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Book Review                                Page 69

Fear and Learning in America: Bad Data, Good Teachers, and the Attack on Public Education

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by John Kuhn, Teachers College Press, Columbia University, New York, N.Y., 2014, 162 pp. with index, $24.95 softcover

A Texas school administrator with experience as a principal and superintendent, John Kuhn presents a well-reasoned retort to critics of public schools and their teachers.

His strident criticism of the state’s plan for improving schools begins with the text of a strongly worded letter he wrote and a well-received speech he delivered at the Save Texas Schools rally in February 2013, which went viral on YouTube. His basic tenet is that it is wrong for both conservative and liberal reformers to blame teachers for poorly interpreted standardized test results. The problem that critics refuse to acknowledge is the inequity of school funding.

Drawing on his firsthand experience as superintendent in Perrin, Texas, Kuhn convincingly shows the plan to improve Texas schools was ill-conceived and unfairly implemented. He pokes holes in the rationale of improving schools by dismissing teachers and argues that value-added measures are not the answer either.

School administrators who are experiencing the demands of the current wave of school reform without the resources to do what they must and want to do to improve learning will be encouraged by both the content of this book and the courage Kuhn has demonstrated through his advocacy for counter-reform.

Unfortunately, those who need to read this book the most — people who sincerely want American schools to be the best in the world — probably will never see it.

Reviewed by John C. Fagan, retired superintendent, Oak Park, Ill.

 

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