Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Teaching to the test

In January of 2002 pResident Bush signed the 'No Child Left Behind' law, which gives public schools 12 years to match the successes being claimed in Texas schools. Bush claimed that holding schools responsible for student performance (i.e. financial punishment if test scores don't rise) had improved passing rates and lessened the gap between white and minority children in Texas schools. He even took Houston school superintendent Rod Paige to Washington to be his Secretary of Education.

Given the large body of lies this administration generates, it comes as no surprise to find that Bush's claims about Texas schools were untrue. It turns out that the improvements shown based on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills are not mirrored in standardized national tests such as the SATs. In the years since 1999, students who showed a meteoric rise in reading skills on the Texas test actually showed a decline in scores on the SATs.

Recent reviews of the Texas educational system have shown that Texas schools are under-reporting dropouts, exaggerating the number of college-bound graduates, and excluding students with poor English skills from taking national assessment tests.

The achievement gap between whites and minorities, which Houston authorities have argued has nearly disappeared on the Texas exam, remains huge on the Stanford test. The ranking of the average white student was 36 points higher than that of the average black student in 1999 and fell slightly, to 34 points, in 2002.

"This says that the progress on TAAS is probably overstated, possibly by quite a margin," said Daniel Koretz of the Harvard School of Education, who also reviewed The Times's analysis, "And when all is said and done, Houston looks average or below average."

Sounds like a great model to base the country's educational systems on. Of course, it is the educational model most likely to ensure that more idiots like Bush get elected.