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Paperback Standardized Minds: The High Price of America's Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It Book

ISBN: 0738204331

ISBN13: 9780738204338

Standardized Minds: The High Price of America's Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It

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Book Overview

We've been told time and time again that standardized tests aren't perfect but that they're the best tool we have for gauging aptitude and achievement. Is this really true? What are the flaws of such testing? Why is your father's occupation a better predictor of SAT scores than virtually any other factor? And, most important, what can we do to hold one another accountable to standards at all levels of schools and in the workplace?Standardized Minds...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings


The book is a critique of America's testing obsession through a thorough examination of a series of educational reform disasters advanced by increased testing programs, educational policymakers' hidden personal/political agenda, and the continuous and unrelenting presence of big business profits in testing at the social expenditure of our nation's minority population resulting in the cultivation of a system of "pseudo-meritocracy". A major strength of the book is Sacks' ability and expertise in using research findings to strengthen his thought-provoking arguments against the standardized testing machine to prove how our culture places excessive value on society's "potential to achieve" without any substantial proof that these instruments of testing actually provide any viable information at all. The author proves that taxpayers are largely conditioned into believing that the tests actually measure intelligence, student performance, teacher performance, or even school performance by systematically breaking down the history of testing and its effects on the general public including the rich, the poor, and the politically motivated. Sacks points out that mental testing "is a highly effective means of social control, predominantly serving the interests of the nation's elite", or as a means controlling resources from people who do not want to lose them. The most interesting portion of the book is chapter five mainly because the author bashes the state of Texas and providing data to substantiate that Texas spends the most on standardized testing than any other state. The author criticizes test promoters as being "Machiavellian educators" by devising methods to legally justify flunking students who they think would not succeed in the next grade (George W. included). Sacks also concludes that there is a huge potential for money making in the test business and corporations are making millions, if not billions in the testing industry. Affirmative action is also besieged as tool for higher education which benefits children of the affluent. As technology improves, there will only be more elaborate schemes to perpetuate the ignorance of the American public. There is so much aggravating evidence of profound institutional racism in this book that I could probably go on forever. Are there any weaknesses in the book? I really could not find any. Even though a few more examples of authentic and performance assessment could have been explored, the author does an excellent job of attacking the validity of America's testing culture. A great read for parents, teachers, administrators, policy makers, and any other countries even remotely interested in employing the testing culture. In short, the book is an extremely useful and effective critical analysis of the American testing culture and the detrimental effect on the nation's immigrant/ethnic population, minority population, and other people who are deemed "non-cognizant". As an educator, I plan to use this

A Book for STUDENTS, who are taking these silly tests!

I am a high school senior so I am currently getting a lot of pressure from my parents to get that silly 1600 on my SAT which will take place in October and December this year. Then there's also the ACTs and the 3 SAT IIs! I was always suspicious of test prep companies, the ETS, and the SATs themselves. Living in Los Angeles, these test prep companies have grown like weeds in the community, sucking up money from middle and upper class students. Though I am fortunate, my parents have also forcefully enrolled me at one of these. My SAT school is doing a nice job with its profits and have managed to get a new paint job, redecorate the "classrooms", and to get more students and more teachers, to just get it bigger and bigger. While my "teachers" explain the concepts of the SAT, I can't help but wish I was in the library reading more books such as this or practicing the piano. It is so unfair that only the rich people can afford these classes and they are the ones who get the good scores on the SATs. After getting a mediocre score on the SAT in June, my parents have now considered me a total idiot, even though my report cards and comments from teachers say otherwise. This book is so chock-full of information that deserves wide reading. The author has done the most extensive research imaginable. The controversy of the standardized tests is something that should have been addressed and Peter Sacks is the best one to do it. He has full of statistics and information to back up everything he says, yet he never just blows them off to you, but explains them. In addition to statistics, are the personal recollections of the people he interviewed-the teachers, educators, college admissions people, and even students. The tale of one student who had 7 tries to take a silly test and not being able to graduate and forced to stay in high school was frightening to the say the least. I am also glad that the author also included a section about the infamous incident in 1998 in Massachusetts when everyone condemned the teachers that they failed "a basic reading and writing test", which had become a punch-line for many of Jay Leno's jokes that year. It was rather strange that the media did not go into detail about the exact questions or the more specifics of that exam, but everyone just wanted to call these teachers "idiots". The book is comprehensive on all testing, with the exception of secondary school admissions tests such as the ISEE and the SSAT. Going to California private schools, I have become familiar with ERBs and the Stanford 9 tests. In order to get into private high schools, I had to take the ISEE and the SSAT. Now I have the SATs and ACTs to conquer. This is more than a book analyzing the damaging effects of the testing culture. The author suggest an standing ovation-worthy proposal of evaluating students on what they can do, whether it is projects and more research opportunities such as outside occupational research or conducting a lab

