John Oliver’s Take on Standardized Testing in America

On Last Week Tonight with John Oliver the debate over standardized testing in America was examined through a satirical lens which picked apart the shortcomings of an organization too reliant on unreliable testing. John Oliver used his brand of humor, a few well placed news clips, and the irony of an accountability system which fails to hold itself accountable to expose a system of testing and evaluation in our country that has fallen well short of the phrase “No Child Left Behind.”

I thought this video would be a great edition to a blog about Evaluation and Performance Measures because it provides a brief overview of why we have become so reliant on testing and how the testing data is being used. The sweeping reforms happening around the country, in part, represent the results of the collection and analyzing of this data. The education system in America is under scrutiny and in recent years has been a major hotspot of political controversy. John Oliver makes a few great points about how this change in education is actually affecting the students it intends to help, and more importantly, who it is really helping; namely, Pearson. For all of the billion’s we have spent on testing, 40% of it going to Pearson alone, we have failed to hold the testing system itself accountable. We have not only failed to improve, but in many cases, in the thirteen years since we have implemented “No Child Left Behind” and the accompanying standardized tests, we have actually slipped in global test scores.

The overall message Oliver delivers is really driven home by the end of the video. We must recognize that our system has not worked (the data does not lie) and we must make efforts to change it.

This clip is funny, a little vulgar at times, informative and infuriating, but definitely worth the watch.



3 responses to “John Oliver’s Take on Standardized Testing in America

  1. Reblogged this on Organizational and Institutional Change and commented:

    Wow, he really “hits the nail on the head” with this narrative! I’ve never watched John Oliver before but he was captivating and I followed what he was saying with ease. I enjoyed the humor, because at times discussing the severity of these decisions and processes that have been implemented all across the U.S. can be quite sobering. I think the most eye-opening portion was the part which discussed how involved one company (Pearson) is in this process. I’m curious to know what their evaluation system is in their company!


  2. Mark, Thanks for sharing Oliver’s perspective. I enjoy satire and find that bringing a satirical perspective to controversial and emotional issues can also bring a lot of common sense. It is important to take away bias and emotion to see what is really going on. We most certainly are in a place with standardized tests that we must be prepared to have a logical conversation about what makes sense. As it stands now, there are many conflicting and impassioned perspectives and our students are currently caught in the middle. All voices should be heard and reason must prevail. My idealistic view of the world hopes that reason will eventually prevail with regards to standardized tests. Oliver helps to spur on the conversation that must be had by us all.


  3. Bravo John Oliver – for speaking the truth. I would have also liked to hear some suggestions on how we as a society could change this testing mind-set. I think the point is that what teachers have to go through – not to get students to take tests, but to de-stress especially the younger students. I think we as a society must take a real look at how tests affect the students well-being. I have personally experienced students hyper-ventilating, becoming sick to their stomachs and becoming hysterical. I wonder what companies like Pearson would do if their children were experiencing this emotional roller coaster.


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