Paul Thomas: High-Stakes Tests are the “Master’s Tools,” Not Tools for Social Justice

Diane Ravitch's blog

In one of his eloquent essays, Paul Thomas puts standardized tests into perspective: They cannot be tools for equity. They were designed to sort and rank, and they are biased towards those who start with the most advantages.

He writes:

High-stakes, standardized tests are, as Audre Lorde stresses, “the master’s tools.”

For those of us seeking educational and social equity and justice, then, we must heed Lorde’s call:

For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change….


The essential flaw with continuing to cling to high-stakes standardized testing is two-fold: (1) the tests are race, class, and gender biased, and (2) the demand that we raise test scores keeps all the attention on outcomes (and not the policies and practices that create the inequity).

Read it…

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