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Re: Little Red ...Car

ublished: Wednesday, October 25, 2000

Study casts doubt on Bush's claims of `Texas miracle' in public schools
Think tank disputes test score gains for minority students

A respected think tank released a report Tuesday that raises serious
questions about one of Texas Gov. George W. Bush's key boasts concerning his
record on public education -- that during his tenure the gap in scores
between white and minority students on the state's standardized tests has
narrowed dramatically.
The Rand Corp. study found that the record-breaking test score gains of many
black and Latino students in Texas appear to be the result of intense
drilling to pass the state's standardized test, that the coaching does not
help the youngsters become proficient in those subjects and that it may in
fact degrade education. Rand also said the massive numbers of Texas school
dropouts misleadingly shrinks the test score gap.

The Bush campaign immediately condemned the report as mistaken and possibly
politically inspired.

The study ``contradicts every credible, nonpartisan scientific study that
verifies the success in Texas,'' the Bush campaign said in a statement
Tuesday. ``Texas consistently ranks at the top in every category of student
achievement -- all students, all races, all income groups. The timing of
this new opinion paper is highly suspect.''

The Democrats lost no time pouncing on the news. ``The Rand report totally
undercuts what Gov. Bush has said about the success of his education record.
. . . It suggests there's not a lot of unusual accomplishment in the Texas
school system that justifies his bragging,'' Democratic vice presidential
candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman said.

Bush has cited Texas test scores as evidence that he is an accomplished
leader and a ``compassionate conservative.'' His supporters have frequently
referred to minority kids' test-score gains as ``the Texas miracle.''

``It's not a miracle,'' said Stephen Klein, the Rand senior research
scientist and educational testing expert who led the study. ``We think these
scores are misleading and biased because they're inflated. They're
improvements in scores, but not in proficiency.''

The Rand study generally supports the view of many Texas teachers,
instructors in the state's teacher colleges and critics of standardized
testing who say Bush has overstated his achievements in public education.

The report's central finding is that minority students' gains on the Texas
Assessment of Academic Skills test are partly illusory and are not reflected
in batteries of other tests, including a highly authoritative nationwide
test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.

For example, between 1994 and 1998 Texas' black fourth-graders showed gains
on TAAS reading tests that were about three times their improvement on NAEP,
the Rand study said.

The Rand team did find one piece of evidence that initially seems to
buttress Bush's assertions -- that Texas fourth-graders showed greater gains
over time on NAEP math tests than fourth-graders nationally. But Rand said
that the minority kids' TAAS score improvements were out of line with their
NAEP scores, and that the TAAS gains apparently resulted from intensive

``The large discrepancies between TAAS and NAEP results raise serious
questions about the validity of the TAAS scores,'' the Rand report said.

From: kceh <kceh@AIRMAIL.NET>
Reply-To: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
Subject: Little Red ...Car
Date: Thu, 11 Jan 2001 09:49:30 -0500

http://www.houstonpress.com/issues/2001-01-11/insider.html }

Days of Paige
Did Bush pick a master educator - or an overpaid front man?
By Tim Fleck

When President-elect George W. Bush nominated Rod Paige for secretary of
education, the media raves on the local level spewed like
Spindletop in its prime. The Houston Independent School District
suddenly became the best urban district in the nation and the
superintendent Paige the premier leader in public education.

Unmentioned was the fact that two of the reasons cited for such
unstinting praise -- the district's rising TAAS test scores and
privatizing everything
from payroll processing to school food services -- are hardly accepted
unanimously as successes.

Teaching to pass the TAAS is under attack from educators and parents as
a diversion from real learning. And the privatization effort has
as much criticism as praise from district employees and vendors.

Then there's the Paige team's cultist embrace of Model-Netics, a system
of management phrases and symbols peddled by a corporate executive
who advised HISD on reorganization.

Of course, there's plenty of good news to be had on the district in the
form of a blizzard of press releases churned out by the staff of
$110,000-a-year media-consultant-without-a-college-degree Terry Abbott,
former press aide to a Republican governor of Alabama who was
convicted of fraud. Abbott was a find of public education activist Rob
Mosbacher, that former mayoral candidate and close adviser of Paige
whose kids attend St. John's.

The storm over how former football coach Paige was elevated to the
superintendency in 1994 has long since passed beyond the local media's
memory. But it is helpful to remember that he was an unpaid HISDboard
member who joined a coalition of white trustees. At the time, Paige,
whose college dissertation was on the response time of football linemen,
was a dean of education at troubled Texas Southern University and the
founder of a new business, the Houston Education Collegium. By accident
or design, he then bootstrapped himself, with a little help from his
colleagues, into what became a $260,000-a-year job as superintendent.

The chutzpah of the maneuver motivated the Texas legislature to pass a
law banning trustees from jumping straight from the board bedroom to the
executive penthouse without a decent yearlong cooling-off period. (A
district source claims HISD lobbyists will try to get that troublesome
removed during the upcoming session of the lege.)

In fact, Paige's top deputy, Susan Sclafani, ran the day-to-day
operations of HISD for the last decade, and Abbott handled the spin. So
exactly did Paige accomplish?

According to the 1998 Brookings Institute report "Lessons from Houston,"
authored by HISD trustee Don McAdams, Paige provided an
invaluable minority front for the campaign by the Houston business
community to reform and decentralize the district. Paige's predecessor
superintendent, Frank Petruzielo, proved insufficiently enthusiastic for
plans laid by a committee headed by Harold Hook, CEO of insurance
giant American General, and Al Haines, then-head of the Greater Houston
Partnership. Haines is a past City of Houston chief administrative
officer who later joined American General, then returned to the city
under Mayor Lee Brown.

McAdams believes that most public education problems arise "because
urban school districts are under direct democratic control." He bragged
his report that he and the other white trustees boosted Paige into the
top HISD position.

"The superintendency was offered to Paige in a closed session ? it
created a firestorm," recalled McAdams. "Those of us who conceived the
had kept our opinions to ourselves. The public was stunned. Houston's
Hispanic activists were outraged."

Paige, a longtime Republican activist, then had to battle the minority
board members with the help of his westside allies.

"The four white trustees continued to generate ideas for reform and were
usually enthusiastic for Paige's recommendations," wrote McAdams.
"The five minority trustees, with increasing frequency, challenged Paige
at the board table and rejected key recommendations."

McAdams noted in his conclusion that in Houston, race matters. And then
he touched on Paige's value as a front man for the business community's

"It is true that most of the reform leaders on the HISD board were
white," noted McAdams. "But without Rod Paige, the board's voice would
been muted?.Only Paige could obtain support from a minority board -- and
from minority leaders throughout the city?. One could not play the
race card against Paige."

Soon-to-be-president Bush should take note. When it comes time to ram
through Congress those controversial school voucher programs and
anything else that inflames minority educators, you've got your
race-card-proof secretary all ready to carry the ball.

Privatization has not been the unqualified success Abbott and his
squadron of flacks are fond of portraying. A five-year contract with
Aramark for
district food services has yielded a barrage of complaints about the
quality of both the food and the service in campus cafeterias.
Statistics indicate
that rather than saving money, HISD is paying more under the contract,
while the underage consumers are turning up their noses at the chow and
opting for junk food.

Orell Fitzsimmons, the leader of the cafeteria workers' union and parent
of a fifth-grader at HISD's Travis Elementary, summarizes it this way:
"The quality of the food is down, the parents are unhappy, and the kids
are eating less."

A privatization of district payroll services to PeopleSoft likewise drew
brickbats from employees when teacher stipends and regular paychecks
delayed. When HISD contracted for accounting services with a German
firm, SAP, vendors complained that payment cycles doubled and tripled.

If Bush is up for a new learning experience, his education nominee has
just what the corporate doctor ordered. Paige is a strong advocate of
Model-Netics, the management program pushed by retired American General
CEO Hook and avidly embraced by the district at Paige's instructions
in 1997.

Initially purchased from Hook's Main Events Management (MEM) for
$161,000, Model-Netics is a system of 151 models made up of diagrams,
catchphrases and hieroglyphiclike symbols. During the last three years,
district administrators all the way down to the principals' level have
through the 20 one-hour sessions plus 60 to 80 hours of added study. The
idea is that everybody learns the same management concepts and
communicates them via terms unintelligible to the uninitiated.

For instance, "The Cruel Sea" is shorthand for layoffs. "The Northbound
Train" means get with the program or else. And if they forget just
what models like "The Tomato Plant Problem" really mean, program
trainees are issued their own little Model-Netics booklets to jog
memories in a

Hook also got Paige to introduce the Desk Manual Program (DMP), in which
HISD employees were supposed to inventory the tasks of their jobs
and create a manual that is updated during daily half-hour exercises.

"I'd love to see the man-hours that maintaining this stupid desk manual
takes," teachers union leader Gayle Fallon scoffed last year. "If we
totaled them, we could probably fund an entire alternative school out of

Paige even authorized the creation of MEM Systems Administration to
oversee the district's Model-Netics and the desk manual operations. It
required an entire floor of a building on Weslayan with ten employees
and salary budgets of $477,128 annually.

Asked if Paige plans to install those and other Hook brainstorms at the
Department of Education offices in D.C., Abbott politely directed our
questions to a Bush transition team publicist.

When he's not dabbling in those esoteric management concepts, Paige
tries to project a regular-guy persona, but it can be deceptive. He
drives a downscale red Honda and parks it in the marked superintendent's
parking slot for public display. However, district staffers say Paige's
first love is a spiffy black Mercedes, which he often parks in the
spaces reserved for board members or administrators, to disguise the
identity of
the driver.

"I cannot believe he keeps up the little red car sham," laughs one
employee who offices in the district's Taj Mahal headquarters on
"Everybody knows about the Mercedes."

With superflack Abbott likely to jump on the Northbound Train to D.C.
with his boss, others at HISD are dreaming of tickets on the Cherry
Blossom Special. Abbott has been collecting résumés of local hopefuls,
though he won't say whether there's an undersecretary of education seat
waiting in his own future.

"Ah, no, I don't know," replies Paige's golden mouthpiece. He adds, "I'm
just trying to get inaugural tickets."

What do you want to bet he gets 'em?

{ http://www.houstonpress.com/issues/2001-01-11/insider.html }

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