Friday, May 14, 2004

A poem, an ad and a book

Via skippy, we find an ode to our mis-education president written by the incomparable Mad Kane.

She points us to this rebuttal of the new Bush education ad featuring Mrs. Bush.
    But when the ad claims that Bush's Texas reforms "produced dramatic results" it omits a key fact: those results were inflated to some extent by school officials who reported false information about drop-out rates to improve their statistics.

    In Houston, investigators found 3,000 students who should have been listed as dropouts but weren't. A local television station, KHOU-TV, called citywide dropout statistics a "lesson in lies." The station found one former student working at a Wendy's fast-food restaurant after her public high school reported that she had left to attend private school. The Washington Post later found another high school that reported an unbelievably low 0.3 percent dropuout rate when in fact up to half its students failed to graduate. The CBS program "60 Minutes II" reported that Houston's entire school system reported a city-wide dropout rate of 1.5 percent when the true dropout rate was somewhere between 25 and 50 percent, according to educators and experts checked by CBS News.

    It's true that drop-out rates were not the only statistics used to measure progress, but the scandal happened in Houston -- where Bush's Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige had been superintendent. That has raised questions about how well reforms really worked in Texas, and also about whether school officials nationally will manipulate statistics to look good under the new standards imposed by the No Child Left Behind law.

    The Question of Money

    Also left unmentioned in the Bush ad is the question of money. As we've pointed out before, federal aid to education has increased sharply under Bush. Funding for the Department of Education rose 58% during Bush's first three years, a bigger increase than during the previous eight years under Clinton.

    But many say even that increase is not enough, considering the demands the law imposes on schools. Funding is still $7 billion a year under what was envisioned in the authorizing legislation for No Child Left Behind, according to the National Education Association.

    And it isn't just Democrats and the teachers unions saying it. In Republican-dominated Utah, the superintendent of the state's largest school district estimated it would cost $182 million over the next 10 years to implement all the provisions of No Child Left Behind, compared to the $2.2 million per year it now receives in federal aid. And in Republican-dominated Ohio, a study for the state department of education estimated the cost of compliance with the law to be $149 million per year.

    Even one former Bush administration official is now lamenting the lack of resources. Susan B. Neuman was the U.S. Department of Education's assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education until January 2003. She recently told a meeting of the International Reading Association in Reno, Nev., that she worries that the most vulnerable children are still being left behind, despite the law that she helped implement:

    Neuman: In [the most disadvantaged schools] in America, even the most earnest teacher has often given up because they lack every available resource that could possibly make a difference. . . . When we say all children can achieve and then not give them the additional resources . . . we are creating a fantasy.

    Neuman has now returned to the University of Michigan, where she is a professor of education.
We also note she's written an essay on NCLB for this new book Big Bush Lies.

More education humor by Mad Kane here.