Wednesday, February 25, 2004
The Department of Education is a propaganda ministry
By the way, I believe him when he says it was a joke. And I don't think that this constitutes a new administration policy to treat unions as threats to national security. Maybe you can make the argument but this isn't evidence for it.
I just want to get rid of Rod Paige and the rest of the No Child Left Behind idiots.
Back when Rod Paige was superintendent of the Houston Independent School District I was a VISTA volunteer with an organization called Communities in Schools. CIS had programs in about 20 schools in the Houston area, mostly in HISD. I was assigned to a school in the Alief school district on the southwest side of the city, but I frequently had occasion to visit campuses in HISD and they were as bad or worse than mine.
At CIS we provided programs for 'at-risk' kids. The idea was to keep them from dropping out so that they could one day aspire to be worker bees.
Texas state laws says that a kid is considered to be at-risk if they meet any one of the following conditions: was not advanced from one grade level to the next for two or more school years; has mathematics or reading skills that are two or more years below grade level; did not maintain an average equivalent to 70 on a scale of 100 in two or more courses during a semester, or is not maintaining such an average in two or more courses in the present semester, is not expected to graduate within four years of the date the student begins ninth grade; did not perform satisfactorily on an assessment instrument; is pregnant or a parent; has limited English proficiency; is sexually, physically or psychologically abused; or, engages in delinquent behavior.
School districts are allowed to include other criteria at their discretion. The district I worked in, Alief, added the following conditions: broken home; primary care-giver is not a parent; and, any member of the household has been convicted of a felony. I think that these additions were also made in HISD.
In my school, and in all the Houston schools I had acquaintance with, a solid majority of students met these criteria. And yet, somehow, every school managed to post good TASS results. (TASS is the Texas Assessment of Scholastic Skills, the test that inspired the No Child Left Behind Act)
Teachers and administrators systematically excluded the scores of students who could be predicted to do badly. They had to, because otherwise their schools would be denied funding.
And let there be no doubt that they needed funding. Class sizes in Houston are routinely above 30, there aren't nearly enough tutors, and experienced teachers are fleeing en masse for higher paying jobs in suburban districts.
Not to mention the deplorable physical condition of public schools in Houston. Many of the building's are, to put it bluntly, falling apart. Even where the main buildings are in good shape there are temporary classroom shantytowns filling the playgrounds. Once I was out in a temporary classroom - a structure most of us would describe as a trailer - during a terrific thunderstorm. I looked out the window and noticed that the rain was falling sideways. Drawing on my Oklahoma heritage I thought "Tornado!" and got everyone the hell out of there and into the main building. As far as I know, ours was the only temporary classroom that was evacuated. A mile away a tornado tore the roof off of the gymnasium of a junior high school.
Houston's public schools are in a sorry state. White flight has pulled the money into the suburbs, and the Supreme Court has ruled super-districts to be illegal. The only solution, there as elsewhere, is a new funding model for public education.
Or: you could implement a testing regime that produces misleadingly positive results.
That's Rod Paige's legacy. Kick the bums out.