The head of the National Education Association has called for a congressional investigation into the multimillion dollar nationwide standardized testing industry.

In a speech prepared for delivery yesterday at NEA's annual convention in Detroit NEA Executive Director Terry Herndon said the testing insustry is "shrouded in secrecy and surrounded by paranoia."

The NEA has been critical of the standarized testing industry, particularly college and graduate school entrance exams, for some time, Herndon pointed out.

"Standarized tests have been used to stamp one's early childhood education, one's placement, promotion, and classification is school, one's choice of career and promotion, Herbron said.

He said the NEA has been concerned with the excessive use of such test scores to make judgments about human life and aspirations.

Yet, Herndon added,"the industry is unregulated, unquestioned and certainly unaccountable to consumers. The giant Educational Testing Service [Ets] alone, which hides under an 'educational' tax exempt label, yearly has more customers than General Motors and Ford combined yet provides the public with nothing comparable to seat belts for its damaging products."

"Not scoring well on standarized tests is like having a car without an engine, or without gas during our energy cruch," Herndon said. "A person cannot go anywhere.Employment doors are closed by such testing operations as ETS, which appropriately terms itself the 'gatekeeper of the nation.'"

In recent months the NEA has also contended that so-called "cram courses" designed to help students improve their standardized test scores actually do result in improved scores, a fact the testing industry has disputed.

One of the most important characteristics of the standardized tests has been the contention that they reflect a student's ability, not knowledge that can be obtained through cramming

The NEA has contended, however, that standardized tests do not measure the ability of students.