Standardized Minds

Book Review

By Alan Stoskop

Standardized Minds: The High Price of
America’s Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It
By Peter Sacks
Perseus Books, 1999

Standardized Minds is a must read for anyone who cares about publicschools. Peter Sacks forcefully argues that the continued misuse of standardized tests is doing serious harm to American school children.

Sacks places America’s testing obsession within a historical and political context. He demonstrates that scare rhetoric has always been a mainstay of the testing movement. Sacks points out that the continued “nation at risk” hyperbole in the media is a diversion. It deflects the public’s attention from addressing real problems such as underserved school districts and racial tracking. At the same time the testing industry reaps great profits cranking out exams of little educational value.

Sacks’ critique is enriched by the numerous profiles of schools, families, and students who have suffered under the “one-size-fits-all” mentality of high-stakes testing. It is refreshing to read an author who includes more than a passing nod to alternative forms of assessment. Sacks maintains that we already have alternative models of assessment that are equitable and rigorous.

This is not a book you breeze through. It is a book you should refer to often when making the case to your state representative that our schools are not factories for standardized minds.