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Parents, students, educators (at all levels, pre-kindergarten to graduate school), or anyone required to take a standardized test--to be assessed, admitted, licensed, or placed--will be disturbed by this thorough, documented study of an industry out of control, yet in control of our lives. While few of these concerns or facts are new, Strenio (a lawyer formerly affiliated with the Huron Institute, an educational-policy think tank) has brought together a wide range of information previously unavailable to the general public, and has made difficult concepts--even statistical terminology--accessible through clever examples and personal anecdotes. (The colloquial tone does grate a bit, eventually.) Strenio's case against standardized testing begins with a litany of documented errors and abuses; he then attacks claims of objectivity and precision, neatly demonstrating that subjectivity reigns as tests are devised, and that a single number can provide only a rough indication of a person's test-taking abilities, certainly not a true picture of his competence at anything else. The inadequacy of paper-and-pencil, computer-scored tests as predictors of just about anything (except parental income) is thoroughly explored, with particular attention to the qualities--determination in a college student, bedside manner in a physician, research competence in a lawyer--that such exams necessarily miss. Strenio then takes on the testing industry; and his favorite target is Princeton's Educational Testing Service, the giant of the field. Without external checks and balances, and with test-takers firmly in their grip (paying for a service they can't examine or question), industry execs have fought to maintain the secrecy that has given them the power to set their own rules; to Strenio, legislation ending that secrecy is the first step toward more enlightened use of tests. Beyond that, he provides few solutions to the very real problems of selecting candidates when a school has 20 applicants for each space, or deciding who shall rise through the civil service ranks without the use of multiple-choice exams. But the lack of easy or obvious alternatives to standardized tests should not lead to their unquestioned use--and Strenio has performed a public service in demonstrating why.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Rawson, Wade--dist. by. Atheneum