Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Testing Talk: A Weapon of Mass Distraction

Stephen Krashen
We are invited to give our opinions about the content of common core tests on a website called "testing talk" ( We are not invited to discuss whether we need the tests or for that matter whether we should have the common core. For those who haven't been paying attention, the common core will impose more testing than has ever been seen on this planet, far more than is helpful or necessary. There is no research shwoing that increasing testing improves achievement, and the amount of money involved is staggering, especially the cost of technology, as the tests will be delivered online.
Those who accept the invitation to discuss the content of the tests will have the impression they have a seat at the table. In reality, invitations to discuss the standards and tests are a means of control, diverting attention from the real issues:
"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum … That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate" (N. Chomsky, The Common Good, p. 42, 2002)
The problem in American education is not a matter of getting the right tests. The problem is poverty. Our students from middle-class families who attend well-funded schools score at the top of the world on international tests. The US has the highest level of child poverty among all industrialized countries. If all our children were protected from the effects of poverty our overall international test scores would be spectacular.
Poverty means little health care, poor nutrition and little access to books and has a devastating effect on school achievement. The best teaching is ineffective when children are hungry, ill, and have nothing to read. The impact of poverty could be profoundly reduced if we invested more on food programs, health care, and libraries, instead of on useless standards and tests.
We have been told not to worry about these things but instead to debate about the details of the tests.  We can be sure that PARCC et al will repair the minor problems (e.g. boring passages, not enough time), but presuppositions of the system will be reinforced, as Chomsky predicts.

Testing talk is a weapon of mass distraction.

PS: I posted this note on the testing talk website:[0]=response-create


  1. If the comments were filtered or restricted to picayune criticisms of the content of the tests I would agree with you. However, the content and substance of the posts really speaks volumes, and the effect of reading post after post, documenting the myriad problems, not only with these specific tests, but with standardized testing in general, is profound. I hope you will take a second look, and I hope people on our side of the debate will take advantage of this opportunity to document in detail the travesty under way.

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  3. I too see a broad range of unfiltered posts and I believe the stories being told will serve to help educate those about the overall effects of testing and of the issues underlying the common core. As I read post after post, I see this as an opportunity to potentially bring people together to fight the machine that is devastating education. You are potentially a strong voice that could also move this discussion forward. I don't quite understand your opposition.

  4. Straight from the co-opt playbook. Create a neutered venue to allow venting, drowning out authentic vehicles and voices. Same exact tactics as tobacco and climate change deniers. hate to say it, but I've done the same tactics for big health care in the 90s...