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Does GW's great Texas education system really work?
September 10, 2000 8:09 PM   Subscribe

Does GW's great Texas education system really work? Teachers say Texas has given up on normal school subjects in favor of test taking strategy in order to produce nice round numbers for politicians. Kids spend the school year preparing day and night for massively hyped state wide tests instead of actually learning. Is this any way to educate our children?
posted by tomorama (26 comments total)

 
Lesley Stahl's report featured Texas pep rallys hyping the TAAS test and classrooms full of young children learning not how to read, but how to read in order to pass the TAAS. What does it all mean? GW's miracle schools, which are supposedly producing smarter kids with higher test scores are actually political number factories that kids aren't getting very much out of. Bravo to 60 minutes for shoving the ugly face of politics into the light at just the right time.
posted by tomorama at 8:16 PM on September 10, 2000


I just saw this on the west coast 60 minutes. Awful stuff. Teaching children to take tests all day and then basing the state's education performance on the results of such tests is completely ridiculous.

Learning to take tests is somewhat important, but not enough to merit constant training for test taking. They should instead be spending their time on learning the actual subjects of reading and math.
posted by mathowie at 8:20 PM on September 10, 2000


Questions: 1) How long has TAAS been around? According to Stahl's own piece, it dates back to at least 1994. That's Democratic deity Ann Richards' reign. 2) How come Stahl didn't point out that forcing kids to learn tests is a nationwide problem, not a Texas-specific one? There was a long article in the New York Times recently about this. Attack the educational system all you want. But don't claim this is some sort of evil GWB plot.
posted by aaron at 9:52 PM on September 10, 2000


I did go to school in Texas. I learnt good from them. Now I want to be a police man and sended poor people to the death row.
posted by DragonBoy at 10:42 PM on September 10, 2000


I think the problem with education in this country lies with all of us. How many of us, once we leave high school or college ever return as a voluteer, tutor or mentor?
Colleges have no problems soliciting alumni for money. How about an alumni program for public schools?
Don't have the time to help out? How about some cold hard cash for new book and computers? Truth is, Americans can only criticize education-they don't really do much to improve it.
Hmmm...a lot like out political system.
posted by black8 at 10:44 PM on September 10, 2000


Aaron: 1, the test may have been around since 1994, but when did the new policies emphasizing test-taking over learning begin?

2, I don't get where you come up with this notion that Ann Richards is a "Democratic deity" or lauded as some kind of faultless liberal paragon. We know that Democrats and liberals do dumb things sometimes in order to get power or keep it. Will conservatives ever be able to acknowledge that truth about GOP and conservative politicians?
posted by wiremommy at 12:18 AM on September 11, 2000


[aaron] 1) How long has TAAS been around? According to Stahl's own piece, it dates back to at least 1994. That's Democratic deity Ann Richards' reign.

Umm, the thing is that GWB is claiming he's done great things with Texas education. Stahl is pointing out that it isn't so great after all.

[aaron] 2) How come Stahl didn't point out that forcing kids to learn tests is a nationwide problem, not a Texas-specific one?

Umm, could be because GWB is claiming to have worked wonders for education in Texas?

I don't know if the piece was spun as a generic education expose or a contradiction of GWB's claims about education in Texas. If it's the latter, then focusing on Texas is absolutely appropriate. If it's the same in other states, that's a problem, but if GWB is going to claim to have done great things in Texas, then reporters should be checking it out.
posted by daveadams at 7:19 AM on September 11, 2000


Well, duh! GWB is evil, why else would he have those tiny shifty eyes and that evil grin/smile? Al Gore, on the other hand, well, he invented the internet while he was working on his family farm in upstate new york. He's so cute and fuzzy, just makes you want to cuddle up. VOTE GORE! THE SANE CHOISE!
posted by tiaka at 7:32 AM on September 11, 2000


I wish that stupid internet quote would go away. It's a misquote that has been twisted and taken out of context.

Anyhow, I must admit that aaron has a point - test preparation is a nationwide problem, not just an issue in Texas. However, the conflict seems to lie in the fact that the Texas school system has instructed their teachers to devote virtually all of their resources to improving test scores.

