Tested, by Linda Perlstein

K-12 Testing

FairTest Examiner - October 2007

For her new book, Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade (Henry Holt and Co., 2007), former Washington Post education reporter Linda Perlstein spent a year observing in a Maryland elementary school. The result is an extraordinary ground-level view of schooling under No Child Left Behind.





Perlstein describes how this high-poverty school, desperate to sustain the prior year's high test scores, adopted scripted lessons with a pace geared to cover all the material that would be tested for NCLB. If one (or all) of the kids in the class didn't understand or couldn't keep up, there was no time to stop and explain. The test was coming, and no excuses would be accepted if the scores were not high enough.






This book is a must-read for anyone involved in the debate over NCLB, because it vividly describes what schooling really looks like, particularly for the most needy public school children, when test-based policies crafted on high are brought down and applied to living, breathing children.



Perlstein also offers a telling comment about the "no-excuses" crowd, those who claim poverty should never be an excuse for poor academic achievement. "When education reformers say 'No excuses,' they mean that outside factors should not prevent educators from effecting great results with their students…But for impoverished children in particular, living lives written off by so much of society, very often expectations, as well as the means to survive, differ greatly between home and school. To deny that what happens outside of school affects what happens inside it is to deny reality."






Congress would benefit by factoring into its deliberations the realities described by Perlstein as it moves forward with the reauthorization of NCLB.