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

  • Sex and Trump

    No one, least of all Donald Trump, should be surprised when sex puts him in mortal jeopardy, which seemed to be the case last week when his personal lawyer pleaded guilty to violating the law by arranging $280,000 in hush payments to a porn actress and a Playboy model who were prepared to tell voters about having sex with him.
    • Dec 13, 2018
  • A decent man

    The beatification of George H.W. Bush, which even the current president signaled was OK, would have surprised the 41st president, who seemed to have accepted the public's verdict that, although a waffler, he was a decent man who did his best and didn't do any harm to the people of the country or the world with whose well-being he was entrusted for a time.
    • Dec 6, 2018
  • Prelude to war

    President Trump's casual disinterest in the murder of Jamaal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia's leaders, a crime he once abhorred, may be only the final repudiation of America's ancient obedience to human rights, but what if it is much more? What if it is a prelude to war?
    • Nov 29, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • Shrugging off sulfides

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported a shocker on its front page Sunday. The rotten-egg odor from the Koch brothers' sprawling paper plant at Crossett is still making people sick, but the state's pollution control agency is unaware of the problem.
    • Mar 29, 2018

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Sex and Trump

    No one, least of all Donald Trump, should be surprised when sex puts him in mortal jeopardy, which seemed to be the case last week when his personal lawyer pleaded guilty to violating the law by arranging $280,000 in hush payments to a porn actress and a Playboy model who were prepared to tell voters about having sex with him.
    • Dec 13, 2018
  • A decent man

    The beatification of George H.W. Bush, which even the current president signaled was OK, would have surprised the 41st president, who seemed to have accepted the public's verdict that, although a waffler, he was a decent man who did his best and didn't do any harm to the people of the country or the world with whose well-being he was entrusted for a time.
    • Dec 6, 2018
  • Prelude to war

    President Trump's casual disinterest in the murder of Jamaal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia's leaders, a crime he once abhorred, may be only the final repudiation of America's ancient obedience to human rights, but what if it is much more? What if it is a prelude to war?
    • Nov 29, 2018
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • Beware of 'unity'

    Beware the sweet lull of that siren song calling for "unity" and for us to "come together." It's the latest incarnation of the call for "civility," and just as dangerous.
  • No leash

    Living as I do in the remote provinces, I often find myself fascinated by the cultural advances of America's great metropolises. Last week, for example, The New York Times featured an entertaining column urging people to walk cats on leashes. If I tried that, I'd definitely have a fight on my hands.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: No leash

    • Don't try to put Santa hats or elf shoes on them, either.

    • on December 14, 2018
  • Re: No leash

    • Don't try to put little Santa hats or elf shoes on them, either.

    • on December 14, 2018
  • Re: Beware of 'unity'

    • Not quite, jim. THe Dems are very familiar with unity, since the vote of the…

    • on December 14, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation