The Case Against Standardized Testing

Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools

(Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2000)

Standardized Testing - Alfie Kohn

Our students are tested to an extent that is unprecedented in American history and unparalleled anywhere in the world. Politicians and businesspeople, determined to get tough with students and teachers, have increased the pressure to raise standardized test scores. Unfortunately, the effort to do so typically comes at the expense of more meaningful forms of learning.

That disturbing conclusion emerges from Alfie Kohn’s devastating new indictment of standardized testing. Drawing from the latest research, he concisely explains just how little test results really tell us and just how harmful a test-driven curriculum can be. Written in a highly readable question-and-answer format, The Case Against Standardized Testing — which includes some material previously published in The Schools Our Children Deserve — will help readers respond to common questions and challenges. It shows, for example, that:

  • high scores often signify relatively superficial thinking
  • many of the leading tests were never intended to measure teaching or learning
  • a school that improves its test results may well have lowered its standards to do so
  • far from helping to “close the gap,” the use of standardized testing is most damaging for low-income and minority students
  • as much as 90 percent of the variations in test scores among schools or states have nothing to do with the quality of instruction
  • far more meaningful measures of student learning – or school quality – are available.

Kohn’s central message is that standardized tests are “not like the weather, something to which we must resign ourselves. . . . They are not a force of nature but a force of politics-and political decisions can be questioned, challenged, and ultimately reversed.” The final section demonstrates how teachers, parents, and students can turn their frustration into action and successfully turn back the testing juggernaut in order to create classrooms that focus on learning.



Table of Contents


Measuring What Matters Least
The Worst Tests
Burnt at the High Stakes
Poor Teaching for Poor Kids
If Not Standardized Tests, Then What?
Fighting the Tests

What people are saying


“This brief but provocative book is a useful refresher course against standardized testing.”

– The School Administrator

 “Highly readable . . . well-documented.”

– English Journal


Where to buy it


This book has deliberately been kept short (under 100 pages) and inexpensive to encourage its widespread distribution. Follow this link to order The Case Against Standardized Testing directly from Heinemann — or call 800-793-2154.

The book is also available as an audiotape.  For details, please CONTACT US