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[Susan notes: This letter points out how Paige misused numbers--and students--and shows how tempting it is for all districts to do likewise.]

Published in Seattle Times

To the editor

Rod Paige, the secretary of Education, points to his achievements as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) as evidence that relentless testing as required by the No Child Left Behind Act will improve the education of all children ("Accountability's the key to revitalizing our schools," guest commentary, May 13).

What Paige doesn't tell you is how he raised test scores in Houston. HISD enrolls 212,000 students, about 34 percent of the students in Harris County. According to the Intercultural Development Research Association, a research center in San Antonio, 52 percent of African-American teens in Harris County who started high school in 1997 were no longer in school in 2000-01, what would have been their senior year, and Paige's last year. Sixty percent of the Hispanic teens were also gone, as were 29 percent of the white teens.

Paige tells us that "accountability works," but how was he accountable to the thousands of students who dropped out from his schools? Paige brags about how HISD raised test scores. It's easy to raise test scores if you can get your low-scoring students to drop out.

We do need accountability in schools, but No Child Left Behind will turn schools into test-preparation factories. More kids will drop out, and more wealthy parents will put their children into private schools, where being educated is not synonymous with test scores.

David Marshak, Associate Professor, Seattle University

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