Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Bush's education legacy in Texas: More cheating and lying
Rod Paige, the outgoing Secretary of Education, was Superintendent of the Houston school district when Bush was wreaking his "Texas Miracle" as Governor of Texas. After the "No Child Left Behind" Act was passed, the story broke that the dropout rates in Houston had been seriously doctored. As factcheck.org summarized,
In Houston, investigators found 3,000 students who should have been listed as dropouts but weren't. A local television station, KHOU-TV, called citywide dropout statistics a "lesson in lies." The station found one former student working at a Wendy's fast-food restaurant after her public high school reported that she had left to attend private school. The Washington Post later found another high school that reported an unbelievably low 0.3 percent dropuout rate when in fact up to half its students failed to graduate. The CBS program "60 Minutes II" reported that Houston's entire school system reported a city-wide dropout rate of 1.5 percent when the true dropout rate was somewhere between 25 and 50 percent, according to educators and experts checked by CBS News. [emphasis added]
Yes, but all that is last year's news. And besides, it said nothing about the accomplishments of the students who actually did remain in school. The "Texas Miracle"—based on nothing more profound than testing and punishment for failure—would have been well understood by 19th century educators, with the important difference that in the Bush system, punishment is collective. The sanctions are applied to the entire school, including the educators, rather than to individual students.
But who can argue with success? Texas children were doing well—at least until the Dallas Morning News decided to take a look at the test data—
A Dallas Morning News data analysis has uncovered strong evidence of organized, educator-led cheating on the TAKS [Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills] test in dozens of Texas schools – and suspicious scores in hundreds more.
The analysis found a poor urban school where third- and fifth-graders are among the state's weakest readers – but the fourth-graders beat out the state's most elite schools. That's despite the fact that many of its students have trouble speaking English.
It found a desperately impoverished school where the fourth-graders have trouble adding and subtracting – but nearly all the fifth-graders got perfect scores on the math portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
And it found schools where in one year's time – if the scores are to be believed – children devolved from top students to barely being able to read.
The News' findings have led to cheating inquiries in three Texas school districts, including the state's two largest, Dallas and Houston. One of the schools under investigation is a National Blue Ribbon School that a year ago was touted by federal officials as an example of top academic achievement.
And this may be only the tip of the iceberg—
The News' method of looking for unusual test scores does not catch all cheaters. It does not, for instance, detect schools that cheat consistently across multiple grades and multiple subjects.
It also doesn't catch more subtle cheaters. A teacher who gives students a few correct answers on test day could raise her students' scores enough for them to pass, but not enough for a huge score increase that might draw attention.
"You're catching the dumb cheaters," Dr. Haladyna said of the analysis. "The smart cheaters you're not going to be able to detect."
If it's that bad in Texas, what must it be like in the other Red states? I've always maintained that anyone who thought that George Bush, either père or fils, truly supported education simply had to be dumber than they looked, because an educated populace would not put up with their crap. And of the few things that the Bushes know, that is one of them.
Dumb your child down the Republican way