The first, and this is something I've mentioned before as well, is that education has begun to serve testing instead of the other way around. In other words, all these consequences for low test scores and stresses on academic testing achievement have begun to influence the curriculum and the way we teach students. Instead of focusing on engaging content and actual learning, students by the masses are being pushed towards memorization and only being taught "what's on the test." Furthermore, because of this, students follow tilt and begin to only care about what their test score was as opposed to what they've actually learned. It's as if the learning itself has taken a backseat to a number on a paper or computer screen in terms of value.
With this in mind, the second major problem Wagner points out is one that revisits his main point: are any tests right now really evaluating any useful student skills for their future? Even if curriculum wasn't collectively aimed at test scores, it seems the subject matter being analyzed is itself becoming marginalized in terms of actual value in society. If a student knows how to solve for an algebraic equation, does that necessarily mean they have problem solving skills? If a student writes a decent paper in a formulaic template, does that really mean they can organize and explain research to someone in the real world? Wagner doesn't believe so, though even he himself doesn't totally doubt testing. "Some say, and I agree, that teaching to the test isn't necessarily bad - as long as it's a good test!" (p.90). The point here being that we're headed in the wrong direction for giving students the tools they need if we continue to assess our schools based on test scores that only measure proficiency in boring content and rather irrelevant skills.
In my own experience, I would have to agree to a high degree with many of Wagner's claims about testing. Regarding the issue of testing negatively influencing the aims of the classroom, I believe most schools nowadays have muddled their allotted time during school year with test prep curriculum and have bombarded students with test after test. This year alone, I have witnessed class time dwindle thanks to MAP testing, CAHSEE, SBAC, SAT and ACT practice, and have furthermore skipped interesting sections in my unit calendar to ensure covering a specific requirement for testing purposes.
On the other hand, I may be slightly less critical of the current system than Wagner is. That is, I believe there is value to be found in how and what we teach our students today. I feel there are limitations to getting students to be more engaged simply just because content is more than just memorization. Yet, I am not far off from where Wagner comes from on these subjects. I wholeheartedly agree that we're not giving students the essential skills they need for the future yet and that there are steps to getting there. Changing what we value and overhauling our accountability system is just a step in that direction. The real hurdle is political barriers and getting people to change a system that been in place for decades.
Lastly, this subject actually reaches me on a personal level with respect to my own brother who is himself a high school dropout. He made the decision on his own as a sophomore, not because of failing grades and bombing tests (though they were stark contributors), but because he had no interest in what school offered nor was it relevant to his goals. Needless to say, he's doing fine and had many talents to offer. Among many of them he's a fantastic self-taught artist, musician, and on occasions a decent cook as well. Wagner stated that "Will not Skill is the single most important factor in school dropout rates" (p. 114). In a way, my brother is the epitome of someone whose will, not skill, defined his success in school and ultimately led him to be "measured" inaccurately by Wagner's standards.