Further, because the test was created by the state of Texas, for Texas students, it can hardly be construed as an unbiased measure of academic ability.

It's a very different system than those Iowa tests I was forced to take while attending the Chicago Public Schools many years ago, and even those were a sketchy measure of students abilities.

In short, it seems that the schools in Texas are now worse than they were before Bush took office, though the test scores may indicate otherwise.

Indeed, somthing's rotten in the Lone Star State . . .


posted by aladfar at 9:44 AM on September 11, 2000


I wish that stupid internet quote would go away. It's a misquote that has been twisted and taken out of context.

Anyhow, I must admit that aaron has a point - test preparation is a nationwide problem, not just an issue in Texas. However, the conflict seems to lie in the fact that the Texas school system has instructed their teachers to devote virtually all of their resources to improving test scores.

Further, because the test was created by the state of Texas, for Texas students, it can hardly be construed as an unbiased measure of academic ability.

It's a very different system than those Iowa tests I was forced to take while attending the Chicago Public Schools many years ago, and even those were a sketchy measure of students abilities.

In short, it seems that the schools in Texas are now worse than they were before Bush took office, though the test scores may indicate otherwise.

Indeed, something's rotten in the Lone Star State . . .


posted by aladfar at 9:44 AM on September 11, 2000


Damn - totally didn't mean to do that. Matt, can you delete the first post (and this one)?
posted by aladfar at 9:45 AM on September 11, 2000


Ask Al, I hear he's got OTIII powers.
posted by tiaka at 10:35 AM on September 11, 2000


Thanks for the false dichotomy, tiaka. If you'll notice, most of us arguing so vociferously against GWB are not Gore supporters either. Gore is a compromised career politician and a dodgy hypocrite. However, he does have more going for him in terms of experience than GWB, whose main assets certainly appear to be merely his dad's name and his dad's connections.

Still, I'm voting for Nader. I refuse to be scared into supporting Gore by the prospect of GWB, much as his candidacy offends my sensibilities and my patriotism. If enough of us vote our conscience, not our fear, the Green Party can become a true alternative in US politics. This election certainly shows how badly we need one.
posted by wiremommy at 10:46 AM on September 11, 2000


There is never going to be a viable third party in the United States. Our political system simply is not designed to support three or more parties. In the extremely improbable event that the Greens, or any other party, ever comes to power, it will only happen via the collapse of either the Republicans or Democrats. Result? A two-party system.
posted by aaron at 11:31 AM on September 11, 2000


i went to school in texas. sure, TAAS has been around since '94 or so. before that it was called TEAMS, it was virtually the same, and it had been around for a really long time before that. so in that sense, '94 is an early estimate.
TAAS is an utterly ridiculous measure of education in texas; in fact it's so ridiculous that it isn't really a measure at all. all my high school teachers were absolutely livid that they had to teach their students specifically how to pass a standardized test, which by no means would give the students the tools they needed to get into and be successful in college.
i remember having to write a persuasive essay for TAAS, and they told us that the more ridiculous and hyperbolic our essay was, the higher our score would be. a friend of mine wrote a horrible essay about how the fertilization of corn would lead to nuclear holocaust, and received a perfect score.
in texas, TAAS scores determine which public schools will get the most money and resources, which disgusts me to no end because the test has nothing whatsoever to do with intelligence or the effectiveness of the school system to prepare students for anything. i can safely say that the texas public school system taught me nothing other than how to squeak by on my general common sense. this was of course no use to me in college, at which i arrived shell-shocked and with no study skills whatsoever.
something has to change, and change now. i get all upset just thinking about it, obviously.
i'm done now.
posted by bluishorange at 11:43 AM on September 11, 2000


So it's a Texas thing, not a Dubya thing. Quel suprise.
posted by aaron at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2000


[aaron] So it's a Texas thing, not a Dubya thing

How can it not be a Dubya thing? Dubya is claiming he revolutionized education in Texas!!! So what if the system is the same as it's always been? It seems to me that's even worse. He didn't change anything and he's claiming he did??

