Kill The Messenger

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In response to public demand, federal legislation now requires testing of most students in the United States in reading and mathematics in grades three through eight. Many educators, parents, and policymakers who have paid little attention to testing policy issues in the past need to have better information on the topic than has generally been available. Kill the Messenger, now in paperback, fills this gap.

This is perhaps the most thorough and authoritative work in defense of educational testing ever written. Phelps points out that much research conducted by education insiders on the topic is based on ideological preference or profound self-interest. It is not surprising that they arrive at emphatically anti-testing conclusions. Much, if not most, of this hostile research is passed on to the public by journalists as if it were neutral, objective, and independent. Kill the Messenger explains and refutes many of the common criticisms of testing; describes testing opponents' strategies, through case studies of Texas and the SAT; illustrates the profound media bias against testing; acknowledges testing's limitations, and suggests how it can be improved; and finally, outlines the consequences of losing the "war on standardized testing."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Using war metaphors throughout, Phelps offers a vigorous defense of high stakes standardized testing. With an educational viewpoint shaped by socially and economically conservative ideologies, he discusses the nature of the battle between testing advocates and opponents, the strategies of those attempting to undermine testing initiatives, the various "campaigns" against testing, and the media, which he feels are biased.” —D. K. Kaufman, Choice "[A]n embattled book. Incensed by the partisan tactics of anti-testing groups, Phelps deliberately goes to great lengths to expound and analyze the differing points of view, helped by scrupulous and scholarly documentation and a robustly empirical approach." —Martin Turner, Intelligence "With standardized testing prominently featured in the No Child Left Behind Act, Kill the Messenger should be required reading. Our children deserve it!" —Charlene K. Harr, author of The Politics of the PTA
Martin Turner

This is an embattled book. Incensed by the partisan tactics of anti-testing groups, Phelps deliberately goes to great lengths to expound and analyse the differing points of view, helped by scrupulous and scholarly documentation and a robustly empirical approach. Fairness and impartiality, he reasons, will redound to his benefit, while the tactics of suppression, smear and distortion will do his enemies no good at all. I was particularly impressed by his own researches (Chapter 6) into media bias, exposing the capture of the liberal (illiberal) media yet again, with whose anti-IQ mindset we are already drearily familiar.

Perhaps Phelps need not worry. "About things on which the public thinks long it commonly attains to think right," wrote Samuel Johnson (1779-1781). The guardians of democracy may have proved supine, but commonsense continues to fortify the apparently unquenchable preference of the general public for the information that tests give.

Intelligence, v.32 (2004) pp.539-540
Book News, Inc.
While this education researcher clearly draws the battle lines over required standardized testing of US public school students in selected grades and subjects and acknowledges its limitations, he defends testing over other alternatives and chides media bias. Includes a foreword and preface by like-minded academics, anti- testing vocabulary used by opponents, and a general glossary.
Pat Naughtin
...a thoroughly researched and highly readable book.
The Age (Melbourne, Australia)
Nicholas Stix
The best documented and most readable classification and refutation of test-bashing myths I know of.
A Different Drummer
Campaign for Real Education Newsletter
Standardized tests, this book makes clear, are essential for accountability. They may not be perfect, but they’re all we’ve got. That is why they are feared and hated by incompetent teachers... Kill the Messenger is essential reading for everyone with an interest in educational policy or state education generally.
No.51, Winter 2003
Linda Seebach
If you're interested in how standardized testing affects education - and since we're doing quite a lot of it, you should be interested - you ought to read [it].
Rocky Mountain News
Steve Driesler

Despite the importance of testing, there is an increasing tendency to blame the test if you don’t like the results. In other words, it is often easier to kill the messenger than fix the underlying problem revealed by the test. However, if our nation is truly going to close the achievement gap as required by the No Child Left Behind Act, we need to hear – not kill – the messenger.

Kill the Messenger reminds us that testing is primarily about information. Without the data provided by fair, reliable, and valid tests we – students, parents, teachers, policy makers, and researchers – would lack the ability to determine whether our schools and children are making the grade.

Phelps argues that standardized tests are the best measures we have of student performance. Usually, they do it more reliably, more accurately, more objectively, and less expensively than the alternatives. Why be opposed to information? The reason is usually this: because one does not want the results known.
Executive Director, Assn. of American Publishers - School Division

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412805124
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/15/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard P. Phelps has devoted most of his working life to the world of education. His research work on testing has been published in Evaluation Review, the Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, and Educational and Psychological Measurement.

Herbert J. Walberg, a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education, is a University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago and chairman of the board of directors of the Heartland Institute in Chicago. (updated 10-2006)

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Table of Contents

List of Tables
List of Figures
Reveille - Prelude to Battle (Introduction) 1
1 The Battlefield (Testing Systems and Testing Interests) 9
2 Attack Strategies and Tactics 35
3 Campaigns: The Big, Bad SAT 87
4 Campaigns: Texas, the Early Years 105
5 Campaigns: Texas, the Presidential Election Year 2000 121
6 War Correspondence (Media Coverage of Testing) 147
7 The Fruits of Victory (Benefits of Testing) 215
8 The Spoils of War (Valid Concerns about Testing) 265
9 The Agony of Defeat (The Consequences of Losing the War: The Alternatives to Standardized Testing) 277
App An Anti-Testing Vocabulary 287
Glossary 297
References 301
Index 321
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Customer Reviews

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