Thursday, July 22, 2010


By Bob Ward

Imagine. You’re being sued and in the middle of the trial you learn that your lawyer flunked the bar exam but is allowed to practice anyway because the authorities think he will pass on one of the next three times he tries.

Parents of children in some Texas schools – and all Texas taxpayers – are in a similar situation in regard to the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test which their children took. The press has reported that under something called the Texas Projection Measure (TPM), a student who fails the test is counted as having passed if he is expected to pass within three years. Using this deceptive system, every student group improved in every subject. Except, of course, they didn’t.

Press reports noted that 74 school districts in Texas were rated “exemplary” and 73 of them gained that status by using this fraudulent scoring method. The Austin American-Statesman reported that eight schools in the Austin school district were rated academically unacceptable last year, the first year the TPM was used. Under an honest measure 11 would have been ranked unacceptable. For the current year, only one AISD school has been found academically unacceptable. An accurate scoring would have put four additional schools in that category.

Just as bad as the fraud itself is the reaction of the state’s education officials. Education Commissioner Robert Scott has promised, not to abolish this deceptive practice but merely to "review" it. And he want to review not because parents and taxpayers are entitled to an honest assessment of our schools’ performance, but because, he said, the students' and educators' "hard work is being overshadowed by criticism of the use of TPM.” Apparently Scott would be just fine with this dishonest system if only the critics would just shut up.

However, faced with the criticism, Commissioner Scott has reportedly offered several options for modifying the system. His options include abolishing the system, allowing districts that want to continue using it to do so, or modifying it in some unspecified way.

State Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston), chairman of an appropriations subcommittee overseeing the education budget, correctly dismissed Scott's proposals as "lipstick on a pig." Hochberg says that only abolishing the TPM and instituting a “real measure of the progress students make," is acceptable.

But Hochberg is facing an uphill battle if he wants to get the TPM abolished. Whatever its faults, it does make the schools look good – and that’s what keeps the state and Federal money flowing. And isn't that what public education is all about?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What about expanding the role of the State Board of Education to change the system? Conservatives have been on the defensive trying to protect the SBOE, but this is a golden opportunity to for conservatives to advocate empowering our local elected SBOE members to change the system to one that is more rigorous and accurately evaluates both students and campuses.