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Thursday, January 08, 2004

The Texas Miracle

The Texas Miracle

This is the first in a series of stories on the Bush domestic agenda. From No Child Left Behind to Medicare reform, much of Bush's domestic agenda gets a bare glance. However, not one of these programs could be called an unqualifed success, and they could be regarded as a failure.

This story ran on 60 Minutes II last night. The Houston program served as the underpinnings of No Child Left Behind. However, the program was filled with deception and fradulent numbers designed to make Bush and his political allies look good. Instead of success, you had poor, underprivledged, immigrant kids forced out of the system to make the numbers improve.

It was called the “Texas Miracle,” and you may remember it because President Bush wanted everyone to know about it during his presidential campaign.

It was about an approach to education that was showing amazing results, particularly in Houston, where dropout rates plunged and test scores soared.

Houston School Superintendent Rod Paige was given credit for the school success, by making principals and administrators accountable for how well their students did.

Once he was elected president, Mr. Bush named Paige as secretary of education. And Houston became the model for the president’s “No Child Left Behind” education reform act.

Now, as Correspondent Dan Rather reports, it turns out that some of those miraculous claims which Houston made were wrong. And it all came to light when one assistant principal took a close look at his school’s phenomenally low dropout rates – and found that they were just too good to be true.

“I was shocked. I said, ‘How can that be,’” says Robert Kimball, an assistant principal at Sharpstown High School, on Houston’s West side. His own school claimed that no students – not a single one – had dropped out in 2001-2002.

But that’s not what Kimball saw: “I had been at the high school for three years, and I had seen many, many students, several hundred a year, go out the door. And I knew that they were quitting. They told me they were quitting.”

Most of the 1,700 students at Sharpstown High are under-privileged immigrants -- prime candidates for dropping out.

One student was Jennys Franco Gomez. She dropped out of Sharpstown in 2001 for all-too-familiar reasons: she had a baby. “My baby got sick, and I don’t have nobody to take care of my baby and take it to the doctor,” she says.

The high school reported that Jennys left to get a GED, or equivalency diploma, which doesn’t count as a dropout. But Jennys says she never told school officials anything of the sort.

All in all, 463 kids left Sharpstown High School that year – for a variety of reasons. The school reported zero dropouts, but dozens of the students did just that. School officials hid that fact by classifying, or coding them as leaving for acceptable reasons: transferring to another school, or returning to their native country.

posted by Steve @ 7:48:00 PM

7:48:00 PM

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