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NCLB Outrages

Rod Paige Still Whining

HUNTSVILLE -- Those who want the No Child Left Behind law to fail are attacking Texas and the Houston Independent School District like a piņata, Education Secretary Rod Paige said in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday.

Paige led the Houston district before following President Bush to Washington. Recently, the district has been under fire for what critics say are embellished testing achievements, lower-than-realistic dropout rates and underreported crime statistics.

District officials say the attacks are politically motivated and they have followed data reporting requirements put in place by the Texas Education Agency.

"Any objective person can make his own judgment about the motive," Paige said. "I'll just simply say that the interpretation of the data is very suspect."

Paige said data from two standardized tests, which cannot be compared using the simplistic methods he has seen, have been used in an effort to give the district and the No Child Left Behind Act a black eye.

"The idea that if we can beat up and make the Houston Independent School District or the state of Texas like some piņata -- beat up on it until something good falls out -- is mistaken because this bill is much broader than that and is much stronger than that," Paige said of the federal law, which in part was based on Texas' education reforms begun in the 1980s.

The 2001 federal law calls for expanded testing, higher teacher quality and greater achievement among students, particularly those in poor districts.

It is made up of a number of components that are "apolitical," Paige said. He said the bill was worked on by members of both political parties and based on educational reforms in states such as Texas, North Carolina and Arkansas.

"The bill passed with the kind of bipartisan support you would expect of a resolution on motherhood," said Paige, who was in Huntsville Saturday to deliver the commencement speech at Sam Houston State University.

On Monday, Paige will speak to the Greater Houston Partnership, a group of Houston business and community leaders.

Paige, who previously served on the group's board of directors, said the timing of the speech was coincidental.

Paige said if the Houston district was evaluated fairly it would come out in the top five percent nationally of school districts of the same size.

"There has been a decided effort to look at the vulnerabilities at the expense of any acknowledgment at all," he said regarding the criticisms of the Houston district. "I don't think there is any reason to have any concern about the quality of the system or its management or instruction program."

— Pam Easton
HISD like `piņata' for foes of education act
Houston Chronicle


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