Rod Paige Page
Both test scores and grades have been fabricated at Houston's school district's
program for troubled kids run by CEP. Rod Paige looks the other way and believes that
things have gone unbelievably well in these schools run by people with no educational
experience (former Republican party chairmen and people who ran private jails).
Paige ignored both the independent test scores (cited by his statisticians) AND common
sense in HISD's CEP program. He's never explained why.
story in the Houston Press quoted a director of the TEA as confirming what
the HISD statisticians told Paige:
According to the TEA's Jacobs, it is up to HISD to ensure the scholastic
credibility of CEP. The TEA's involvement is to look at academics as they
relate to TAAS scores. The TEA is also compiling data on why students in Texas
are being removed from class and how long they are out, Jacobs says.
Unfortunately, his findings support Jones's worst fears.
"We've discovered so far that the longer students are removed from
certain programs, we see academic regression," Jacobs says.
Unlike what Paige claims, publicly available data shows that the Houston high school
dropout rate after Paige's 6 years in office is one of the highest in Texas and in the
nation (92nd out of the 100 largest districts in the US). Higher dropouts make tests
scores look better.
Under Paige, the kids who will suffer the most are the kids who most need the help
(such as the CEP students and other disadvantaged students who will depend on federal
funding). Their scores will "appear" to go up, but their learning will probably
In addition, Paige will undoubtedly push for privatization. Even though this has
been a major failing, he'll make sure that the numbers the public sees will look good,
just as he did with the CEP students.
So of all the choices for education secretary, this is the best we can do???!!?
Bush said during his campaign that education is the #1 issue facing America today and
intends to make it a priority for his administration.
This story about Rod
Paige that appeared in the Dec 30 NY Times about education secretary nominee Rod
Paige. Based on stuff on his website, Rod Paige seems to be a great
choice. For example, this excerpt:
Paige named national Superintendent of the Year by the National Alliance of Black
The award is the latest in a series of honors recognizing the leadership of Dr. Paige, who
has been superintendent of HISD since 1994. Dr. Paige, now one of the longest-serving
superintendents in America, and the board of trustees have led the school district to
strong improvement in test scores, a sharply reduced campus crime rate, falling dropout
rates, greater parental involvement, and improvements in management that have saved
In October, Dr. Paige won the McGraw Prize in Education, one of the nation's top awards
for leadership in education.
But all is not what it seems.
I talked to someone on that McGraw award committee. The scoop: Paige has a great PR
dept (Terry Abbott, a professional PR guy, and the only full time PR person for any
superintendent anywhere in the US, has done an excellent job of "packaging"
Paige, sending out mailings regularly proclaiming each achievement) and had been seeking
the award for a while and that when objections were raised due to all the controversial
stuff going on in Houston, most committee members ignored it and gave him the award anyway
(causing at least one committee member to quit). This McGraw Hill situation is well
documented by several sources. As for Abbott, here is a
reader comment published in the Houston Chronicle on a Houston Chronicle story:
I know too many people who work for this district who are extremely unhappy within the
system. They are all in diverse jobs within HISD, yet all report an abundance of
miscommunication, mismanagement, waste, and too many hard-working people getting paid an
under whelming salary. Their jobs range from custodians to principals yet they all are in
agreement of one thing....HISD is not a district where your hard work is appreciated. Rod
Paige should be happy. (Terry Abbott also.) They are being paid an exorbitant amount of
money for doing no more than promoting themselves on the backs of others blood, sweat, and
tears. HISD does not deserve the accolades it has gotten according to the people who are
on the inside, but their spin doctor (Abbott) is doing an excellent job of deceiving the
public of the truth.
Here's another interesting fact...
I know little about Rod Paige, but here is one revealing fact about Houston schools. If
one takes the number of HS graduates in 1997-98 and divides by the average number of
students enrolled in grades 7 to 9 in 1994-95, Houston (with a "graduation
rate" rate of 46.77%) is the worst of large districts in Texas, and among the 10
worst of large districts nationally.
In other words, if he's confirmed, Paige can do for the rest of the country what
he's done for Houston: keep the dropout rate high. That way, test
scores appear to go up and Paige looks successful. Unfortunately, those dropouts
frequently can't find jobs and must resort to crime. It is much cheaper for society and
better for the individuals to keep them in school so they graduate.
The big danger if Paige is confirmed that we institute high stakes testing
everywhere (especially in poorer districts who are more dependent on federal funds),
leading to higher dropouts (since teachers will want to raise average test scores to get
more money), leading to higher crime, leading to higher costs to society.
There are several dangers of high-stakes testing:
- Tests are only approximate measures of a students true ability, yet a bad test score may
be sufficient to keep a child from progressing on to the next grade (especially when the
school funding depends on test scores). This leads to frustrated students who drop out.
- Teachers who spend time teaching the test, as all teachers do in high stakes testing
states, produce students who are excellent test takers on the question types they practice
for, but those skills don't translate into other national tests, i.e., no real learning
has taken place.
- Time spent doing test preparation exercises means time not spent doing real learning and
time not spent in other subjects which are not being tested, like science.
The Times story began by talking about Paige enforcing a new state law in Texas.
