Favorite

The Texas cheat sheet 

Texas has done it again. The state that gave us George W. Bush, Rod Paige and the No Child Left Behind Act has shown the rest of the country how to handle the strictures of the federal education law. Cheat, dissemble and defy. President Bush signed the NCLB in 2002 making the standardized test the means and end of public education in the United States. The “Texas Miracle” was to be replicated in the other 49 states and the District of Columbia. Bush brought in as secretary of education Rod Paige, the Houston schools superintendent who had produced the most spectacular results, stratospheric gains in student achievement on tests devised by the state of Texas. But a terrible thing happened. People started looking closely at the 10-year-old Texas miracle, particularly Dr. Paige’s Houston school district. Paige’s amazing feat turns out to have been the product of cheating, lying and manipulation. First, a New York Times examination of Houston’s test results in 2003 raised questions about the legitimacy of the achievement gains. They were statistically improbable. Houston and Texas statewide scores on national tests showed Paige’s students and Texas as a whole were doing no better and maybe even worse than kids elsewhere. An investigation found evidence of large-scale cheating: If all else failed, teachers were just giving children the answers. The new superintendent warned this year that schools would be watched closely and 200 monitors went to schools that were the most suspicious. Guess what? Scores plummeted at the high-achieving schools, by as much as 70 percentiles. After the warning and the assignment of monitors, scores of 14,751 Houston kids this year on the Texas reading test fell an average of 5 percent. Then last month the Texas education commissioner, faced with the prospect of designating nearly half of all Texas public schools as failing under terms of the No Child Left Behind Act, came up with a plan: Just tell Washington to go to hell. Rather than comply with NCLB, Texas would follow its own easy rules. That reduced the number of failing districts six-fold. The federal act says states and school districts may exempt no more than 1 percent of students from reading and math tests because they are learning disabled. Texas likes to count about 10 percent. Exempting the poorest students from the test raises the overall scores appreciably and everyone connected to education looks a lot better. Teachers get raises, principals and superintendents fat bonuses. Texas gets about $1 billion a year in federal money for compliance with NCLB. Who wants to bet whether the Bush administration will take Texas’ money away? Other states are in the same predicament although few went to Texas’ extreme in keeping poor students out of the accountability equation. The Minnesota and Utah legislatures are considering legislation that would opt their states out of NCLB to save their schools from the insidious madness of high-stakes testing. Houston teachers and administrators surely are no more unscrupulous than educators anywhere else. Their politicians were just the first to enact the typically political solution to school problems. What happened at Houston could have been predicted when it set out on the high-stakes testing nearly 15 years ago (before Bush became governor, by the way). In fact, it was predicted. The sequence is logical. First, you teach the test — exclusively if it is necessary, which it is with kids with poor backgrounds. If that is not enough, you take the next step to see that the school survives, you keep the jobs and the kids aren’t condemned. Worse is the deceit practiced upon the kids. Former Houston students interviewed by the New York Times demonstrated the problem. After 12 years in the schools with high scores on the Texas tests they were classified as “Texas scholars.” They would learn that they were ready for a career of taking the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills but unprepared to do college work. Teaching the test is now a preoccupation in classrooms all across Arkansas, as it is in other states with large numbers of disadvantaged children. One teacher bowed out of the Shakespeare Festival at UALR because the principal said such activities robbed the students of time for test preparation. A media specialist of 24 years at Denver wrote in the Rocky Mountain News last week that she despaired for her students after another round of high-stakes tests to meet NCLB. Special education students had spent an entire day taking a test that none of them could even comprehend. “I am ashamed of this country,” she wrote. “We are allowing our political leaders who do not understand education to belittle our children. We are letting people who know the least make decisions about our schools. We are allowing the rich to dictate a program of poverty to the poor, and call it accountability. And if this continues, we are going to end public education. Is this what Americans want?” Good question.
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • China in charge

    Let's turn to foreign affairs to see how we might calm the flood of anxieties over the coming Donald Trump presidency.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • A little hope

    It may not be nearly as bad as you expect.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Religion as excuse upends Constitution

    Tirades over religious liberty since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide have awakened the ghost of James Madison, the author of the constitutional doctrine on the matter, and it isn't happy that his effort to protect religious inquiry in America is being corrupted.
    • Jul 9, 2015
  • Guns, God and gays

    Many more mass shootings like the one last week in Roseburg, Ore., will stain the future and no law will pass that might reduce the carnage. That is not a prediction but a fact of life that is immune even to Hillary Clinton.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • AEC dumps ALEC

    No matter which side of the battle over global warming you're on, that was blockbuster news last week. No, not the signing of the climate-change treaty that commits all of Earth's 195 nations to lowering their greenhouse-gas emissions and slowing the heating of the planet, but American Electric Power's announcement that it would no longer underwrite efforts to block renewable energy or federal smokestack controls in the United States.
    • Dec 17, 2015

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Lessons from Standing Rock

    A Fayetteville resident joins the 'water protectors' allied against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • Child welfare too often about 'punishing parents,' DCFS consultant tells legislators

    Reforms promised by the Division of Children and Family Services are "absolutely necessary," the president of DCFS's independent consultant told a legislative committee this morning. But they still may not be enough to control the state's alarming growth in foster care cases.
  • Donald Trump taps Tom Price for HHS Secretary; Medicaid and Medicare cuts could be next

    The selection of Tom Price as HHS secretary could signal that the Trump administration will dismantle the current healthcare safety net, both Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • China in charge

    Let's turn to foreign affairs to see how we might calm the flood of anxieties over the coming Donald Trump presidency.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • A little hope

    It may not be nearly as bad as you expect.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

  • Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    No state political party in the modern era has had a more abrupt fall than Arkansas's Democrats
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    • How I Was Rescued From Debt And a collapsing Business By Edward Jones.. {jonesloanfinance@yahoo.com} Good…

    • on December 3, 2016
  • Re: Fake economics

    • The California economy, and every other state economy are only still barely growing because 3…

    • on December 3, 2016
  • Re: Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    • If Democrats want to become relevant again then they should return to the values that…

    • on December 3, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation