A Measure of Failure: The Political Origins of Standardized by Mark J. Garrison

By Mark J. Garrison

Asks how and why standardized exams became the ever present regular through which academic success and intelligence are measured.

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Yet classification by level of performance would have served Binet and Simon’s stated purpose of identifying those who will not benefit from “regular” instruction most adequately. ” Had he admitted that children were merely classified by level of performance (or even by level of mental development) there would have been no basis on which to account for school attainment in terms of measured intelligence (Nash 1990). That an entire field (what is referred to here as psychometry) could be granted so much authority and financial support, at least in part on the basis of measurement, with evident uncertainty of what is being measured is, in fact, baffling and, in my view, perversely irrational.

Once accomplished, this allows for different objects, processes, or phenomena to be compared in relation to the same magnitude, such as weight, length, heat, and so forth. It is also the standard that allows for equivalence, or calibration. It is important to emphasize that while a standard is necessary for measurement, at least initial theoretical work is presupposed for it to be able to accurately represent magnitudes. For example, there needed to be a conception of the qualitative aspect of heat before its measurement could take place.

In what way do new standards, or at least old standards controlled by a different authority, represent or constitute significant changes in power relations, political theory, and the social value system? In summary then, this guide poses the following questions when examining the origin of standards, such as the standardized test of achievement or ability: • How do struggles over standards reflect political struggles, within or between classes? Does a change in standards, or who controls the standard, relate to changes in governance?

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