Can I get any more shrill?
posted by daveadams at 12:50 PM on September 11, 2000


There is never going to be a viable third party in the United States. Our political system simply is not designed to support three or more parties.

Care to support that with anything, aaron? (I don't deny that for most of US history there have only been two major parties, but it's disturbing to see anyone make such a bald statement without any kind of supporting evidence-- such as this short history of political parties which took me all of ten seconds to find via Google.)

And if you're correct, I don't see any problem with either the Dems or the Republicans disappearing. I don't even care much which one dies off. The Democratic party hasn't offered a true alternative to conservatism for years; they're the same dogs of the wealthy and powerful as the GOP, just wearing a different, more populist mask. Clinton carried out several conservative initiatives, from gutting welfare to saddling us with treaties like NAFTA and GATT.

Maybe it's inevitable that any political party with enough juice to get candidates elected will inevitably compromise itself and become functionally identical to the donkeys and the elephants. But maybe a party could rise up from the grassroots and actually answer to the people. I'd like to see for myself. I donated money to Nader's campaign, and I'm voting Green.
posted by wiremommy at 1:29 PM on September 11, 2000


Wiremommy, I thought it was a statement that didn't need backing up, because most of us already know it's true. As the page you yourself linked to says, "Electoral politics in the United States has been dominated by two political parties since the administration of George Washington; but they have not always been the same two parties."

It isn't codified anywhere that there can only be two major parties, but that's the natural outcome of our system of government.

Personally, I think having Nader win - or any third party candidate, doesn't really matter who - is the worst thing that could happen to third party politics. If Bush or Gore wins, that person only has to deal with roughly half of Congress hating him. If Nader wins, ALL of Congress is going to be against him. It'll probably lead to gridlock of a kind we've never seen before, and drive more people than ever back to the GOP and Democrats.

In short, there's only two ways a third party can ever rise up to become one of the Big Two: The self-destruction of one of the current Big Two, or a third party fielding a full slate of viable candidates all the way down the line. Congress, governors, the whole shebang.
posted by aaron at 2:13 PM on September 11, 2000



In my personal opinion, the Green party would be worse for the country than either the democrats or the republicans. Surely there's a better alternative. Jello Biafra, former Dead Kennedys frontman and a big Green party spokesperson, in many speeches promoting green party politics, emphasizes things like drastically downsizing the military, destroying all our nuclear weapons and imposing a 'maximum wage' of around $100,000. What right does any politican have to render our country defenseless against foreign enemies? War is a bad thing, but it's not something that you can get rid of overnight. The peace process has to be gradual. Also, what right does any politican have to tell me how much money I'm allowed to make? Corporations hording money is something the courts should take care of. A maximum wage hurts the big guy and the little guy.Personally, I don't think it's good to have extremists in office, wether they be left wing such as the greens or right wing such as the republicans. You need people who can compromise and make good decisions.Sorry for getting a bit off topic there.
posted by tomorama at 2:30 PM on September 11, 2000


Tomorama, Jello Biafra is an old school "fuck shit up" punk, a radical activist and a colorful speaker. He's a Green party supporter, but his comments can't be taken as Green Party doctrine. Biafra once campaigned for Mayor of SF with a platform that, among other things, called for all businesspeople working in SF's downtown to be required to wear clown suits to work, and called for squatting by homeless people in vacant buildings to be legalized. Obviously these were impractical, humorous proposals meant to attract attention to problems, not to provide realistic solutions. Biafra's ideas are not Green Party positions. Visit Nader's site to find out what Nader and the Greens really stand for.

In Jello's defense, I should say he's not always totally off-base and silly. Biafra's more levelheaded proposals include forbidding the manufacture of tritium for a period of time (I think it's ten years). Tritium is used to create the triggers for nuclear weapons, and it decays over time. Without new tritium triggers, our nuclear arsenal would slowly become obsolete at something like a rate of 6% per year, which seems like a reasonable disarmament scedule. I think if you do some research you can find ample evidence that continued manufacture of nuclear arms is more about keeping corporations rolling in military spending dollars than about defending the US.

