A Rhetorical Analysis of High Marks for Standardized Tests: An article by Norman R. Augustine

A Rhetorical Analysis of High Marks for Standardized Tests: An article by Norman

The Washington Post on August 1, 2013, by Norman R. Augustine, High Marks for Standardized Tests,’ attempts to express the persona’s displeasure on the reactions posed by the various stakeholders in the education sector towards standardized tests. He sarcastically compares the effects of standardized papers to the challenges that could otherwise be brought about by school dropout cases and unqualified teachers, “. . . isn’t . . . but standardized tests.”( Norman, 2013, p.1) He blatantly and carelessly mentions the involvement of parents as well as teachers in the encouraging students to opt out because of the standardized tests. He sounds so pained by the whole scenario from his use of comparisons and contrast: “. . . isn’t . . . but” (p.1). This, however, changes as the essay continues. He gains a very cruel stand, and starts to use a very sarcastic language and incorporates some jargons that help him stamp authority: ‘. . . absurd . . .’ (p. 8). However, as he comes to the last bit of his piece, he then lowers the initially very offensive voice and choice of word into an advisory and patronizing tone. His stand on the issue of standard tests, however, is clearly brought out in white and black, and all that remains, therefore, is for the audience to choose either.

Norman, before getting into making the recommendations, tries to get to catch his audience unawares. He explicitly bringing out their arguments, and he does this in a very dauntless manner as though it were a conviction arising from within. He ridicules the audience by use of very selective choice of words, which, actually show some complacency and out-of-place nature in their reasoning: “. . . typically rely on . . . “, (p. 3). “First, they contend that these exams detract from the larger goals of education by encouraging teachers to “teach the test,” (p. 4). His introductory words for the second argument clearly illustrates his attitude towards the argument, “   Another often-heard . . .  drive educators to cheat.”(p.7) A reader will, at the very first site of the statement, develop a stand and in a way view it as null.

He, just like Solove (2011), I his article “Why Privacy Matters even if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’”, however, misses out on the need for classification of the message that he relays. In reading his article, an audience would be in a position of understanding everything that he tries to speak out, as influenced by the diction that he uses. Every piece of information in sentence is connotatively brought out: the question that remains is whether he actually intended the reading to the audience of all ages. Well, this is a failure on his side as the information he relays at some point, for instance, in p. 7, (. . . some education advocates were quick to blame the scandal on the tests themselves). The same scenario is as seen in the very paragraph, “. . . alleged scheme of inflating their students’ test scores to avoid sanctions and secure performance-based bonuses” (p. 7)

He gets very ironical, when, after having condemned teachers as involved in the campaign against the standard test, he eventually sides with the teachers. This brings about a very tremendous shift in the notion as set out beforehand. He initially mentions that the teachers “. . . teach the tests . . .” (p. 4), and, “. . . inflating their students’ test scores. . .” (p. 7) He lightens the general image he painted the teachers with upon getting to the seventh paragraph, “. . . It should be noted that most teachers are honest, dedicated professionals. . . ” (p. 8).  From this point, he even goes ahead to mention the possible solutions to the problems at hand.

He is very tactical in the manner in which he organizes the whole article. It starts off with him posing as being against those that are opposed to the new changes in testing, but, surprisingly enough, eventually lowers the pitch bit by bit, until such a time that he gives his recommendations. He is able to form an interaction with his audience in two very different and contrasting ways. He firstly starts off as being very aggressive, and even uses very offensive language at some point: in the fourth paragraph, he mentions that teachers ‘contend’, ‘. . . inflating their students’ test scores to avoid sanctions. . .’ but, in the end, he sides with the teachers and actually gives his recommendations and the possible solutions (p. 7). He then sums up by making a very comprehensive closing remark, “. . . should be . . . misguided . . . are . . . in precisely . . .” (p. 13).

Norman’s article clearly brings out a very profound sarcasm, irony, the ability to play around with tonal variation, and a very audacious ideology. He brings out several offensive yet audacious argument in order to help get the attention of his audience, who, he ridicules so much. He, however, slowly lowers his tone when he is at the point mentioning the various strategies that employed to curb such problems. He is quite smart, as he invokes and annoys the audience, but in the end, relaxes the very tense mood he had instilled in the readers.


Norman R. A. (2013).  High Marks for Standardized Tests The Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)

Solove, D. (2011). “Why Privacy Matters even if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’”.  (The Chronicle Review). Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Why-Privacy-Matters-Even- if/127461/