Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Teaching, Learning and Educational Studies

First Advisor

Dr. G. Thomas Ray

Second Advisor

Dr. Paul Farber

Third Advisor

Dr. Dini Metro-Roland


standardization, testing, NCLB, reform, online

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


In the thirty years of school reform that began with A Nation at Risk, and continues today with A Race to the Top, the United States has rapidly increased its reliance on a standardized “one-size-fits-all” policy in regard to modern educational reform. This report provides a review of the empirical and statistical evidence to demonstrate that despite lofty and well-meaning intentions, modern reform has done nothing to significantly advance the quality of education in America, and in many cases have had a severe negative impact—blocking real reform. Many schools, especially those in low-income areas, have become glorified test-prep centers in the wake of decades of mandates that value higher scores over higher-order thinking. Further, many students are not viewing the learning process as intrinsically beneficial, as the commodification of education has made teachers and students more interested in meeting minimum benchmark requirements than demonstrating real educational goals such as the motivation to become a life-long learner. Despite mounting evidence that the standardization of A Nation at Risk was undermining meaningful learning, lawmakers misinterpreted or ignored much of the data and created an even more standardized approach with No Child Left Behind, leading now to a Race to the Top—further accelerating our push toward a national standardized regulation of the system. Finally, this study of school reform examines the 21st century trend toward benchmark-based on-line learning—complete homogenization that further erodes qualitative educational goals in favor of quantitative objectives. All of these reform efforts, as the evidence increasingly shows, don’t work, increase student frustration and apathy, and belittle long-term quests for real understanding in favor of short-term information acquisition that can be more easily evaluated on national assessments. Because of these, and many other issues, modern educational reform in America missing the mark, and unless we change direction or reform the reformers, we are destined to continue on standardized path that is both not effective, and in many cases, harmful for all of the stakeholders in our educational system.