What’s Going on in Public Education: “A Brief History of the ‘Testocracy,’ Standardized Testing and Test-Defying”

MoreThanaScoreBy Elaine Magliaro

I just came across an excellent article today titled A Brief History of the “Testocracy,” Standardized Testing and Test-Defying that I think is a MUST READ for anyone concerned about the mania for the high-stakes testing of children and the school reformers who are destroying public education in this country. The article is an excerpt from the book More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing (Haymarket Books). The book was edited by Jesse Hagopian. It includes a Foreword by Diane Ravitch, an Introduction by Alfie Kohn, and an Afterword by Wayne Au.


In this excerpt from More Than a Score, Jesse Hagopian explains who the “testocracy” are, what they want – for everybody else’s children and for their own – and why more people than ever before are resisting tests and working collectively to reclaim public education.

Excerpt from the article:

Who are these testocrats who would replace teaching with testing? The testocracy, in my view, does not only refer to the testing conglomerates—most notably the multibillion-dollar Pearson testing and textbook corporation—that directly profit from the sale of standardized exams. The testocracy is also the elite stratum of society that finances and promotes competition and privatization in public education rather than collaboration, critical thinking, and the public good. Not dissimilar to a theocracy, under our current testocracy, a deity—in this case the exalted norm-referenced bubble exam—is officially recognized as the civil ruler of education whose policy is governed by officials that regard test results as divine. The testocratic elite are committed to reducing the intellectual and emotional process of teaching and learning to a single number—a score they subsequently use to sacrifice education on the altar devoted to high-stakes testing by denying students promotion or graduation, firing teachers, converting schools into privatized charters, or closing schools altogether. You’ve heard of this program; the testocracy refers to it as “education reform.”

From Haymarket Books:

For too long so-called education reformers, mostly billionaires, politicians, and others with little or no background in teaching, have gotten away with using standardized testing to punish our nation’s youth and educators.

Now, across the country, students are walking out, parents are opting their children out, and teachers are refusing to administer these detrimental exams. In fact, the “reformers” today find themselves facing the largest revolt in US history against high-stakes, standardized testing.

More Than a Score is a collection of essays, poems, speeches, and interviews—accounts of personal courage and trenchant insights—from frontline fighters who are defying the corporate education reformers, often at great personal and professional risk, and fueling a national movement to reclaim and transform public education.

Along with the voices of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and grassroots education activists, the book features renowned education researchers and advocates, including Diane Ravitch, Alfie Kohn, Wayne Au, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Karen Lewis, Carol Burris, and Mark Naison.

Click on the link to read A Brief History of the “Testocracy,” Standardized Testing and Test-Defying. (Truthout)


My previous posts about school reform, school reformers, charter schools, and school privatization initiatives:

Why Are Campbell Brown, David Boies, Robert Gibbs, Hedge Fund Managers, and Other Wealthy Elites Going after Public School Teachers and Their Right to Due Process?, PART I (8/8/14)

Why Are Campbell Brown, David Boies, Robert Gibbs, Hedge Fund Managers, and Other Wealthy Elites Going after Public School Teachers and Their Right to Due Process? Part II: David Boies, Star Lawyer and School Reformer 8/12/14

Is Campbell Brown the New Michelle Rhee of School Reform? 8/13/14

Who the F*ck is Dan Loeb and How Is He Connected to Teacher Pensions and School Reformers? (8/17/14)

Charter Schools and The Profit Motive (8/18/14)

Public Schools for Sale?: Diane Ravitch Talks with Bill Moyers about the Privatization of Public Education (8/21/14)

A Look at Some of the Driving Forces behind the School Reform Movement and the Effort to Privatize Public Education (10/18/14)

Former New York Times Columnist Bob Herbert on How Millionaire and Billionaire School Reformers Are Ruining Public Education in the United States (10/19/14)

Should the High Teacher Turnover Rate in Charter Schools Be a Cause for Concern? (11/6/14)

From the ABC’s of Privatizing Public Education: A Is for ALEC, I is for iPad…and P Is for Profits (11/8/14)

Profitship! Cashing In On Public Schools…with a Mark Fiore Video (12/21/14)

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3 Responses to What’s Going on in Public Education: “A Brief History of the ‘Testocracy,’ Standardized Testing and Test-Defying”

  1. Carlyle Moulton says:

    Elaine, am I correct in assuming that the tests in the testing regime are all multiple choice?

  2. Elaine M. says:


    I have not yet seen a sample of any of the new PARCC tests, which are aligned with the Common Core State Standards. I do know that the standardized tests that most states have been using are mostly multiple choice. I’d assume that the same is true of the PARCC Tests

  3. bigfatmike says:

    So what is the point of testing anyway, to measure the schools, the teachers, the students.

    I don’t think you can get one test or procedure to do all three – not well in any case.

    And if the task is to measure schools or teachers we clearly do not need to test every student.

    There are also creditable claims that some standards do not adequately take into account cognitive development in children. It makes no sense to try to teach skill that young minds are not ready to receive.

    Finally I am not sure that I am convinced that a common curriculum is a good idea. It is labeled common core and a small core of essential skill might be useful. But the so called core is so large that there are credible complaints that teaching for the test is distorting true education in the classroom.

    In education, particularly national education, it seems to me that diversity is strength. Different approaches and different views or our vast cultural heritage are are a wonderful advantage. Credible reports on the effect of common core are that there is simply no time left over for contributions by individual teachers, schools, or regions. That cannot be a good thing.

    A paired down unintrusive common core composed of essential skills and tested by small samples of students might be useful.

    Today’s common core seems likely to divert scarce educational resources away from the classroom, torment children, penalize teaches and school systems all for the questionable result of enriching corporate coffers.

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