These posts are the opinions of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of A+ Colorado.

Book recommendations on standardized testing and public education that include discussions on testing

On March 15, Tattered Cover partnered with A+ Colorado to discuss standardized testing in our schools in an event called “Standardized Testing in Our Schools – The Future of CMAS.” 

Right now, the Colorado State Legislature is debating whether to cancel the state’s Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) testing program. Tattered Cover has convened a round table to discuss this matter with all sides of the topic represented.

We are grateful to the panelists who joined the conversation:

  • Stephanie Perez-Carrillo – Colorado Children’s Coalition
  • Rob Stein – Supt. of Roaring Fork
  • Amie Baca-Oehlert – Colorado Educators Association
  • Clark Burton – High School teacher & parent
  •  Katie Winner – Parent
  • Dr. Cynthia Trinidad-Sheahan – Association Colorado Association for Bilingual Education
  • Lorrie Shepard – Distinguished Professor and Dean Emerita, CU

Watch here: 


During this one-hour webinar moderated by Tiney Ricciardi of the Denver Post. This rich conversation highlighted the differing points of view as it relates to CMAS testing before, during, and post-pandemic.

A+ Colorado has been engaging in the conversation about standardized testing for over a decade and created a reading list to delve deeper into this important issue.

*This is a list created by Van Schoales, President of A+ Colorado. It is absolutely not all-inclusive, just some titles he and A+ find to represent the different viewpoints of this nuanced issue. This is also a list that represents many sides to this conversation and does not represent the opinions of A+ Colorado. 

A few good books on testing and public education that include discussions on testing: 

The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations, and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling by Jal Mehta. “An excellent book on the history of how to improve public education”.

Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush agreed on little, but united behind the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Passed in late 2001, it was hailed as a dramatic new departure in school reform. It would make the states set high standards, measure student progress, and hold failing schools accountable. A decade later, NCLB has been repudiated on both sides of the aisle. According to Jal Mehta, we should have seen it coming. Far from new, it was the same approach to school reform that Americans have tried before.

The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley. Great book on how some international students experience education compared to American students.”

In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they’ve never seen before. They are learning to think, in other words, and to thrive in the modern economy. Inspired to find answers for our own children, author and Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embed­ded in these countries for one year. Kim, fifteen, raises $10,000 so she can move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, eighteen, trades his high-achieving Minnesota suburb for a booming city in South Korea; and Tom, seventeen, leaves a historic Pennsylvania village for Poland.

A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School by Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire.A good recent critique of education reforms of last twenty years.”

If America’s public schools don’t survive the COVID-19 pandemic, it won’t just be due to the virus. Opponents of public education have long sought to dismantle our system of free, universal, and taxpayer-funded schooling. But the present crisis has provided them with their best opportunity ever to realize that aim. Books like Jane Mayer’s Dark Money and Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains sounded a clear warning about the influence that right-wing plutocrats increasingly exert over American politics. Now, A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door takes their analyses a step further, addressing an urgent question: Why is the right so fixated on dismantling public education in the United States?

Tested by Linda Perlstein. “A good read on NCLB and testing.” 

The pressure is on at schools across America. In recent years, reforms such as No Child Left Behind have created a new vision of education that emphasizes provable results, uniformity, and greater attention for floundering students. Schools are expected to behave more like businesses and are judged almost solely on the bottom line: test scores.

To see if this world is producing better students, Linda Perlstein immersed herself in a suburban Maryland elementary school, once deemed a failure, that is now held up as an example of reform done right. Perlstein explores the rewards and costs of that transformation, and the resulting portrait―detailed, human, and truly thought-provoking―provides the first detailed view of how new education policies are modified by human realities.

The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould. “One of the classics and a favorite book.” 

When published in 1981, The Mismeasure of Man was immediately hailed as a masterwork, the ringing answer to those who would classify people, rank them according to their supposed genetic gifts and limits.

And yet the idea of innate limits―of biology as destiny―dies hard, as witness the attention devoted to The Bell Curve, whose arguments are here so effectively anticipated and thoroughly undermined by Stephen Jay Gould. In this edition Dr. Gould has written a substantial new introduction telling how and why he wrote the book and tracing the subsequent history of the controversy on innateness right through The Bell Curve. Further, he has added five essays on questions of The Bell Curve in particular and on race, racism, and biological determinism in general. These additions strengthen the book’s claim to be, as Leo J. Kamin of Princeton University has said, “a major contribution toward deflating pseudo-biological ‘explanations’ of our present social woes.”

The Same Thing Over and Over: How School Reformers Get Stuck in Yesterday’s Ideas by Frederick M. Hess

In this genial and challenging overview of endless debates over school reform, Rick Hess shows that even bitter opponents in debates about how to improve schools agree on much more than they realize―and that much of it must change radically. Cutting through the tangled thickets of right- and left-wing dogma, he clears the ground for transformation of the American school system.