently, forty-nine states have state standards in core academic subjects, up from fourteen in 1996. Iowa is the only sensible state to holdout, prompting author and anti-testing advocate Alfie Kohn to comment, "Thank God for Iowa." A growing number of states, twenty-seven at last count--are implementing high-stakes...

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