I don't believe extremists would be good for high public office either. But I don't think Nader is an extremist. And at any rate, no one expects Nader to win the election; the support for him is all about getting at least 5% of the vote, so that in the NEXT elections, the Green Party will be recognized as a valid party meriting federal matching funds and inclusion in debates. Even if the Green Party's legitimacy doesn't last, hopefully their ascendence might show the Dems that plenty of people want a real liberal alternative to the GOP, not just the same corporate lapdogs wearing a friendlier mask.
posted by wiremommy at 3:06 PM on September 11, 2000


Anyways... on the subject of this happening in multiple states, that is absolutly correct. I'm a junior in a public high school in Missouri right now, and we have a very similar test called the MAP. Scores from this test are used to determine what resources certain school districts recieve, and teachers' pay is actually dependant on how good their students do on this test. Result: most teachers end up hyping the test and threatening to fail students who don't do good on the test. I think bluishorange described it best:...they told us that the more ridiculous and hyperbolic our essay was, the higher our score would be.The whole thing is absolute bullshit, I ended up in the 98th percentile by writing on and on about nothing, while my freind who is very obviously smarter than I ended up in the 89th.
posted by deckard at 3:47 PM on September 11, 2000


But the ability to go on and on about absolutely nothing is a VERY valuable skill in today's Global Media...
posted by wendell at 4:58 PM on September 11, 2000


And, after all, we just want to fit in. Right?
posted by fable at 7:31 PM on September 11, 2000


Hey guys. Yes. I'm a Texan. Yes I've said this before. You don't want Dubya. He'll do to the U.S. what he's done to Texas, or what others have done to Texas before him cuz that's all he knows, and you don't want that. I'm here. I know. Even if you're republican, please don't vote for this clown.

The test taking thing? That was inevitable. Perot and others have created this dreadful system designed to make it look like students are doing better on paper, when in fact nothing gets accomplished. It started with 'no pass no play' back in the early 80s. Long story. Bottom line here: if you set up a system which focuses on test-taking to measure your students, it's only a matter of time before the test-taking becomes all that is important. The actual teaching part is not measurable; only the results of that teaching. So teaching is forgotten and all that matters is learning how to effectively take the tests.

This is Dubya-think. It's Perot-think. It's number crunching our children's education. I'm dead serious: you don't want Dubya. Even if you think you do, please reconsider. I beg you.

Yes, Gore sucks. However, the last eight years haven't been all that bad have they? You think Bill had the brains to come up with that stuff by himself? Tipper scares me, but Al's not terrible. He's still better than Dubya.

We'd be better off with Buchannan than we would be with Dubya. Why? Because Buchannan would pull NOTHING over on congress. Only the most conservative senators would occasionally go along with PukeyBukey. It would be four years of gridlock and nothing would get done but at least that would be better than Dubya getting some things accomplished via a conservatively controlled congress. If you were thinking of voting for Dubya, PLEASE consider voting for Bukey instead.

Don't let Dubya mess with America.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:57 AM on September 13, 2000


Sounds like many of you need to switch parties. The Democrats are the ones for pushing standardized tests so that the bureaucrats in DC can help run your school systems. Also, they protect the status quo of federal mandates and not holding teachers accountable as private schools do. What types of real reform has this party put forth? Nothing. Except throw more money at the problem. Blah.

If you need a person or group to blame for a perceived decline in school system effectiveness, start with the parents and the kids themselves. The kids and parents have been whining about rules and homework for a generation. We whine to protect summers out of school. We leave the TV on to babysit the children. We let Playstation replace exercise. If the kids are getting dumber, it is because they are allowed to waste their time more than ever. And the parents and teachers kept lowering the standards for years so that we would not alienate the stupid. They call this the "Dumbing Down of America", and believe me folks, it is going to take just as long to reverse as it took to get us here.

Your so called liberal experts got us here ... are you ready to abandon them yet? Do you see that a lack of standards and low expectations are a self-fulfilling exercise.

Or are you just spouting meaningless rhetoric.
posted by jarvis_ut at 9:09 AM on September 13, 2000


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