Must Read For Anyone Interested In Education

I was in the middle of reading Standardized Minds when I heard a panel of "Experts" talk about the future of LA Unified School District on Which Way LA, a local radio show. Specifically they were discussing the notion of linking teacher bonus pay to the performance of their students on standardized tests. I wish Peter Sacks had been on the program as he successfully demolishes the continued folly of our reliance on standardized tests as a way to judge our schools, our teachers and our students. I wholeheartedly endorse the opinions of the previous two reviewers. Speaking as a parent, I can only say that the more people who read this book, engage in a discussion about the issues so eloquently raised within it and help push the national dialogue on education forward in the directions the author suggests, the better off our kids and we as a society will be.

Suprebly Researched Indictment of Standardized Testing

In today's US it is almost impossible to avoid encountering standardized tests--mass-produced, multiple-choice, fill-in-the-bubble, machine-scored exams of all sorts. Standardized tests are used to assess the performance of public schools, in many systems to determine which students will be held back a grade, to decide who will get into college, and into graduate and professional school, and who will get certain jobs. In "Standardized Minds," Peter Sacks delivers a devastating critique of the use of such tests. His indictment includes a wide range of particulars, only some of which can be summarized here.First, standardized tests are not a source of useful information. A widely used reading test given to elementary school students can err by as much as three grade levels in measuring a student's reading level. The SAT, required for admission to most colleges, has no use other than to make predictions, with limited accuracy, of students' freshman year grades. The GRE, required for admission to most Ph.D. programs, actually has a negative correlation with future success as a scholar.Second, standardized tests are very biased. The best known of these biases is that of the SAT against low-income, minority students. Sacks shows that this bias extends to other tests as well. Another bias identified by Sacks is that standardized tests are biased in favor of superficial thinking--the ability to rapidly recall and repeat facts--and against the deeper thinking necessary to solve complex real-world problems.Third, and perhaps most harmfully, standardized tests promote "teaching to the test." A number of states have established what Sacks terms "high-stakes accountability" programs, in which standardized test scores determine whether students are promoted to the next grade or are allowed to graduate, and are used to rank the performance of schools. Sacks documents how such "high-stakes" programs cause teachers to spend enormous amounts of time drilling students in preparation for the tests. Such teaching practices promote rote memorization and superficial thinking at the expense of critical thinking skills and genuine understanding--hardly a desireable educational goal.It is important to note that Sacks is not merely giving his personal opinions. He has studied and mastered a great deal of research. At the same time, his book is far more than a dry academic recital. Unlike the Dinesh D'Souzas of the world, Sacks knows the proper usage of anecdotes--to illustrate a generalzation, not as the basis for it. Of the many illuminating stories he tells, one bears repeating. St. John's University's psych department requires students entering the Ph.D. program to take the GRE, which is useless except to make somewhat accurate predictions of first-year grades. Students seeking a masters degree only, while they take the same first-year courses, are not required to take the GRE. However, if these students wish, o

Review of "Standardized Minds"

Mr. Sacks in his new publication, Standardized Minds, has done an outstanding job of placing norm-refrenced standardized tests, along with their associated multiple-choice item formats, in proper perspective. These tests have set standards for academic assessment for many years, and, as Mr. Sacks points out, are being questioned by many in the testing profession as being inapporpriate and insensitive as single and simplisthic guages of educational progress. He has documented extensive research on this subject, presented some impressive "case studies" of those who have been penalized in their career and life chioces based on "low" test scroes when all other extracurricular or in-school performances predicted otherwise. In addition to the many problems associated with mulitple-choice item types, a main focus is on the misunderstanding and misuse of the scores by all levels of society. As he so eloquently states, many educators are not properly taught how to interpret and use these data, legislative or government policy-makers have little or any idea of the substance or meaning of these scores, the media are at the mercy of the lack of knowledge (or political direction) fed them, and parents and children are left confused with numbers that do not give them specific constructive instructional information. The end result is that these test results are forced into a political and unethical framework which has greatly weakened their usefulness. If the desire is to help children learn and teachers teach, some interesting and effective alternatives are provided. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in improving educational assessment.
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