The Test



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THE TEST (PublicAffairs, 2015), is about the failures of testing in American schools.

Your child is more than a score. But in the era of No Child Left Behind and the Common Core, America’s schools are sacrificing learning in favor of testing. How do we preserve space for self-directed learning and development, especially when we still want all children to hit the mark?

The Test is written to directly address parents who are concerned and stressed about testing. I am one of those parents. My hope is that by understanding where these tests came from and how they are made, it will give families the tools they need to address them in the most constructive way. I give advice for families who want to opt out of some tests, as well as those who want to do better on tests.

The Test explores all sides of this problem—where these tests came from, their limitations and flaws, and ultimately what you as a parent, teacher, or concerned citizen can do. It recounts the shocking history and tempestuous politics of testing, and borrows strategies from fields as diverse as games, neuroscience, and  ancient philosophy to help families cope. It presents the stories of families, teachers, and schools that are maneuvering within and beyond the existing educational system, playing  and winning the testing game.

Our students, teachers, and schools are being held accountable for the outcomes of tests that don’t cover the most important material that they need to succeed: qualities like collaboration,  creativity, and self-motivation, to name a few. The Test describes what these better tests might look like.


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“Thorough research and illuminating interviews… With abundant data assembled in an accessible format, the book is a must-read for anyone in the educational system or any parent who has a child old enough to enter preschool… An informative and enlightening appraisal of the regimented tests that American schoolchildren of all ages are subjected to taking on a regular basis.”—Kirkus Review

The value of Anya Kamenetz’s new book, “The Test,” lies in her ability to avoid the soapbox style of too many books on education reform today. Her journalistic talents coupled with her role as a mother of a student on the brink of testing humanizes this book, making it a perfect entry for parents who are too deep in the muck of testing to have the clarity of distance.–Boston Globe

“Provocative, well-researched… With the Common Core upon us, this timely book should be required reading for anyone concerned with education today.”—Library Journal, STARRED 

“[Kamenetz] digs deep into the business practices that govern current testing systems and policy…[she] offers several strategies to keep students balanced and calm while preparing for such exams.”—Publishers Weekly

“A must-read. The Test is a vital contribution to the growing debate about how to evaluate our students, schools, and teachers. And Kamenetz offers invaluable guidance to the people so often caught in the middle: parents.”
Tony Wagner, author of The Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World. 

“High stakes testing in our public schools puts enormous pressure on everyone in the system. Using real — and often quite moving — stories, Anya Kamenetz shows teachers, parents, administrators, and students how to survive, even thrive, in an education system that many understandably believe needs a course correction.”Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and To Sell is Human

“Anya Kamenetz’s The Test is a fearless expose of how testing permeates our schools, our homes, even kids’ psyches. People will be talking about this important, provocative book for years to come.”—Ashley Merryman, co-author of NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children and Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing

“Kamenetz develops a powerful, independent argument against high-stakes standardized testing. More importantly, she shows parents, teachers, and students an array of creative and collaborative alternatives for engaging, real-world learning.”—Dale Dougherty, CEO, Makermedia

The Test is a brilliant, passionate, insightful, and useful look at America’s destructive obsession with high stakes testing.  Anya Kamanetz yet again shows why she is  one of America’s truly original thinkers on how we should be educating the next generation —and how we are failing.  If I still believed in grades after reading this book, I’d give The Test an A+. “–Cathy Davidson, director of the Futures Initiative at the City University of New York and author, Now You See It.