Massive Testing: Been There, Done That – 100 Years Ago

Intelligence tests_clip_image002_0000

I am NOT an expert.  As a matter of fact, I am humbly brand new to the topic I am about to discuss. These are my singular opinions and observations – not the words of any group affiliations. I am writing from the simplest level of comparison rather than conclusion. In toggling back and forth between a hundred years ago and today, if one did not know the dates, some of it might not be able to be discerned if it is from the 20th or the 21st century.

I am unquestionably a grassroots activist fighting for PUBLIC SCHOOLS, and advocating for children and teachers. Simultaneously I am in my 26th year of homeschooling my five children. My two sons, who are still being taught at home, are 15 and 18 – a freshman and a senior. We are studying from the book Race and Membership in American History: The Eugenics Movement.This is a Resource Book by Facing Ourselves and Our History. When I say “studying” we are reading verbatim straight through the book at a pace of one section daily. It is part of our studies this year in order to better understand racism in a broad institutionalized manner, not just from current news events. For them it has been an eye-opening experience and for me it has been a jaw-dropping journey.

We are well over half finished with the book, but I know for myself I will never be finished with this subject. This book has jolted me in ways I never expected. In an uncanny, disturbing manner, while we are almost weekly holding meetings to help parents REFUSE TESTS in the Ohio Opt Out Movement, and as I am daily reading about PEARSON’s ugly oligolopy in worldwide education, the book’s quotes from one hundred years ago seem relevant today. Seriously, I have been startled by the way much of “intelligence testing” in its origins and explanations, all pompous in junk-science with a drive towards being able to (wrongly) sort and categorize the people with faulty data exclusive of important variables and by way of completely ignoring all other valid sets of research, aligns with today’s toxic testing propagation.

I truly hope I do not give the topic disservice because it is deep, and there is no way in a blog to do anything more than entice the reader to explore more on their own. It is tricky to pull these paragraphs out of the book, without expounding and building on the whole topic, or without supplying the background and context. I long for every single person to read this book cover to cover and for teachers to teach this material. Thankfully, when I scoped out the availability of related resources online, I found a researcher’s treasure trove.

Please do not let the brevity of this blog be the end of your exploration into these matters. Please also, if you pass the link on, do not let that be the end of the discussion but rather the rippling beginning of necessary conversations. I feel this all is important enough to warrant hundreds upon thousands, well truthfully, I would like to see millions digging into this. There are horrible dangers and ramifications to all of this current-day data-collecting and rigid competitive comparisons of whole people groups (THINK PISA) that are looming. There are inhumane terrors that skulk in the shadows of assessing people on a grand scale and then assigning people their “place in the world” via numbers, and bogus sets of numbers, at that.

100 years ago (from ch. 5 intro):

Eugenicists believed that French “intelligence tests”, designed to examine school entrance readiness and thus offer extra help to those who needed it, were the perfect tool to separate the “fit” from the “unfit”. They touted the tests as being able to “not only improve education but also end poverty, prevent crime, and wipe out disease…” But instead, these tests grossly “limited possibilities” for individuals and groups. Science or data was skewed “to justify social inequalities, deny opportunities, and legitimize discrimination.” In an intolerable manner, these tests and their results were used to create an onslaught of punitive, life-altering consequences, which kept children from schools, adults from college or certain jobs, and blocked entrance into our country for immigrants. Actually the extent of the damage from the misuse of the results from these tests had folks unnecessarily institutionalized, prevented  from marriage, and cruelly sterilized, and yes, this was in America. Tons of ‘uncivil’ laws were formed as a result of these tests. But by far and wide the most abhorrent misuse of these early tests was to build a huge agrument of the superiority of the white race over others deemed, damned and doomed by a set of drudged up data.

Today (From a Washington Post Article):

Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, waves his banner of the power of tests to help the neediest schools, yet the punitive side to those falling short of meeting the marked requirements of the tests are unacceptably harming individuals, and whole people groups. Detrimental life-altering consequences to students, teachers, schools, and districts, have washed over any of the supposed intentions.

“No Child Left Behind dramatically expanded the federal role in education. For the first time, states were required to annually test students and make public test scores for different groups — including racial minorities, the disabled, English-language learners and the poor. States were required to make progress toward academic goals for those groups or face penalties.” Conversely RttT test sets are nearly completely void of accomodations for any challenged learner groups. IEPs are being ignored. ESL students test in English only. Unfunded mandates shred the gap between the have’s and have nots.
“The waiver strategy and Race to the Top exacerbated the test fixation that was put in place with No Child Left Behind, allowing sanctions and consequences to eclipse all else,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “From his words today, it seems the secretary may want to justify and enshrine that status quo, and that’s worrisome.”

