Can you trust what he says?

A closer look at the Bush education record posted on Bush's web site

The Texas Record (annotated to make it really clear)

Note: This is what was up on the Bush site on November 5, 2000. I've included everything in the "Results of Governor Bush’s Education Reforms" section of the web page, because, after all, it is measurable results that matter, not actions. And the most important results are the results we can measure on our kids. That's the bottom line.

I have also listed several of Bush's actual accomplishments in education once you get through reading this annotated list from his website.

Basically, to take credit for something, you must show the numbers before and the numbers after. Bush fails to do this repeatedly on his web site.

Results of Governor Bush’s Education Reforms:
  • Greatest Progress in the Nation: Texas is one of two states that has made the greatest recent progress in education, according to the Congressionally-mandated National Education Goals Panel

Bush was right! Reading skills are definitely a problem America, especially for the person who wrote that. That wasn't what the report said! It said Texas was the most-improved on only 2 things over the last 10 years, not that it was one of 2 states. Go follow the hyperlink and you'll find that what they really said was this:

Texas placed among the most-improved states in the nation on 2 measures of progress during the 1990s

The other problem with using this report is that it covers the period from 1990 to 1999. Bush didn't get elected until late 1994. So if you do cite something from this report, you need to make sure you compare yourself to the period before 1995 so you don't accidentally take credit for someone else's work (not that Bush would ever do that).

  • Minority Students Rank Highest in Math: African-American 4th graders in Texas ranked 1st in the nation in math. Since 1992, African-American 4th graders in Texas have made the greatest gains in math, and Hispanic 4th graders have made the second greatest gains.

We're mixing up dates again to 1992. Unfortunately, Bush wasn't elected until 1994. But it doesn't matter. If you read the 12 page Klein paper (Table 1), it tracks a 4th grade math student in 1992 for 4 years to 8th grade in 1996. And guess what? Yup. Blacks improved the same as the rest of the country and Hispanics actually lost ground relative to the rest of the country.  

So how do you explain the above statistic on the Bush web site? Easy. People of color in Texas have ranked at the top of the US in Texas for a long time (at least a decade). Nobody knows why. Someone had to be number one. And as you can see from Table 1 in the Klein paper, that difference vs. the rest of the country isn't that huge. 

Bush should be taking credit for an improvement in scores since he became governor, not the absolute rank. The absolute rank really hasn't changed that much. If Bush was really doing something special, these bright kids should have outpaced the rest of the country on improvement. They didn't as Klein showed in Table 1. Nothing special was going on in math in Texas from 1992 to 1996. If there was, we'd see it in Table 1 as we noted earlier. Also, be careful about using the 1996 4th grade math score since it was tainted by the introduction of "high-stakes" testing so we got a one-time score pop that fooled the earlier RAND report but has not manifested itself as a true increase in proficiency as Klein shows in Table 1.

  • Students Score First and Second in Writing: African-American and Hispanic eighth-graders in Texas ranked 1st and 2nd in the nation in writing. Texas eighth-graders as a whole ranked 4th in the nation.

We've known for a decade that Texas people of color are academically more advanced than than the rest of the country. Bush can't take credit for that. It is a pre-existing condition. If you want to run on your record of accomplishments, tell us how things improved relative to the rest of the country on your watch. Don't just give us statistics on how smart your kids were before you took office. If you want to claim a gain, show us the before, and show us the after.

  • Students Improve Every Year on State Skills Test: Under Governor Bush, the number of students passing all parts of the state skills test (TAAS) has increased by 51 percent. The number of both minority students and economically disadvantaged students passing all parts of the TAAS increased by 89 percent.

This is embarrasing. Everyone knows that TAAS scores are garbage. These scores have been rising dramatically while every other indicator has remained flat (except for the NAEP 4th grade 1986 math score which was impacted by test preparation for the TAAS). 

There are so many trusted indicators and two peer reviewed papers that discredit TAAS scores. Will Gov. Bush ever accept any scientific evidence that is counter to what he'd like to believe? How many press articles, independent data points, and research reports do you need?? 

They all say the same thing: TAAS scores are as bogus as Bush's educational record. It is hard to believe Bush is so blind and there is a chance he can be elected to be the most powerful guy on the planet. THAT is really scary! 

All the press knows the TAAS scores are completely untrustworthy [Dallas Morning News, 8/17/99, 9/22/99, 4/30/99; Houston Chronicle, editorial, 8/8/95; U.S. News & World Report, 7/19/99]. The RAND paper was only 12 pages, and the Haney paper abstract was only one page and education is Bush's number one priority. Surely, Bush would have been able to read them.

Lastly, anyone with any experience in education testing at all would also tell Bush that the kind of improvement he was seeing in the TAAS scores was unbelievable. Doesn't Bush know what "unbelievable" means?? Yes, that means he should not have believed them. 

Every piece of independent data and common sense runs counter to the TAAS scores. Bush has ignored overwhelming scientific data and common sense. He sees what he wants to see. And that makes him extremely dangerous. The issue is not education here. The issues is a complete lack of respect for the truth on an issue that he clearly states is the most important issue in America today. Where is the accountability that Bush talks about?

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is headed by Chester E. Finn, Jr. who was former assistant secretary of education. The statement is actually true. But Finn isn't exactly unbiased.

