Truth Left Behind
The current reality of public education in the United States is based on fiction. The reasons behind the so-called ``No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) act have turned out to be a lie. We have been had.
The real victims are the young people in our country because they will receive an inferior public education under the current law. The lies behind the NCLB were brought to us by the political leadership in Washington.
The current secretary of education, Roderick R. Paige, was superintendent of the Houston, Texas, school district before coming to Washington. The Bush administration fashioned the NCLB based on the concepts of accountability and high-stakes testing which Paige championed in Houston.
We were assured that those concepts led to the ``education miracle" achieved in Houston. The miracle consisted of a disappearing high school dropout rate, greatly rising scores on the statewide test and a narrowing of the achievement gap between white and minority students.
The information from Houston was so good that even Democrats like Sen. Edward Kennedy were convinced of its validity and gave their support for passage of the NCLB.
Now comes the bad news: The low dropout rate in Houston is mythical and the rising scores on the Texas state test were manipulated. It is a wonder the Republic is still standing.
In the last two months, we have learned the sad facts about Houston, thanks to certain individuals in that education community. Local television station KHOU reported a dropout fiasco at Houston's Sharpstown High School. By changing the codes of students who dropped out, the school made it appear that very few students didn't finish high school.
State auditors found similar stories at 14 other Houston high schools. Austin also had unusually low dropout rates. School officials concede that the reported dropout rates were worthless and are no longer using them in accountability studies.
During Rod Paige's tenure as superintendent in Houston, some amazing academic progress took place. In 1995, his first year in Austin, only 26 percent of tenth graders in Austin High School passed the Texas math test. By the 2000-01 school year, 99 percent of tenth graders passed the test.
According to a common practice, administrators are allowed to hold back weak students in the ninth grade for one or two years, then skip them on to the eleventh grade, effectively excluding them from taking the tenth grade test.
According to some educators in Houston, this is commonly done, and it explains the spectacular rise in test scores under Paige's leadership.
The New York Times also examined the performance of Houston students and reported the results on December 3, 2003. The newspaper report compared scores on a national exam that Houston students took alongside the Texas state exam.
The results show that Houston students stagnated in the same place or lost ground compared to their counterparts across the nation. A great big gap exists between the national test results and the Texas state results.
Remember, the success of Houston's schools was used as a backdrop and justification for the creation of the NCLB with its heavy emphasis on accountability.
Prince George's County is closely engaged in this debate. Our new CEO, Andre J. Hornsby, is a close friend of Rod Paige, and believes that the techniques of the Texas education miracle should be implemented here.
We have had a number of education consultants from Texas, hired by the Board of Education, hold in-service sessions for county teachers. The reports from these sessions are that nothing new is learned and that they are a waste of time.
The truth is, if we are to adhere to the techniques used in the Texas miracle, we should lie and cheat to attain high results.
Public schools carry the problems of society on their shoulders. Educating children is a grueling, complicated process. Anyone coming to us with easy, facile solutions is either misinformed or a crook. You can decide which of the two options brought us the so called "No Child Left Behind" act.
Those of us working with children in schools must now walk a fine line of staying within the boundaries of a flawed law, while still delivering a well-rounded education. This has become our new everyday reality.
Yvonne N. Baicich is an elementary school teacher in Prince George's County.
Yvonne N. Baicich, elementary school teacher
Truth left behind
Prince Georges County Journal
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES