I had the chance to listen to a rebroadcast of author Susan Eaton’s discussion of her book The Children in Room E4, a look at the attempts of one teacher’s making a difference in the Hartford public school system. The book itself has taken some critical hits, most notably on its attempt to portray the city’s Sheff v. O’Neill civil suit as something akin to Brown v. Board of Education.
The discussion of the book was not nearly as interesting as Eaton’s contention that the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, so vigorously pursued by the Bush Administration and overwhelmingly ratified by Congress, was based on a sham called “The Texas Miracle”. In 2002 the Houston Independent School District, under then-superintendent Rod Paige, reported that its education policies had reduced the public school dropout rate to practically zero. In reality the data was faked. Robert Kimball, a former assistant principal who blew the whistle on the fraud, went so far as to claim that the miracle was choreographed to make Presidential candidate George W. Bush look better during his run for the White House. Paige later became Secretary of Education under Bush.
The jury’s still out as to whether or not NCLB has been successful, although the scientific evidence indicates that it probably isn’t having much effect. What is known is that the Bush Administration and Congress have failed to adequately fund the testing requirements set forth by the law itself. The budget was cut by $12 billion in 2006 alone.
The NCLB’s intention to force better education through testing has been criticized as a test and punish law, not a school improvement law. This article points out numerous faults with the law, not the least of which is that the U.S. cannot test its way to better schools. The article, I’m sure, is written by teachers, for teachers.
Nonetheless, from an Administration that gave us a song and dance about the Iraqis welcoming us with open arms, I was hoping that something so important to our collective future as education would not be the subject of similar rhetoric and faked data. It appears that nothing is sacred to this Administration.
Except perhaps embryonic stem cells.