Pushing Students onto the Streets and Behind the Counters Early
Combining high stakes testing with punishment and public humiliation is a sure fire way to fail our children, leaving millions behind so they can be "nickel and dimed" - condemned to fill the burgeoning ranks of the marginally employed. In her exposé, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara Ehrenreich describes this marginal minimum wage existence in graphic terms.
- Between 1998 and 2000, I went to three different cities, and tried to support myself on the wages I could earn as an entry-level worker. I waited tables, I cleaned the toilets of the rich, I fed Alzheimers patients in a nursing home, I sorted stock at Wal-Mart. (PBS)
- And no matter how carefully I pinched pennies I couldn't get my wages to cover basic expenses. Like rent, at least $500/month plus utilities, like transportation to and from work, at least $60/month, and then if you are a working parent, you have hundreds of dollars a month in childcare expenses. Now if there's one thing that's really demoralizing, it's working hard and not making enough to live on.
The PR spin for NCLB is so overpowering that its impact on the labor supply and the union movement goes unmentioned, even though its choice provisions endanger teachers while its unforgiving accountability and testing provisions threaten to dump children onto the streets before their time.
Just take a look at how it worked in Texas . . .
The Houston Early Departure Shuttle
If they could do it in the Houston ISD while the current Secretary of Education was Superintendent of Schools, they just might try to spread the plan to the nation as a whole.
According to fresh reports from KHOU, the CBS station in Houston, very large numbers of ninth graders were suddenly held back in one school in 1998 from taking the all important tenth grade state test. A sudden shift in rules for retention kept all but the strongest students from moving forward and being counted in the test results.
HISD: Lesson in deception? (Part I) - 06:08 PM CST on Sunday, November 30, 2003
By Anna Werner
- Did some area high schools boost their TAAS test scores by holding back some of their students? The 11 News Defenders have discovered that some Houston Independent School District high schools might have been involved in a lesson in deception.
In 1998, using a waiver, Houston ISD's Austin High held back an unusually large number of students. As a result, the number of 10th graders fell from 580 to just 235 students and the per cent passing the state test soared from just 68% passing to 86.2% passing.
These are miraculous (some are saying fraudulent) improvements in test scores for a single year.
Because of this sudden rule change, the 9th grade jumped in size from 900 to 1200. Some of these students were held for more than one extra year and then jumped ahead to 11th grade so they never had to take the state test. Others simply gave up and hit the streets.
HISD: Lesson in deception? (Part II) - 11:31 AM CST on Tuesday, November 25, 2003
By Anna Werner
- HOUSTON Did the Houston Independent School District cheat to make schools look better?
How do you get better test scores at the high schools? You can hold a bunch of the weaker kids back a grade so they can't take the test. They sit out and scores go up. Sounds like a neat trick, but HISD claims those kids just weren't ready to be promoted. So why wasn't an honor student ready for the tenth grade?
Part 3 - Community leaders worry Houston's schools are in crisis - 08:43 PM CST on Monday, November 24, 2003
By Anna Werner
- Houston leaders are taking action in response to an 11 News Defenders investigation. Last week the Defenders uncovered some questionable Houston Independent School District test scores, and how students may have been pushed out to get them.
But that also caused kids to dropout. So Hispanic leaders are banding together and demanding real change.
Dubious Test Results
The New York Times reported this week that the seemingly impressive Houston ISD results on the Texas TAAS test do not stand up to scrutiny. According to the Times, when the students' scores on the Stanford Tests are compared with the TAAS results, the gains are much smaller and much less impressive.
- Gains in Houston Schools: How Real Are They? - December 3, 2003
By Diana Jean Schemo and Ford Fessenden in the New York Times.
Texas has trumpeted the achievements of millions of its students, but an examination of student performance in Houston raises serious doubts about those gains.
The Times article tells stories of apparently good students who moved on to college after getting good grades and good test scores from the Houston ISD only to learn they were poorly prepared for college.
Taking It National
It turns out that the very folks who now push the idea of leaving no child behind were actually quite expert at doing just that - leaving them behind. They talk the talk but did not walk the walk. They create the appearance of improvement while serious problems boil below the surface.
The statistics are profoundly disturbing as the victims of this cynical maneuver come disproportionately from the ranks of Hispanic and African American disadvantaged populations.
The President and the Secretary are fond of accusing NCLB opponents of the "soft bigotry of low expectations" but the Houston Early Departure Shuttle shows the damage done by raising the consequences for school failure without concurrently raising the capacities of schools and students. Harness some principals with a one year pass/fail contract and throw in a cash bonus of $5000 for good scores and you might get miracles - accounting miracles along with flashing mirrors and Enron sleight of hand.
Other administrators refuse to play the game, blow the whistle on the unethical practices and find themselves transferred or without a job.