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Leaving Children Behind in Texas

Jason Stanford
Posted by LewisvilleTexan on 2012/10/31 21:40:00 (1227 reads)

Open in new windowBy Jason Stanford

No one really expected public schools in border towns such as El Paso to do well on under No Child Left Behind. Their tax base is too small to educate so many poor kids, many of whom don't speak English when they begin school. Despite what we say about closing the achievement gap, the system is set up for kids in El Paso to fail. So when the test scores rose in El Paso, schools got more money from Washington, and superintendant Lorenzo Garcia took $56,000 in bonuses and began bragging about "the Bowie model," named after a large high school with a student body that gets subsidized lunches, disproportionately speaks English as a second language, and usually fails standardized tests. It was the miracle testing advocates had been waiting for.

Too bad it wasn't real. Folks in El Paso had a different name for what happened: "los desaparecidos," or "the disappeared." Turns out Garcia and several co-conspirators kept hundreds of kids out of school in the 10th grade so they couldn't take the tests that counted under No Child Left Behind. They held back some 9th graders and skipped others to the 11th grade. Truant officers visited some at-risk kids and told them they were better off not coming to school. Others were encouraged to drop out and get their GED.

Open in new window

This is the worst testing scandal to come along under the high-stakes testing regime that rules our schools, but we have no right to act surprised in Texas. What happened in El Paso is not an aberration but an inevitable consequence of high-stakes standardized testing, and it's been happening here for more than a decade. A former Texas governor might have made No Child Left Behind the law of the land once he got to the White House, but back here that bill is best understood as a Freudian slip. We've been leaving children behind when Texas officials made the 10th-grade standardized test the sole measure of how the state rated high schools under the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exam.

Dr. Linda McNeil of Rice University first noticed this phenomenon almost a decade ago when she noticed that every year about 70,000 kids were disappearing between the 9th and 10th grades. Statewide, 30 percent of the kids who start Texas high schools don't finish, and most of those leave before the 10th grade.

"The high number of dropouts under this system are not unintended consequences or accidental side effects of the system," wrote Dr. McNeil. "They are the result of the system when it is working as it is intended. In fact the system only works, that is, only produces rising scores on the state's standardized tests, when these losses occur."

High-stakes testing is a product of the dot-com era when we all bought Enron stock and named business schools after Ken Lay. That, says McNeil, is where we went wrong with education reform.

"To adopt a single-indicator system to measure a complex enterprise, whether an energy trading company or the state's public schools, is to invite the temptation to hype that indicator, to do anything to keep it propped up, to make sure it carries an image of success," wrote Dr. McNeil. "One way Enron kept its stock price high was to carry its losses on a separate set of ledgers."

Put simply, Texas keeps at-risk kids from taking high-stakes tests for the same reason Enron hid debt in offshore shell corporations—for the money. The problem with this system is there is no bankruptcy protection for the 30 percent of the population that grows up without a high school diploma, unless you count our prison system.

Rick Perry's Texas Education Agency cleared Garcia of similar accusations in 2010, but the FBI wasn't as kind. Their investigation resulted in big fines and a 3.5-year prison sentence for Garcia. If there's any real justice, he should have to help his fellow inmates get their GEDs. But why should we make an example of him? If we don't stop high-stakes testing, we're all to blame.

-----
Jason Stanford is a Democratic political consultant who has helped elect or re-elect more than two dozen Members of Congress. He lives in Austin, Texas. Jason can be reached at stanford@oppresearch.com.

© Copyright 2012 Jason Stanford, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate, licensed to the Lewisville Texan Journal. This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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Poster Thread
fvaughan
Posted: 2012/11/1 6:51  Updated: 2012/11/1 6:51
Quite a regular (Verified User)
Joined: 2011/2/15
From:
Posts: 142
 Re: Leaving Children Behind in Texas
This is the best explanation I have seen of the Lewisville High School drop in class size from Freshman to Seniors- it is almost always over 25% year to year.
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Poster Thread
WhosPlayin
Posted: 2012/11/1 8:27  Updated: 2012/11/1 8:27
Editor
Joined: 2008/12/12
From:
Posts: 4021
 Re: Leaving Children Behind in Texas
Frank, that drop is from 10 going into 11. At LHS campuses, this is primarily driven by Hispanic students, and is in the 40% range - about half of which is gained back in the jump from 11 - 12 enrollment.

I need to run the numbers again for this year.
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Poster Thread
fvaughan
Posted: 2012/11/17 18:01  Updated: 2012/11/17 18:01
Quite a regular (Verified User)
Joined: 2011/2/15
From:
Posts: 142
 Re: Leaving Children Behind in Texas
My child's freshman class was 1,085 and now, as a Senior, it is 851. This is a 22% drop in class size, yet the drop out rate is published as less than 2%. Even though there is a gain back, (from credit recovery or night school) it does not explain the large drop in students.
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Poster Thread
WhosPlayin
Posted: 2012/11/17 21:24  Updated: 2012/11/17 21:24
Editor
Joined: 2008/12/12
From:
Posts: 4021
 Re: Leaving Children Behind in Texas
Transfers to charter schools are part of it, I'm told. Too bad there's not any way for the public to track longitudinal data for a given class.
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Poster Thread
Anonymous
Posted: 2012/11/4 13:53  Updated: 2012/11/4 18:32
 Re: Leaving Children Behind in Texas
Why do you think how the Killough 9th grade center was exceptional all though years but when the students got to Main, there was a big discrepancy? 9th grade ESL students were deferred and some other @ Risk children were "encouraged" by certain teachers and administrators not to come to school that day.
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Poster Thread
WhosPlayin
Posted: 2012/11/4 18:43  Updated: 2012/11/4 18:43
Editor
Joined: 2008/12/12
From:
Posts: 4021
 Re: Leaving Children Behind in Texas
What do you mean by "deferred" here? As for encouraging at risk children not to come to school, that's a pretty serious charge. Do you have any evidence? How could we go about finding out? If you simply make a kid stay home on test day, they still have to make up the test right? Doesn't it just show up on the accountability data when kids don't participate?
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Poster Thread
Anonymous
Posted: 2012/11/21 13:03  Updated: 2012/11/21 15:28
 Re: Leaving Children Behind in Texas
Couldn't someone find the number of students at Killough and Harmon and compare those with the number of test takers reported by TEA?
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Other articles
2015/4/20 22:50:00 - Lewisville Officer Receives Medal of Valor Award
2015/4/20 7:40:00 - Chalk This Way Festival Set for May 9th in Old Town
2015/4/20 7:10:00 - Monday Morning Briefs - Council Meeting, LLELA, Ghosts, Jams, Promises, and Cleanup
2015/4/19 12:20:00 - Lewisville PD Teams Up with US Army for Recruiting Event
2015/4/17 20:50:43 - Relay For Life at LHS Harmon Campus on May 15th
2015/4/17 7:57:38 - Family Protests Lack of Police Action in Assault of Teen Daughter
2015/4/17 7:29:40 - Friday Briefs
2015/4/17 7:10:00 - Upcoming Events Around Lewisville and the Surrounding Area
2015/4/16 23:00:00 - Document Sheds Light on April 7th Murder
2015/4/15 18:49:42 - County-wide Food Drive Precedes Mayors' Day of Concern


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