The reviews are in…

 USA Today: Public schools have been testing students for more than a century, but education journalist Anya Kamenetz says the level of testing we’re doing now is “unprecedented.” There’s been a lot of push-back over testing lately, but Kamenetz says many people “aren’t necessarily questioning the fundamental premise behind it.”

Boston Globe:  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.


Inside Higher Ed:   GIven my misgivings about the conceptual underpinnings of her earlier work, I was a little reluctant to read The Test. But I’m happy to report that her reportage has become more thoughtful, without losing its energy or accessibility. It’s a strong, smart, readable, and intellectually honest book….

I approached The Test warily, but came away impressed.  Kamenetz manages to find grounds for optimism in a subject that could lend itself to fatalism, and she does it without dismissing the needs that the status quo serves. She has kept the energy and readability of her earlier work, while adding something like wisdom.


Publication Day; Excerpt in!

Happy Publication Day!
An excerpt from The Test ran in over the weekend. I’m really happy with the responses so far!

If you can’t manage what you don’t measure, as the business maxim goes, how do we measure the right things so we can manage the right things? How do we preserve space for individual exploration while also asking our children to hit a high score? Is there any way to channel the collective thirst for metrics and data into efforts that actually make our schools and our communities healthier and our children more successful?

The modern era of high-stakes standardized testing kicked into gear at the turn of the twenty-first century, with federal No Child Left Behind legislation mandating annual math and reading tests for public school children beginning in third grade. It has not been a golden age. Standardized testing has risen from troubling beginnings to become a $2 billion industry controlled by a handful of companies and backed by some of the world’s wealthiest men and women.

Updated Tour Dates!

Excited to hear more about The Test?

I’m coming on tour starting in January. Look for me at the following events! If you’d like to have me in your town, please let me know or email djones at kepplerspeakers dot com.

  • 3/2 New Haven Yale Master’s Tea
  • 3/3 Chicago / Evanston IL, Family Action Network
  • 3/4 New School, NYC
  • 3/10, SXSW Edu in Austin
  • 3/15 ACENET in DC
  • 3/22 Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA
  • 3/26 (?) Institute for the Future, Palo Alto, CA
  • 4/1  Eugene OR
  • 4/7 Cambridge
  • 4/13 Texas
  • 4/20 Chicago

Tentative Tour Dates Announced!

The Test is coming on tour in January. Look for me at the following events. If you’d like to have me in your town, please let me know!

·         New America Foundation, New York NY evening, date tk

·         New America Foundation, Washington DC lunch, 1/8

·         Politics & Prose, Washington DC, 1/8

·         Bookcourt, Brooklyn NY, 1/12

·         Town Hall, Seattle WA, 1/20 tentative

·         Powells, Portland OR, 1/21 tentative

When Teachers, Not Students, Do The Cheating

I appeared on All Things Considered last week talking about the Atlanta cheating trial, in an interview that drew on my research for The Test. Listen and read here.

The defendants are 12 former employees of Atlanta Public Schools. They are accused under the state’s racketeering laws of conspiring to falsify their students’ results on state standardized tests. Dozens more school employees have faced ethics sanctions in a case that has rocked the city of Atlanta for the past few years.

The trial is unusual. It’s likely that millions of dedicated teachers around the country spend their entire careers without engaging in the kind of behavior that happened in Atlanta, or that I heard about in that spa.

But high-stakes state standardized tests of this kind are not unusual. They are mandated in nearly every public school by No Child Left Behind, the 2001 federal education law. These tests are high-stakes because they trigger serious consequences for students (like grade promotion and graduation); for schools (like extra resources, reorganization, or closure); for districts (the loss of federal funds); and for school employees (bonuses, demotion, poor evaluations, or firing).

And so the Atlanta trial should bring two questions: How common is cheating on these tests? And short of cheating, what else might be happening in schools as a result of these tests?