The Flawed Emphasis on Standardized Testing

Manufactured Crisis in Public Education

Manufactured Crisis in Public Education: The Impact of “A Nation at Risk” and the Misuse of Statistics

The Manufactured Crisis in Public Education is the object of this post. In his book Manufactured Crisis, Professor David Berliner made a powerful case for the misuse of statistics to present a dire picture of American Public Education in the United States, creating a strawman to sway the electorate that there truly was a problem. Berliner debunks the misinformation and presents a case for education reform that works for a diverse population.

Read more: Challenging the Manufactured Crisis in Public Education

In the early 1980s, “A Nation at Risk” report sounded the alarm about the perceived decline of American education and global competitiveness. While its intention was to ignite a sense of urgency for education reform, the report’s focus on standardized testing as the primary measure of academic success led to unintended consequences. Schools began prioritizing teaching to the test, stifling creativity, and critical thinking in the classroom. This narrow focus on test performance came at the expense of fostering well-rounded individuals who can engage with complex issues and think critically about the world around them.

Neglecting Critical Thinking Skills: Manufactured Crisis in Public Education

Standardized tests often assess rote memorization and regurgitation of facts, rather than encouraging analytical thinking and problem-solving abilities. As a result, students may excel in memorizing information without truly grasping its significance or application in real-life scenarios. This approach hampers the development of essential skills like critical analysis, creativity, and innovative thinking, which are vital for success in the rapidly changing world.

Misuse of Test Scores

The misuse of test scores is a significant concern in the education system. Test results are frequently employed to rank schools and evaluate teachers’ effectiveness. However, these scores do not fully capture the complexity of the teaching-learning process or the challenges students face outside the classroom. Relying heavily on test scores as a performance metric neglects other important aspects of education, such as character development, social skills, and emotional intelligence, which are equally crucial for a well-rounded education.

False Equivalence: Holding Teachers Solely Accountable for Student Performance

The Responsibility of Teachers

Teachers play a vital role in the education system. Their responsibility lies in creating engaging lessons, fostering a positive learning environment, and guiding students toward academic growth. However, the effectiveness of a teacher cannot be solely measured by students’ test scores. Factors beyond the teacher’s control, such as a student’s background, family support, and personal circumstances, can significantly influence academic performance.

The Role of Students in Their Learning Journey

Students are active participants in the learning process, and their commitment to education greatly influences their academic outcomes. They must take responsibility for their learning, actively engage in classroom activities, and seek assistance when needed. Teachers can guide and support students, but ultimately, students must embrace a desire to learn and take ownership of their education.

Teacher Accountability vs. Student Accountability

Holding teachers accountable for their students’ performance without considering the agency and responsibility of students themselves is an oversimplification of a complex process. True educational progress involves a collaborative effort between teachers, students, parents, and the broader community. Emphasizing student accountability alongside teacher accountability ensures a more holistic and effective approach to improving the education system.

Manufactured Crisis in Public Education: Politicians and the Easy Target of Teaching

The Political Motivations Behind Education Criticism and the Manufactured Crisis in Public Education

The education system is often a convenient scapegoat for politicians seeking to divert attention from other pressing issues or to gain support from concerned parents. By presenting education as a “crisis,” politicians position themselves as champions of change and reform. However, this often leads to hasty and shortsighted policies that fail to address the underlying complexities of the education landscape.

The Influence of Parental Electorate

Parents are naturally invested in their children’s education and well-being. Consequently, they form a significant electorate that politicians may attempt to appease by capitalizing on education-related concerns. While parental involvement is crucial, education policies must be developed through informed dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders, including educators, administrators, students, and the broader community.

The Need for Genuine Education Reform to provide evidence-based reform to counter the Manufactured Crisis in Public Education

Rather than perpetuating a manufactured crisis, policymakers should focus on genuine education reform aimed at empowering teachers, elevating the learning experience, and promoting equity in education. Reform efforts should prioritize long-term strategies that address systemic issues, such as funding disparities, access to quality resources, and teacher professional development, instead of fixating on short-term gains tied to standardized test scores.

Manufactured Crisis in Public Education: The Egalitarian Message of John Dewey

Education as the Foundation of a Just Society

John Dewey’s message emphasizes that education is not merely about transferring knowledge; it is the foundation of a just and democratic society. Providing equal access to quality education for all individuals, regardless of their socio-economic background, is essential for promoting social mobility and breaking down barriers to success.

Equal Quality Educational Experiences for All: Challenging the Manufactured Crisis in Public Education

Dewey’s vision calls for creating public schools that offer a consistent and high-quality educational experience for every student. This means ensuring that schools are well-funded, staffed with qualified educators, and equipped with resources that facilitate a holistic learning journey.

Overcoming Class and Social Barriers through Education

Education has the potential to be a great equalizer, offering opportunities for upward social mobility. By providing equitable educational experiences, society can empower individuals to overcome the limitations of their social and economic backgrounds, thereby reducing disparities and promoting a more inclusive and cohesive society.


The challenges faced by the American public education system are complex, and they require thoughtful and multifaceted solutions. By moving away from the flawed emphasis on standardized testing, recognizing the shared responsibility of teachers and students, and challenging the manufactured crisis perpetuated by politicians, we can embark on a path of genuine education reform.

Embracing John Dewey’s egalitarian message, we must strive to create an education system that nurtures critical thinking, fosters creativity, and promotes equal access to quality education for all. By doing so, we can build a stronger, more just, and inclusive society, where education serves as a beacon of hope and opportunity for every child, regardless of their background or circumstances. It is through collective effort, dedication, and a commitment to positive change that we can truly transform the landscape of American public education for generations to come.

By Politics-as-Usual

Roger is a retired Professor of language and literacy. Over the past 15 years since his retirement, Roger has kept busy with reading, writing, and creating landscape photographs. In this time of National crisis, as Fascist ideas and policies are being introduced to the American people and ignored by the Mainstream Press, he decided to stand up and be counted as a Progressive American with some ideas that should be shared with as many people who care to read and/or participate in discusssions of these issues. He doesn't ask anyone to agree with his point of view, but if entering the conversation he demands civility. No conspiracy theories, no wild accusations, no threats, no disrespect will be tolerated. Roger monitors all comments and email communication. That is the only rule for entering the conversation. One may persuade, argue for a different point of view, or toss out something that has not been discussed so long as the tone remains part of a civil discussion. Only then can we find common ground and meaningful democratic change.

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