Home > Uncategorized > Medium Blogger Wendy Buchholz Provides the Naked Truth About Standardized Tests

Medium Blogger Wendy Buchholz Provides the Naked Truth About Standardized Tests

Medium blogger Wendy Buchholz offers a humorous but accurate analysis of standardized testing in her satirical riff on Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale titled “The Emperor is Naked! Hegemony in Education“. After recounting the familiar story of the wealthy emperor who is duped into walking naked in a parade by being convinced that he is wearing a glamorous outfit that only the intelligentsia can observe, Ms. Buchholz draws a parallel to standardized tests:

There is a similar fairytale being told in the public education system. It is labeled “standardized testing,” and it is, in fact, naked educational hegemony. This can be defined as a leadership or dominance of the policy makers and testing corporations over their consumers, advocating a standard of knowledge or ideology that is based on that which maintains their power. In this case, standardized tests are advocated and promoted as adequate measures of intelligence, knowledge and capability, and are maintained as the status quo among public educational leadership. This educational hegemony is dominating a generation of children.

The roots of cultural hegemony are found in the writings of Antonio Gramsci, one of the most important Marxist thinkers in the 20th century. Gramsci defined cultural hegemony as an ideology that maintained a capitalist state, which thereby normalized the ideas of those in power and maintained the current power structure.Power is not achieved through force, but rather the advancement of an ideology that becomes the “common sense” of the masses. Educational hegemony in the public system is built on an ideology that is largely constructed for the purpose of maintaining a power structure, using the vehicle of standardized tests.This practice of testing and test preparation has now fully clothed the public education system, enveloping a large portion of the time that a student spends in school. According to the Washington Post article, Confirmed: Standardized Testing Has Taken Over our Schools. But Who is to Blame? (October 24, 2015), this initiative, brought about in 2002 by the No Child Left Behind Act, consumes 20–25 hours of child’s life, every year. This does not include test preparation time. The average student will take 112 standardized tests from Pre-K through 12th grade. The standardized testing industry is a 1.4 billion dollar industry (Buchholz’ emphasis). That is not including the test prep industry, computer industry, tutoring, coaching, and the assortment of services that are necessary for the implementation of the standardized tests. And the results of standardized tests have never been shown to improve student achievement or teacher performance. (again, Buchholz’ emphasis) In short, the Emperor is, in fact, naked!

Ms. Buchholz is spot on in this analysis of how NCLB led to the takeover of public education, and I think she is correct in her view that standardized testing has the effect of reinforcing the current economic system since affluent children tend to score higher than children raised in poverty. But I am not convinced that most affluent parents see “the vehicle of standardized testing” serving as a means of maintaining the economic status quo nor do they fully appreciate how the political use of testing to advance privatization in lower income communities and neighborhoods ultimately works to the advantage of their children. The effects of the standardized testing paradigm are invisible, and, as Peter Senge would observe, we are prisoners to paradigms we cannot see. I am glad that Ms. Buchholz is showing how this paradigm plays out in public schools.

 

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