An informative and enlightening appraisal of the regimented tests that American schoolchildren of all ages are subjected to...

THE TEST

WHY OUR SCHOOLS ARE OBSESSED WITH STANDARDIZED TESTING—BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE

New debates about the worthiness of standardized testing in schools.

Beginning with a comprehensive history of standardized testing, NPR education blogger Kamenetz (DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, 2010, etc.) shows how this method of analysis morphed into standard practice in the American school system to assess the abilities of students and teachers alike. The author identifies 10 major problems associated with this form of testing, including the fact that these tests analyze the wrong data, waste time and money, put undue stress on students, parents and teachers, cause teaching to the test and disregard the diversity of the test-takers. When the Common Core State Standards initiative takes effect in 2015, American students will be subjected to even more tests, which Kamenetz believes will only exacerbate the problems already identified with this method. Not only are standardized tests asking the wrong questions, but they are being used the wrong way: “as a single, stand-alone measure of the performance of teachers, students, schools, and districts.” Using thorough research and illuminating interviews, the author provides readers with effective solutions to implement on both the individual level—opt out of taking standardized tests or work on individual projects that emphasize a variety of skills, not just language arts and math—and the national level, where assessments of student performance should be used for the greater good of the community as well as the individual. With abundant data assembled in an accessible format, the book is a must-read for anyone in the educational system or any parent who has a child old enough to enter preschool. The author amply shows why the current process of evaluation must be upgraded to meet future needs.

An informative and enlightening appraisal of the regimented tests that American schoolchildren of all ages are subjected to taking on a regular basis.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1610394413

Page Count: 272

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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AN INVISIBLE THREAD

THE TRUE STORY OF AN 11-YEAR-OLD PANHANDLER, A BUSY SALES EXECUTIVE, AND AN UNLIKELY MEETING WITH DESTINY

A straightforward tale of kindness and paying it forward in 1980s New York.

When advertising executive Schroff answered a child’s request for spare change by inviting him for lunch, she did not expect the encounter to grow into a friendship that would endure into his adulthood. The author recounts how she and Maurice, a promising boy from a drug-addicted family, learned to trust each other. Schroff acknowledges risks—including the possibility of her actions being misconstrued and the tension of crossing socio-economic divides—but does not dwell on the complexities of homelessness or the philosophical problems of altruism. She does not question whether public recognition is beneficial, or whether it is sufficient for the recipient to realize the extent of what has been done. With the assistance of People human-interest writer Tresniowski (Tiger Virtues, 2005, etc.), Schroff adheres to a personal narrative that traces her troubled relationship with her father, her meetings with Maurice and his background, all while avoiding direct parallels, noting that their childhoods differed in severity even if they shared similar emotional voids. With feel-good dramatizations, the story seldom transcends the message that reaching out makes a difference. It is framed in simple terms, from attributing the first meeting to “two people with complicated pasts and fragile dreams” that were “somehow meant to be friends” to the conclusion that love is a driving force. Admirably, Schroff notes that she did not seek a role as a “substitute parent,” and she does not judge Maurice’s mother for her lifestyle. That both main figures experience a few setbacks yet eventually survive is never in question; the story fittingly concludes with an epilogue by Maurice. For readers seeking an uplifting reminder that small gestures matter.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4251-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Howard Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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INSIDE AMERICAN EDUCATION

THE DECLINE, THE DECEPTION, THE DOGMAS

American schools at every level, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, have substituted ideological indoctrination for education, charges conservative think-tanker Sowell (Senior Fellow/Hoover Institution; Preferential Polices, 1990, etc.) in this aggressive attack on the contemporary educational establishment. Sowell's quarrel with "values clarification" programs (like sex education, death-sensitizing, and antiwar "brainwashing") isn't that he disagrees with their positions but, rather, that they divert time and resources from the kind of training in intellectual analysis that makes students capable of reasoning for themselves. Contending that the values clarification programs inspired by his archvillain, psychotherapist Carl Rogers, actually inculcate values confusion, Sowell argues that the universal demand for relevance and sensitivity to the whole student has led public schools to abdicate their responsibility to such educational ideals as experience and maturity. On the subject of higher education, Sowell moves to more familiar ground, ascribing the declining quality of classroom instruction to the insatiable appetite of tangentially related research budgets and bloated athletic programs (to which an entire chapter, largely irrelevant to the book's broader argument, is devoted). The evidence offered for these propositions isn't likely to change many minds, since it's so inveterately anecdotal (for example, a call for more stringent curriculum requirements is bolstered by the news that Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton without taking any courses in economics, math, biology, chemistry, history, sociology, or government) and injudiciously applied (Sowell's dismissal of student evaluations as responsible data in judging a professor's classroom performance immediately follows his use of comments from student evaluations to document the general inadequacy of college teaching). All in all, the details of Sowell's indictment—that not only can't Johnny think, but "Johnny doesn't know what thinking is"—are more entertaining than persuasive or new.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-930330-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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