I love this book. I read it immediately before I read "The Children in Room E4" which seemed to have made a bigger splash, but I think "Tested" is a superior book. They have much in common (schools attended by children living in poverty), and in fact some of the examples each author gave were eerily similar to the other's. Eerily, and, depressingly. However, Perlstein's book is much more focused and frankly, much more "real-world", to me.
She points out that children who come from impoverished backgrounds begin school at a terrible disadvantage (her book reminded me of Sarah Sentilles' Taught by America). However, instead of getting the well-rounded education--academically, emotionally, mentally, and practically--the students are locked into test preparation mode, quite often for their entire elementary school experience. Instead of getting recess, music, science, art, field trips, cooking, social studies, along with literature and math, they literally practice standardized tests for 90% of the entire school year. Good lord. This often continues through middle school. By high school they're either bored/exhausted, or, they're STILL so far behind that they have no opportunities to prepare for college.
Perlstein explains how and why these particular schools get stuck doing absolutely NOTHING all year but preparing for standardized tests, and, she also explains the negative impact such schooling has. Her book, while sympathetic, is also no-nonsense. One would hope with the new administration things will change, but I'm not sure Arne Duncan is someone who will make those changes. While we sit around and wait and see, thousands of impoverished children will have horrible school experiences and likely drop out in their teens.