Peddling pedagogies: the winners and losers of a standardized testing economy.

Author:Steele, Lucy Arnold
Position:Book review
 
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Overtested: How High-Stakes Accountability Fails English Language Learners by Jessica Zacher Pandya

The Pedagogy of Confidence: Inspiring High Intellectual Performance in Urban Schools by Yvette Jackson

Overtested: How High-Stakes Accountability Fails English Language Learners by Jessica Zacher Pandya (Teachers College Press, 2011)

The Pedagogy of Confidence: Inspiring High Intellectual Performance in Urban Schools by Yvette Jackson (Teachers College Press, 2011)

In 2014, authors writing for and about teachers and classrooms must position themselves in regards to the over-compassing specter of standardized testing. There are a myriad of possible positions from radical defiance of the testing culture to liberal attempts to work within the system while still engaging in liberatory education practices to conservative full complicity. Both of the books I discuss here have staked positions in the conversation about testing, and their differences in terms of content, research, and message have important implications for the lives of teachers and students.

Overtested: How High-Stakes Accountability Fails English Language Learners is the fruitful result of Jessica Zacher Pandya's year-long ethnographic study of a fourth-grade, predominantly English Language Learner (ELL) classroom in California. This book richly describes the requirements that students and teachers face and particularly discusses how these requirements impact ELL students. More specifically, Zacher Pandya's text focuses on a fourth-grade class at Laurel Elementary and a teacher whom Zacher Pandya refers to as "Ms. Romano". Zacher Pandya also discusses the climate created by high stakes testing; the structure of the school and the state school system; and the teacher education program in California. Situating Ms. Romano's work within a broader social context is crucial to Zacher Pandya's critique because her argument is that no single pedagogy will solve the problems created by standardized testing. Instead, she makes a case for institutional change, suggesting specific policy changes that would have better outcomes for ELL students.

One striking moment in Zacher Pandya's text occurs when Ms. Romano, having seen the negative impact of testing on her students, attempts to rebel against the system. After witnessing how a mandated, high-paced reading program stultifies her students and how she herself succumbs to a system in which the teacher becomes a "proxy ventriloquator" who "in...

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