View From Lodi, CA: Educrat Corruption in Houston Leaving Children Behind

So many problems for George W. Bush and so little
time, even on summer vacation, to closely follow all of
them.

To name but a few, we have the continued tragic
killings of American soldiers in Iraq, the infamous
sixteen words, the missing weapons of mass destruction,
the deepening deficit, mounting unemployment, the
quagmire in Liberia and saber rattling about North
Korea, Iran and Syria.

What all of that means for Bush is a plunging
approval rating. I for one never bought into the lofty
70% showings. Those polls must be taken in

Crawford, Texas.

With all of the urgent international and domestic
issues dominating the print media, the strange and
curious case of Secretary of Education

Rod Paige
and the Houston Independent School
District is small potatoes.

You will recall that Bush appointed Paige as his
Education Secretary because of Paige`s outstanding
record when he was H.I.S.D. superintendent. Among the
most visible achievements at the H.I.S.D. was its almost
non-existent dropout rate. In the academic year
2000-2001, only 1.5% of students who left school were
declared dropouts.

Based on those statistics,
Houston was dubbed the “Texas Miracle in Education.” The
city`s emphasis on grading school performance became the
model for the rest of the nation under Bush`s No Child
Left Behind Act.

Paige, who was Superintendent from 1994-2001, took
all the bows for the Houston successes. And he parlayed
that into his current big job in Washington D.C.

But now it looks like those well-publicized
educational triumphs may have been gained by pushing
under-performing students out the door.

According to a recent state audit of 16 middle and
high schools in Houston, more than half of the 5,500
students who left school in 2000-2001 should have been
counted as dropouts but were not. Instead, the schools
recorded them as transfers to continuing education,
G.E.D. preparation and the like. In reality, most of the
students who left never returned to any type of
educational institution.

As a result of the audit, 14 schools that had been
ranked “best” will soon be designated “worst.” And a
further recommendation was made to rank the entire
H.I.S.D. school system as “unacceptable.”

(That`s an especially long
drop for the H.I.S.D. Just last year, Houston won $1
million from the Broad Foundation for being the best
urban school district in the country.)

Paige and philanthropist
Eli Broad

announced
the award jointly. And in a written
statement, Bush added:


“Congratulations to
the students, parents, teachers, administrators and
community leaders of the Houston Independent School
District for winning the first annual Broad Prize for
Urban Education. Despite facing many challenges, HISD
has shown all of us how innovative leadership, hard
work, and high academic standards can help ensure that
no child is left behind."

Now, unfortunately, it looks like most of the
innovation went into cooking the books and not cracking
them. Falsified records and altered data generated the
phony success.

To Rick Noriega, a state
representative who once ran a dropout prevention
program, the claim of zero dropouts was infuriating. He
requested the state audit.

Then a Houston Vice-Principal, Robert Kimball, added
his endorsement to an audit when he noticed that the
math wasn`t working out.
We go from 1,000 freshman to less than 300 seniors with
no dropouts,"

Dr.
Kimball wrote. "Amazing!” [Questions
on Data Cloud Luster of Houston Schools
,
NYT, July 11, 2003, by Diana Jean Schemo]

In an interview with the
New York Times, Kimball revealed that some
schools have assistant principals
who act as "bouncers," urging delinquent students or
chronic absentees to quit. In addition, schools may hold
back 9th graders who do poorly on a pre-test for the
10th grade math exam, producing an artificial "9th grade
bulge" in student enrollment, Dr. Kimball said. Studies
have demonstrated that students who are left back are
more likely to drop out.

All of the shenanigans
reminded Joseph Rodriguez of another Texas scandal. Said
Rodriguez, a former H.I.S.D. employee in the office of
research and accountability and a candidate for an open
seat on the Houston school board, “It was Enron
accounting.”

Paige refuses to talk. Dan
Langan, his spokesman, issued this incredible statement:
"The secretary stands by his record of accomplishment in
Texas. Dr. Paige has a very strong record of success in
education reform in Houston and promoted a culture of
accountability."

But state Rep.Garnet
Coleman, D-Houston, a harsh critic of the Texas
accountability system, see things differently. "The
education miracle in Houston is all spin and PR,"

said Coleman.


"My belief is it`s deceptive
and started not with the current superintendent but with
the previous one (Paige). The accountability system and
the test are good tools. But when you put somebody`s job
on the line for somebody else`s performance, you`re
going to have people cutting corners."

This is not the time for
Paige to stay silent. He owes the people of Houston a
candid explanation of what went wrong. And as Secretary
of Education, he needs to set a better example for the
youth of America than saying “No comment” when he is on
the hot seat.

(Joenote to VDARE.COM
readers: When newly appointed New York Times
Executive Editor Bill Keller accepted his promotion, he
promised that the newsroom would report



“without fear or favor.”
I assume that means
that anytime now we will be reading an in-depth story
about what is


really the cause
of the dismal state of public
education: the never-ending enrollment of


non-English speaking
students and the


burden
they put on teachers and administrators.)

Joe Guzzardi [
email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.