When I was in school, I did anything – and everything! – to get out of a test. Seriously. Ask my parents, who I drove nuts. I often refused to go to school on test days or simply pretended I was sick to get out of class just as the exam was being handed out. Tests made me nervous and I hated the idea that one number could forever define my intelligence.

(Christie M Farriella/New York Daily News)

Today, more and more students are refusing to take standardized tests across the USA. Unlike my own mini-protest, however, students who refuse to take tests are part of the Opt-Out movement.

This movement is found in many states in America and units people from across the political divide.

With me to talk about this growing movement is Oren-Pizmony-Levy, an Assistant Professor of International and Comparative Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He has been researching the opt-out movement, situating it within the global context. What motivates people to join the movement? What results have been produced?


In my conversation with Oren today, we discuss his and Nancy Green Saraisky’s report entitled “who opts-out and why?”

Further Readings: 

Who Opts Out and Why? Results from a national survey on opting out of standardized tests

How Americans View the Opt Out Movement

Is America addicted to education reform? My guest today, John Merrow, says it’s time for America to enter a 12-step program to fix its K-12 public education system.

John argues that the countless reforms he’s reported on for over four-decades have addressed the symptoms of the problems facing American education and not the root causes.

John Merrow began his career in 1974 on National Public Radio before becoming an Education Correspondent for PBS NewsHour and the founding President of Learning Matters, Inc. Now retired, John is an active writer on

His new book is entitled Addicted to Reform: A 12-Step Program to Rescue Public Education, which will be published by The New Press on August 15. Be sure to check out the e-book which features videos from John’s illustrious career.


Citation: Merrow, John, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 85, podcast audio, August 7, 2017.

Transcript, Translation, and Resources:

Read more

Tests are part and parcel of the schooling experience. If a child goes to school, then I’m sure he or she will, at some point in time, have to take a test. But the nature and purpose testing has changed and seen a rapid expansion in the past thirty years. Tests have become increasingly standardized and connected to high-stake outcomes. Moreover, standardized testing has become the main tool by which policymakers measure education quality.

Standardized tests are both a national and international issue. The rise of international assessments, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, have created a world in which governments at all levels rely on standardized testing. For students, testing — and the preparation for testing — has become commonplace.


My guest today, Will Smith, calls the worldwide phenomenon of standardized assessment the “Global testing culture.” Will is a senior associate with RESULTS Educational Fund, where he is developing the Right to Education Index. He completed his PhD in Educational Theory and Policy and Comparative International Education at Pennsylvania State University and has worked both as a US public school teacher and a fellow at the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

In his new edited collection, entitled, The Global Testing Culture shaping education policy, perceptions, and practice, which will be published this year by Symposium, Will argues that the reinforcing nature of a global testing culture leads to an environment where testing becomes synonymous with accountability, which becomes synonymous with education quality.