100 years ago (from reading 7 of ch. 5):

“…Ellwood Cubberly, a professor if education at Stanford and an eugenicist, wrote in 1916:
Our schools are factories in which the raw products are to be shaped and fashioned into products…The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of 20th century civilization, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down. This demands good tools, specialized machinery, and continuous measurement of production,”

What comes to your mind when you read that quote? I immediately pictured this popular meme:common-Core-1

“Specifications laid down”  = Standardized: Common Core??
“good tools” =  Chromebooks at $200 a pop that will be outdated in two years??
“specialized machinery” = robotic, scripted, low pay-grade transient teachers (TFA)??
“continuous measurement of production” = 27 hours a year of seating tests per student??

A little less than 100 years ago (reading 3 ch.5):

Tests and their sets of scoring and data collection permeated every social institution, and most pervasively the schools. With the tests came their own sets of labeling language. The intelligence tests designed to sort the “fit” from the “unfit”, became tests to spot “feeble-mindedness” created by Alfred Binet, which in turn were translated by Henry Goddard, who added his own labeling system. “He labeled those who earned 25 points or lower “idiots,” those who scored between 25 and 55 “imbeciles,” and those between 55-75 “morons.””


Teachers recieve labels, based on students’ scores on the tests. These numbers are tatooed on their permanent professional records. This is known as Value Added Measures or Models.
25% growth/VAM:
Highly Effective  22-25
Effective  10-21
Developing  3-9
Ineffective  0-2

100 years ago (reading 3 ch. 5):

The very creator of the original tests, Binet, stated in a powerful, but totally ignored warning:
“Some recent thinkers seem to have given their moral support to these deplorable verdicts by affirming that an individual’s intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity that cannot be increased, We must protest and react against this brutal pessimism: we must try to demonstrate that it is founded upon nothing.”


Students and schools are being forever labeled, based on test scores as FAILING OR NOT FAILING.
Schools are being closed from findings based “on nothing!” Highly qualified, experienced, passionate teachers are leaving the profession via this ruthless smear campaign in dangerously high droves. Others, many others, are reacting by fighting back. They are demonstrating protest through the third check system in the United States, as lawsuits are now springing up everywhere.

I could easily fill another 17 blogs with this same amount of direct comparison of testing-related quotes, either in the form of the one’s selling their “snake oil” or in the truths presented but evaded. At the turn-of-the-century much research refute and many warnings were offered in sound scientific manner but those pushing “their agendas” marched on and saturated the higher learning institutes, all public k-12 schools, churches, and numerous other large groups with so much literature and “data sets”, that people by the majority masses were duped into believing their validity. The ripple effects of all of this are still sadly seen today. We are still cleaning up the toxic mess the eugenicists and racists of that era made, 100 years later.

Why, oh why has all of this hypertesting mode even been allowed to get as far as it has gotten?? How, oh how will we be able to stop ‘it’ all dead in its path. How long will it take us to clean up all of the macro-scale mess being made??

In Ohio, just yesterday, an emergency education bill came into play that would seek to completely halt all PARCC testing for the remainder of this school year. (Round 2 of PARCC tests start in two weeks.) In the last few months SAFE HARBOR BILLS have had to come into play to protect students and districts from Ohio’s other education ‘distortion’ bills. (I am still trying to wrap my mind around bills needed to protect us from bills.) Parents’ protective sensors are kicked into high gear as they are firsthand seeing the TIME these tests steal and the STRESS they induce. But no one can see around the future bend of these tests. If a listing of who is “career and college ready” is being collected,  it only makes sense that a list will also exist of who is NOT “career and college ready.”

We must discuss the pride and greed that had some so worried after our international rankings in certain subjects. Those pushing reform have never once been shy in saying it is so we can be globally “competitive.”  We also need to own that there is a very real potential for all of this macro-scale competiveness to go horribly wrong.

We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of what disgusting social dangers all of this can hold. A teacher last night could not emphasize her words enough, that it is NOT JUST PARCC (or SBAC) but this massive testing mentality that must go. I concur!


One thought on “Massive Testing: Been There, Done That – 100 Years Ago

  1. Britt says:

    There is so much to ponder with the words you’ve written here. Thank you for helping our public schools even though you are homeschooling. We need all of the help that we can get! You’ve really brought something up that hasn’t been sent around yet! The link between IQ testing in the past and the current testing push is something to think very seriously about. Thank you again!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s