The Houston un-miracle

Houston schools won a national award for improvement and propelled the former superintendent, Rod Paige, to secretary of Education. Are they really that good? The New York Times says progress on the state’s TAAS exam is much greater than progress on a nationally standardized exam, SAT-9. OK. But it’s not surprising that students who can pass a basic skills test aren’t well-prepared for harder tests or for college. TAAS was a first step. Texas has replaced it with a harder exam, TAKS, which is yielding much lower scores.

Scrappleface has an alternate view.

About Joanne


  1. We are assuming the SAT-9 is both reliable and valid????(more so than the TAAS/TAKS)

  2. We are assuming the SAT-9 is both reliable and valid????(more so than the TAAS/TAKS)

  3. Moira Rogow says:

    We moved to Texas about 1 1/2 years ago. I am very happy with the school system. They are replacing the TAAS with a more difficult test, the TAKS. Accountability is very strong here. Although a few teachers complain about having to ‘teach to the test’ I find this a vast improvement over previous school systems that had no accountability whatsoever. The difference between teaching philosphies to us is glaring. In Kindergarten the kids were learning the building blocks for reading and math. The schools here teach a separate reading course straight up through middle school. As parents we find the testing to be a positive force. If the kids aren’t doing well you find out right away, unlike other places were it’s all just feel good junk.

  4. I’m an alum of HISD high school M.B. Lamar, ’98. I remember teachers having to leave school to buy paper so we could take tests the day they were scheduled because the entire district had run out of copy machine paper. And my school was in the wealthy River Oaks area, not an impoverished neighborhood. Rod Paige has always symbolized incompetance for me, I’m afraid. I remember being very surprised to hear that Bush appointed him.

  5. Courtney – can you help me out here? Why was the copy paper needed? If the entire school district had run out of copy paper, why didn’t they send some admin office flunkies to buy the paper? Or simply have it delivered?

    I’ve never seen a school test that wasn’t a) on paper the students had from binders, notebooks, or borrowed from a friend; b) blue book which each student was expected to provide; c) those damn bubble forms that came with the test.

    Seriously, I’m not doubting you, just can’t figure out where copy paper figures into this.

  6. speedwell says:

    I can back Courtney up on this… I’m a Houston resident who heard of the no-paper flack they year it happened. I also temped briefly for the district and I can easily see this sort of idiocy taking place there. (I will never, ever work there again.)

    Incidentally, you should, one of these days, see the obscene (in an architectural sense) building where HISD administration squats. Form follows function, indeed.

  7. I’m from south of Houston (in Brazosport ISD, to those of you who know where that is), but I remember hearing about the copy paper flap.

    I can also tell you that lots of people in the Houston area thought it was a big joke on Washington when Paige got tapped. Two reasons: first, we got rid of him and his ‘all looks and no substance’ drive for the Baldridge Award, and second, the more incompetents we get in Washington, the more ineffective and deadlocked the Federal government becomes and the more they leave the rest of us alone while they go off and contemplate their own navels or whatever they do up there.

    Now that Paige is long gone, all the double-dealing, test cheating, front-loading of special ed students, and such is coming to light.

    Now we have to figure out how to get our district here to stop covering up the increasing incidence of teenage suicides disguised as unexplained single-car ‘accidents’, the 5th & 6th grade ‘sex ring’ at the middle school where kids get points for having sex, and the Hispanic girl gangs in the high school that beat up Anglo girls who venture into the bathroom alone. All true, from first-hand accounts from parents and teachers, and all vigorously denied by the school district administration. But parents are pulling their kids out of the ‘rich’ high school and sending them to the other, ‘poor’ high school that doesn’t have the problems of too many teenagers with fast cars, too much money and no supervision.

  8. My question was not about whether or not there were supply shortages. Courtney said her teacher had to leave school to buy paper so the students could take the scheduled test.

    I asked why a teacher had to go buy copy paper on the day of a standardized test. What does copy paper have to do with testing? Why would copy paper be that imnportant to a teacher?

    I was out of school by ’98 – what happened between my high school career and 98 that made copy paper such a key part of the process? This is what I don’t understand.

  9. Why worry about it, point being the school system lacked organization and the teacher did what he/she had to do to improvise the situation. If that means going to Office Max buying a realm of paper so you can get your test copied than I guess that’s what you do. If the school cant even keep paper on hand why do you find it difficult to believe the teacher would have to take such measures?