Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tom Pauken: Texas vs. No Child Left Behind

Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken has a must-read piece on the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind and the revolt against the education legacy of (Governor) George W. Bush in Texas; money quote:
For the past two decades, excessive emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing and a one-size-fits-all focus on preparing all students for college came to dominate education policy in Texas and later, in Washington, D.C. with the passage of the Bush-Kennedy “No Child Left Behind” legislation. In addition, vocational education came to be neglected—even denigrated—in this massive push to make all students “college-ready.” Meanwhile, the principle of local control over education (which historically had been a deeply-held belief of Goldwater-Reagan Conservatives) was abandoned by Republican politicians in Texas and Washington, D.C., in their rush to be known as “educational reformers.”


The principal architect of Texas’s accountability system was a lawyer from Dallas named Sandy Kress. The most thorough analysis of Kress’s role in pushing Texas’s education policy in the direction of a high-stakes testing system was one written by Mark Donald for the October 19, 2000 issue in the Dallas Observer right before George W. Bush’s election to the presidency. Entitled “The Resurrection of Sandy Kress,” Donald’s article described how Democrat Kress and Republican Bush came to be close allies in pushing Kress’s vision of “educational accountability.”

I had gotten to know Sandy Kress when he was the Dallas County Democratic Chairman, and I was an active Republican. Later, I was elected State Chairman of the Texas Republican Party in 1994, the year in which George W. Bush defeated Ann Richards in the race for governor of Texas. What I didn’t know at the time—but soon learned after the November election—was that Sandy Kress already had been a major advisor to George W. Bush on education issues for some period of time. I found that unusual since Sandy Kress was a liberal Democrat whose views on education and other domestic policy issues were very much at odds with the views of conservatives like myself who believed in local control of education and decentralization of governmental power, wherever possible. Moreover, Sandy had not exactly distinguished himself in the early 1990s when he chaired the board of the Dallas Independent School District (DISD), during one of the most tumultuous periods in DISD history.


Nonetheless, Sandy Kress remained a key strategic advisor to the governor. He worked closely with Margaret LaMontagne (later Margaret Spellings), who was Gov. Bush’s education advisor, in expanding the statewide accountability system. During Bush’s tenure as Governor, the state consolidated power over education in the office of the Texas Education Agency and the Education Commissioner who was appointed by the Governor. Meaningful local control over education in Texas continued to erode as the accountability ratings system caused local school districts to focus more attention on the performance measurements put in place by the state particularly the testing system. Since that system did not include evaluation of the effectiveness of vocational education instruction, that area of preparation became de-emphasized in many Texas school districts.


Just as Texas started this failed approach to educational accountability, the Texas Legislature has the opportunity to replace it with a common-sense system that focuses on real learning and opportunities for all.

Read the whole piece.  Education spending in Texas has been growing faster than inflation plus population for the past decade.  On a related note, this is school choice week....


  1. Adam, You are a source of valuable and key information, Thank you!! Thank you for all your work!!

  2. My former boss decided to stop payments on my payroll checks when i I never got paid my final checks. I made a claim to the Texas workforce commission and I wonder how long it will take to get my money and will my ex boss even get into any trouble? Why is the system always against the worker?

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