Finn tried to attack the Klein study saying:

First, the 14-page study is relatively unsophisticated and is based on incomplete data.

He fails to tell us what data is incomplete. Why doesn't he provide the proof? I asked him. I got a lame response. Why would he withhold the data that disproves Klein's report? What is to be gained by keeping that disproof secret?

Finn hardly seems like an unbiased or credible person to me to attack a paper with 6 rounds of peer review with such a lame and unsubstantiated argument. It reminds me of the other invalid attacks on Klein's paper. If he had one fact to back this statement up, it might be interesting. So he presents his opinion. Zero facts. The facts are that two years after the RAND report, there has not been a single paper disputing the RAND methodology and presenting an alternative methodology that survives peer review. 

The Fordham Foundation, from the data I've been able to gather is seen as partisan (Republican) and conservative. They publish mostly "political tracts" and are trying to position themselves as the leading educational reform organization in DC should Bush prevail in the election. They have some good ideas about the role of philanthropy (vs. the private sector and government) in creating educational reforms, but want to throw out the whole system in the process. They want "radical reform" of public education. I agree we need radical reform, but why not copy what has worked so well in other countries that beat the pants off of us?

We can evaluate their report without regard to any of this bias however.

Most importantly, from their report, what we don't know is, once again, how much of that is due to Bush, and how much is due to his predecessors. From the ranking criteria, from what I understand, most of this was put in place before Bush took office.

So while the statement is true, Finn lacks credibility based on this attack on Kleins paper, and even if we accept his result, this definitely looks like yet another "take credit for someone else's hard work" since the items cited in the report were in place before Bush took office.

Also, it is interesting to note that the Maine, North Dakota, and Iowa were the three highest ranking states in the July RAND report (Texas ranked 27 out of the 44 states the study looked at, by the way). And guess what? All three of the states with the best test scores got an "F" from Fordham! So maybe getting an "A" here isn't as significant as it seems. It may be a really bad thing. 

On Bush's web site, they fail to note, however, that under Bush, Texas received a " D" in Teacher Quality according to a 2000 Education Week study.

So I guess the moral is that not everyone agrees on the metrics here for "teacher quality"!

Bottom line:  these are really misleading "accomplishments" on the web site. Only one of them wasn't misleading on the face of it, just misleading in terms of its significance. Bush should be talking about improvement in Texas since he became Governor. But he can't, because they haven't been able to find any independent measure of any significant academic improvement. So he has to resort to tricks like the above, basically taking credit for what was handed him.

Bottom line on Bush's record 

  • You can't trust what he says about important things like education because he ignores the facts and takes credit for other people's work.
  • You can't trust him to deliver meaningful results on his top priority. The trusted data all shows no real academic improvement. And it also shows that the achievement gap widened!
  • On other areas he targets, he performs poorly. For example, welfare reform was another one of the only four issues he ran on has governor in 1994. Here's what Time wrote about his record in that area:

Bush's welfare-reform record looks good on paper. Since he took office, the welfare rolls have been cut in half, from 760,000 to 380,000. But poverty remains an aching problem in Texas, and one to which Bush has given scant attention. The state ranks near the bottom in almost every category of social well-being--poverty, hunger, pollution, children without health insurance.

--Time, February 21, 2000

I have listed several of Bush's real accomplishments in education.

Here are some other Bush statistics. Want to know how Bush did in other areas

If Bush is elected, see what could happen to your state by watching this video.

Bush could take credit for the two Miracles that did happen while he was governor.

Have you ever wondered why...

If education is so good in Texas, then...

  • how do you explain Klein (Table 1 and 2)?
  • why hasn't Chester Finn responded to my questions
  • why are all the counter-attacks on the RAND study coming from the Bush campaign, and not from Texas teachers?
  • why are the ACT, SAT scores flat to declining when the % of students (and the racial mix) haven't changed?
  • how do you explain it when The New York Times reported that in February 1999, officials with the University of Texas system presented a report to a Texas House subcommittee complaining of "marked declines in the number of students who are prepared academically for higher education?"
  • why are the teacher turnover stats so bad?
  • why did Bush veto a bill to study hunger in Texas that wouldn't have cost anything (he doesn't remember)? Students can't learn if they are hungry.

For additional attacks, see Attempts to discredit me or the new RAND report by various attacks

From a Texas resident

I live in Texas in a rural area (Leon Co.) and the school system in the rural areas stink. They kick kids out of school for coming to school with cow manure on their feet but there are more cows here than humans, The kid are graduating and can't read or write, There are teachers out here and all over Texas who aren't qualified. The Superintendent is unqualified and mistreats children badly. I have said all along that Texas Schools stinks and let the people of the U.S. get a taste of George Bush's governing. They deserve it. 

The TASS tests are a joke as you said and prove nothing. The teachers spend 1/2 of the school year getting the kid's ready for these tests. There has been a bunch of people who went to jail for falsifing TASS tests. 

George Bush is no leader. George Bush is a patsy. I think that Al Gore should have gone after George Bush instead of letting the Republicans and the Bush Cronies make a fool out of him. If you want to know about Texas Schools ask Texas Families. They will tell you a head full. 

There are more kids here out of school than in school. It isn't because they graduated either. I know because I fought Texas School's in the Rural Areas for 8 yrs. I can write book on Texas Schools..

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