A Measure of Failure

The Political Origins of Standardized Testing

By Mark J. Garrison

Subjects: Foundations Of Education, Education, Sociology
Paperback : 9781438427782, 152 pages, September 2009
Hardcover : 9781438427775, 152 pages, September 2009

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Table of contents

1. A Measure of Failure
2. The Nature and Function of Standards
3. Academic Achievement and Ability as Forms of Vertical Classification
4. Standardized Tests as Markers of Social Value
5. The Rise of Public Education: The Impulse to Mark Achievement and Ability
6. Achievement Testing: The Case of Horace Mann
7. Intelligence Testing: The Case of Alfred Binet
8. Political Origins of Testing
9. The Failure of Testing

Asks how and why standardized tests have become the ubiquitous standard by which educational achievement and intelligence are measured.


Winner of the 2011 Critics Choice Award presented by the American Educational Studies Association

How did standardized tests become the measure of performance in our public schools? In this compelling work, Mark J. Garrison attempts to answer this question by analyzing the development of standardized testing, from the days of Horace Mann and Alfred Binet to the current scene. Approaching the issue from a sociohistorical perspective, the author demonstrates the ways standardized testing has been used to serve the interests of the governing class by attaching a performance-based value to people and upholding inequality in American society. The book also discusses the implications that a restructuring of standardized testing would have on the future of education, specifically what it could do to eliminate the measure of individual worth based on performance.

Mark J. Garrison is Associate Professor and Director of Doctoral Programs at D'Youville College.


"Garrison's analysis of the political origins and impact of standardized tests provides an important look at their current use and misuse … Here is an important book worthy of careful consideration." — CHOICE

"…Garrison explains, in language that is accessible to a broad spectrum of readers, what is really behind our societal obsession with standardized testing." — Bowling Green Daily News

"Both original and provocative, A Measure of Failure is a compelling account of the historical and contemporary relationship between standardized testing in education and processes of state formation." — Thomas C. Pedroni, author of Market Movements: African American Involvement in School Voucher Reform