Again, there may be a LOT more to this story than meets the eye that the NY Times
reporter missed. This article
about Paige that appeared in April in a Houston alternative weekly that didn't get
much notice since Paige wasn't a hot item in April. It basically said Paige ignored independent
test data presented by his own statistician showing students were actually getting
worse over time (relative to other students), and instead give total and
unquestioned credibility to CEP data that shows that CEP is wildly succeeding beyond
belief with the most difficult students in Texas.
article which points out CEP fabricates other measures of student achievement because of
its "money-back guarantee" (money back if unless students advance 2+ grade
levels in one year). So it's no surprise it happens because it is wired into the CEP
system to ensure the students test scores are properly fabricated (since otherwise
they don't get paid).
Why has Paige ignored the TAAS and SAT-9 test data for the CEP students (and the advice
of the statistician on his staff) and why he's only trusted the CEP test data? How can
students improve by more than 2 grade levels in both reading and math in a year and have
their TAAS and SAT-9 scores go down in the same period? It's even more impressive when you
consider these are not gifted students, but problem kids and that CEP management has
limited educational credentials, but impressive political credentials. Still more
impressive is that teachers are not really required to achieve this type of remarkable
performance gain as CEP
students sit in front of computer screens all day (see "Dumping Ground?" on
presented at the Manhattan Institute sound very impressive; the opposite of what the
national test data shows. But they can't both be right.
If Paige is right, the CEP story is yet another "Texas miracle" that we
should study and replicate elsewhere....but we'd have to also agree that TAAS and SAT-9
scores are useless measures of academic performance which of course disproves those other
"Texas Miracles". I don't think Paige is right. Do you?
In fact, if the Houston articles are right, Paige appears to value politically
connected people and completely discount independent test data (and common sense)!
What's the real story as to what is going on? The story as Paige presented (2+ grade
level improvement in 1 year) seems impossible, even if you don't believe the detractors.
In fact, Paige sounds a lot like Bush in ignoring data and cherry picking the data he
wants to believe.
Here is a list of questions I'd love Paige to answer:
- Can you explain why there is a discrepancy between your claims of halving the dropout
rate, yet publicly available data, analyzed several different ways shows no improvement?
- Were there any inaccuracies in the two Houston Press articles? What were they?
- What was your the reason for ignoring Tom Kellow's memo on CEP (which confirmed what the
statistician you had before Kellow told you too) and trusting the CEP test data instead?
Did you have a scientific report from another statistician on staff that conflicted with
Kellow's memo? Was there a meeting to resolve the differences? Why didn't you ever meet
with Kellow to ask him questions about his memo or his conclusions?
- If the students are making such remarkable progress at CEP, why isn't it reflected on
TAAS or SAT-9? Surely, there must be some residual effect, shouldn't there? How could
those scores be going down? Is that what you expected? Why?
- How long had the forgery of exam scores and grades being going on at CEP? When did it
end? How do you know that it has ended? What punishment did you give to CEP or how did you
otherwise hold them accountable? How are you monitoring CEP now? What communication did
you make to the parents of CEP kids when you found out about the fabrication of scores?
- Since the forgery of test scores are well documented at CEP, isn't it possible that the
scores used to validate the overall progress students have made (as presented to the
Manhattan Institute) might be bogus as well. Surely they are suspect. When you found out
about the fraudulent grades, what steps did you take to make sure that the CEP test scores
that you reported to the Manhattan Institute were accurate?
- Don't you think it is unrealistic for students to improve 2+ grade levels in 1 year
(especially for problem kids who sit in front of a computer all day and report to the
press that they are "bored out of their minds")? Where has this been done
before? If it hasn't been done before, then why isn't such a remarkable achievement being
copied everywhere? Was it your expectation that such improvements wouldn't show up in any
independent test? Why? Is there an independent test that can be used to validate the
claims made by the CEP? Which test is it? And why has it not been administered?
- What was the process by which CEP was selected as the vendor for this program? Who made
the decision? Did it bother you that the top executives had no experience in education?
- Are you concerned about students learning by sitting in front of a computer screen every
day with minimal teacher interaction?
- Do you think all the disgruntled employees of CEP were just bad hires, or do you think
there is a pattern here since they all say the same thing? Have you ever met with any of
the CEP employees who were fired or resigned? Why do you trust CEP management vs.
these workers, i.e., how did you determine who to believe?
- Have there been any students that you didn't have to pay for because they didn't
progress as fast as the 2 grade level guarantee that the CEP has? How many students
actually stay the required 180 days for the guarantee to be in effect?
- Is there a reason why the CEP contract is secret among even your own employees?
Here are a lot more questions for Paige.
Bush's Texas Miracle- Fact or Fiction
Summarizes what I found out about Bush's "Texas Miracle" in education.
Basically, everything except TAAS shows nothing special is happening in Texas.
The Finn Editorial- lots of questions
Shows that attacks on the latest RAND report actually raise more questions than they
answer. I've exchanged numerous emails with Finn, but he couldn't answer any of the
questions I raised!
A closer look at the Bush education record posted on Bush's
Provides evidence disproving or discrediting each of the educational accomplishments
that were posted on Bush's campaign website.