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Maps and Figures

"Hitler or Coulter?" Quiz
Map1 - Teen Pregnancy
Map2 - Incarceration
Map3 - Homicide Rates
Map4 - Drop-out Rates
Map5 - Bankruptcy Rates
Map6 - Driving Distances
Map7 - Energy Use
Map8 - Gonorrhea!
Map9 - Tax Burden
Map10 - State GDP
Map11 - DHS funding
Map12 - Adult Illiteracy.
Map13 - Abortion Bans:
Map14 - ER Quality
Map15 - Hospital Quality
Map16 - Coal Burners
Map 17 - Infant Mortality
Map 18 - Toxic Waste
Map 19 - Obesity
Map 20 - Poverty
Map 21 - Occupational safety
Map 22 - Traffic deaths
Map 23 - Divorce
Figure 1 - Wages vs Right to work
Figure 2 - Unemployment vs Right to work
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Monday, January 29, 2007

The Texas Educational Miracle
I read this article in the Houston Chronicle entitled One Third of Students in Texas Don't Graduate and I wonder, is this going to be our future? Not just about education, but with Bush in general. Here we are, about 7 years since he's been running that state, and they're still unraveling his mess of lies.

As we've blogged about previously previously the Texas educational miracle was a hoax propagated by Bush's Texas administration on the people of that state. The state implemented the usual "testing as a solution to all problems" idiocy that he's advocated nationwide, and as predicted, a huge response was seen. The problem, that anyone who is familiar with bureacracy, data collection, testing, etc. knows about, is that it's all smoke and mirrors. Nothing changes with testing, it's just a tool. It's not an educational panacea, it's like saying taking a picture of a building will make it architecturally sound.

So, yes, it appeared that Texas underwent the same "miracle" when Bush implemented this cynical policy years ago, but now look what's happening. You can only sweep the shit under the rug for so many years before the room starts to stink.

One out of three Texas students don't graduate, and more students drop out than finish high school in the state's largest cities, according to education experts.

Statewide, more than 2.5 million students have dropped out of Texas high schools in the last 20 years, and each graduating class loses about 120,000 students from freshman year to senior year, according to the San Antonio-based Intercultural Development Research Association.

The research group says more than half of students in Texas' largest cities drop out. The dropout rate among blacks, Hispanics and low-income students is about 60 percent, according to the Center for Education at Rice University.

The statewide dropout rate is about 33 percent — or 20 points higher than what the Texas Education Agency reports.

Exactly! Because when you tie performance to testing without any real effort to improve performance with money, investment infrastructure, etc., the typical response will always be to fudge the data. And they're not bad people for doing this. They're trying to protect jobs, they're trying to prevent kids from being shuffled out of their neighborhoods, they're trying to keep doing their jobs while realizing that the world has given up on these kids, and that these are just cynical political ploys to hide the dirty truth. This nation does not care about educating black people, hispanics, and anyone other than white middle-class types. We want to feel like we are, but as long as you can just effectively hide the truth, we'll ignore it.

Well you can't hide the truth forever. The fact is the miracle was a hoax. Principles were hiding drop-outs by covering up the loss of students, saying they were transfers etc. They hide poor performance by holding the poor-performing kids back a year so they don't take the test, then socially advancing them two years so they skip it. It's cynical, it's ugly, it's stupid, and it's Bush's legacy in Texas.

Now the question is, how many years after he's out of the presidency are we going to be finding things like this? How many lies (that are pretty obvious to anyone paying attention) will suddenly be "discovered" while the press and all the Republicans voting for this idiot wonder feebly how it ever happened?

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Monday, December 11, 2006

HBO is truth
The season finale of HBO's The Wire was last night, and if there is a better indictment of the scam of No Child Left Behind, I haven't seen it.

This season follows a former cop, Prezboluski, as he starts as a middle school teacher in inner city Baltimore. He struggles as a new teacher, and like many new teachers is highly idealistic and tries to do his best for the kids. His main obstacle? The obsession with standardized testing brought on by No Child Left Behind.

Now, standardized testing would be a good tool, but the problem is that it is implemented as a solution in itself, with the idea that just introducing standards will somehow magically fix all the other problem the kids face. These problems, wonderfully demonstrated over the season include absent parents, crappy parents, unstable homes, dangerous neighborhoods, interactions with criminals, and the seductive draw of easy money on the corners selling drugs. The Republican solution? Testing, testing, testing.

Now, I've attacked this method many times as one of the most cynical uses of children for political gain ever invented. Basically, the testing is implemented, and the kids score horribly. The schools aren't prepared for the tests, the kids are unprepared for all the reasons above, and the inevitable result is that the politicians' claims are confirmed. The scores come back and the politicians can point them out as the failures of whatever administration came before them.

The next year of course, the schools teach to the tests, the tests are made easier, and the scoring is adjusted to make the kids appear to have performed better. Then the same politicians can point to the statistics and claim their standardized testing has magically improved the schools, when in reality they've pulled a clever scam at the cost of addressing the real failings in public schools, and the situations that are creating poor performance.

So, back to The Wire, the results have come back after a semester of Mr. Prezbo's teaching, and this interchange is telling:

Mr. Prezboluski: How in the hell did we kick up percentages in math and reading both?
Veteran Teacher: You believe the numbers?

Mr. Prezboluski: 38% proficient, 8% advanced, what?

Veteran Teacher: Proficient means they're at least two grades below their level. Advanced can mean they're at grade level, or a year below. They score them like that and say we're making progress.

The real improvement came with Prezbo making efforts to make a personal difference in the kids lives, helping them one on one, and from another class (demonized by statistics-obsessed administrators) that took the most disruptive kids and tried to prevent school-wide poor performance by segregating them and working on improving their socialization.

I love this show and when each season ends I go into withdrawal until the next great and truthful HBO series starts up. But one thing is clear, when you tell the truth, in fiction or otherwise, it's damning to Republicans and their stupid policies.

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