About a quarter of a century ago, the federal government started requiring states to test student proficiency in basic subjects in order to receive certain kinds of federal funding. Up until then, standardized testing was a ritual performed for just a fewgrade levels, but it soon became an annual rite of passage. Critics of frequent testing maintain that classroom time is now occupied with test prep instead of the kinds of creative learning that make kids excited about knowledge, while supporters of these methods insist that teachers and schools be held financially and professionally accountable for the results of their efforts.
Diane Ravitch, an educational policy analyst and professor at New York University, used to be an enthusiastic supporter of standardized testing, but changed her tune in her 2010 book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. In Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (2013), she takes a strong stand against profit-driven charter schools. According to Ravitch, this is not a partisan issue, because both Democrat and Republican presidential administrations have emphasized testing — to the benefit of private enterprises and at the expense of subjects that are not really testable, such as the arts. Ravitch talks with Jesse Hagopian, a public-school teacher and editor of More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing (2014), as part of the Lannan Foundation’s In Pursuit of Cultural Freedom series on Wednesday, April 11.
Ravitch and Hagopian are in conversation at the Lensic PerformingArts Center (211 W. San Francisco St.),at 7 p.m. on April 11. Tickets are $8 ($5 students and seniors), tickets santafe.org.