Saturday, April 14, 2012

Standardized testing's 'shame machine'

" The amazing thing is that John Kuhn is what he is — a public school superintendent. Doubly amazing: His school board apparently has his back.

    Otherwise, what Kuhn is doing would be like dousing his career in kerosene and flicking his Bic.
    Kuhn, superintendent of the Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District in North Texas, is assuming the status of Patrick Henry on the abomination known as "school accountability."

   He's become a firebrand on behalf of an increasing number of Texas school districts —  more than 100 — that have signed on to a resolution saying standardized testing is "strangling" their schools.

    "The government has allowed state testing to become a perversion, growing like Johnson grass through the garden of learning and choking to death all knowledge that isn't on the test," writes Kuhn.

   This fixation, he said last month at a "Save Our Schools" rally in Austin, "is killing ancient wisdom like debate, logic and ethics — deep human learning that once provided this state a renewable crop of leaders who knew courage instead of expedience, truth instead of spin, and personal risk for the public good instead of personal enrichment and re-election at all cost."

    I never saw a causal link between "school accountability" and the venal state of today's politics. However, now upon reflection, having observed roughly a quarter century of both from Texas, the bosom of the "accountability" cult:
    Guilty as charged.

    As Kuhn noted, Texas, which last year cut $5 billion from public schools, is spending $500 million on a new generation of tests to further strangle them.

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