The setting for this book is Houston, Texas. This is extremely significant. Houston has the fifth largest public school system in the United States. More than 150 home languages are spoken by the children in its public schools.
For a simple and powerful reason, what happens in Houston can quickly affect the entire nation: Texas is the second largest state in the United States, and its political power increasingly sets the national agenda.
As this book will show, Houston and Texas have become a seedbed for some of the most extreme forms of standardization in education. As we all know, the culture of media politics can transform at lightning speed a bad idea into a popular political sound bite. And just as quickly, powerful political interests develop a vested interest in it. They often begin to scapegoat and attack any voice raised against it.
The sound bite is a simple one already recognized everywhere: “accountability by standardized testing” as the panacea for school reform. This idea is spreading like wildfire through the national debate on education. Dozens of states and many foreign countries are adopting this model with no understanding of what it does at the classroom level. It is often justified with little more than vague claims of “success in Texas.” And everywhere around us teachers and parents who question these claims are scapegoated as uninformed, entrenched, or against improving education.
The sound bites that seduce policymakers always emphasize claims of benefits, not the actual costs. As documented in this book, the costs are great: a decline in the quality of what is taught and a new form of discrimination in the education