Confronting the Assessment Industrial Complex: A Call for a Shift from Testing Rhetoric

Daniel R. Conn, Michelle Tenam-Zemach


Given the pervasive and impactful nature of assessments on educational outcomes of all forms, the authors posit that assessments have morphed into the Assessment Industrial Complex (AIC). Critical analysis of AIC demonstrates a narrowing of participatory dialogue while reinforcing historical hierarchies of control and exploitation. This limits students’ capacity to eventually function as citizens in a democracy. More specifically, proponents of the AIC utilize test scores to persuade the general public that standardized testing policies are achieving their intended outcomes (e.g., creating equal opportunities for individuals to achieve their goals and aspirations), despite the lack of truth and evidence to support these claims. Moreover, under the AIC rhetoric, knowledge becomes anti-dialogical and reduced to the convergence of political and corporate values. The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate the impact of the AIC on education and, thus, society, as well as to develop a counter-narrative that may offer an alternative discourse that empowers the public and reframes the current narrative.


assessment industrial complex, Edreformers, discourse, rhetoric

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