Testing capitalism: Perpetuating privilege behind the masks of merit and objectivity

P. L. Thomas, PhD


The accountability paradigm for reforming public schools began in the
U.S. as a state-based initiative grounded in establishing state standards
for core content and developing high-stakes tests and schedules to hold
schools, teachers, and students accountable (Hout and Elliott, 2011).
This essay examines the test-based patterns of that paradigm over the
past thirty years by confronting testing as a mechanism of surveillance
(Foucault, 1984) and then examining the accountability era in South
Carolina as an example of the power and failure of accountability based
on tests. Tests remain powerful, I contend, because they reinforce the
investment-and-return vernacular that reflects and reinforces Americans’
faith in capitalism over democracy.


capitalism, high-stakes testing, accountability, democracy, United States

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