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By Mark J. Garrison

Asks how and why standardized exams became the ever present common during which academic success and intelligence are measured.

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Extra info for A Measure of Failure: The Political Origins of Standardized Testing

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But the aim of “testing by a standard” is not standardization of that which is tested, but uniform differentiation. This is a variant of equal treatment consistent with the democratic norm of political equality. In educational assessment, it is not the standardization of students, but rather the standardization of measurers that is at issue, a standardization that bolsters a central power, its aim, outlook, and so on. For liberal democratic theory, the process of applying the same standard uniformly to a population enables social differentiation of individuals and groups to take place on a uniform (and hence fair) basis.

Or, to start with the more contemporary definition, are mental capacities such that they exist in gradation? Is a theory of mind needed to determine if mind can be measured, and if so, how metrication can take place? The issues raised here are fundamental from the point of view of both the theory and practice of measurement, and addressing them serves as a useful starting point for deliberating on the nature of measurement and the status of psychometry as a science. One possible reason for the absence of a broad discussion among academics and the public concerning measurement of nonphysical entities is that the limited amount of material available on this question is highly technical.

In fact, some have gone as far as to suggest no definition (let alone a theory) of intelligence is needed for its measure and hence the mind-numbing proposition that intelligence is the ability to do Standardized Tests as Markers of Social Value 33 well on an intelligence test is presented as acceptable practice to generations of psychology students (see Block and Dworkin 1976). A century has gone by “measuring” intelligence with no proven theory and “measuring” achievement with little consensus on curricular domains or a theory of human cognitive development.

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