The Testing Trap: How State Writing Assessments Control Learning

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Teachers College Press, 2002 - Education - 224 pages
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Hardly a day goes by in America without talk of testing students to higher standards as a means to improve our education system. In The Testing Trap, George Hillocks puts this logic to the test.

Through interviews with over three hundred teachers and administrators, Hillocks examines whether state writing tests in Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, New York, and Texas do what they are supposed to do: Improve education. Ultimately, Hillocks argues that the majority of existing tests actually have a harmful effect on the way students are taught to write.

In The Testing Trap, Hillocks demonstrates how the structure of assessment is actually responsible for the low level of thinking encouraged and reinforced in American classrooms. It is his contention that although politicians call for excellence, the tests that they create, and the formulaic writing they accept as passing, actually point to mediocrity as their true aim. In this way, political objectives are easily achieved but our children suffer the consequences.

In addition to providing analyses of assessments that do not encourage good writing, The Testing Trap contrasts them to those that do. Concluding with practical procedures for examining and evaluating writing assessments, this book is a provocative and essential read for administrators, teachers, policymakers, parents, and all who care about the education of our children.


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CHAPTER 1 The Politics of Mandatory Assessment
CHAPTER 2 The Study of State Writing Assessments
CHAPTER 3 Foundations of Testing
CHAPTER 4 A Test Is Not a Test
CHAPTER 5 High Stakes and Mediocrity in Texas
The Case of Texas
The Case of Illinois
CHAPTER 8 Schools Teachers and the Illinois Assessment
The Case of New York
CHAPTER 10 Portfolio Assessment in Kentucky and Oregon
Oregon and Kentucky
CHAPTER 12 Testing Thinking and Needed Change
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About the author (2002)

George Hillocks, Jr. is Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago. He was awarded the David H. Russell Award from the National Council of Teacher Educators for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English for his 1997 book Teaching Writing as Reflective Practice.

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