The central theme of the “No Child Left Behind Act” is that the public schools can perform if given measurable goals and strong organizational incentives to meet those goals. Part of the evidence offered for that proposition was the “Texas miracle,” and in particualr the improvement of the performance of the Houston schools under Superintendent Rod Paige, now Secretary of Education.
Now it turns out that the Houston schools were systematically cooking the books, with at least one large inner-city high school reporting zero dropouts. It turns out that an incentive to meet a target is also an incentive to pretend to meet that target.
In the wise words of W.C. Fields (whose birth certificate read William Claude Dukenfield): “Anything worth winning is worth cheating for.”
More about this at Open Source Politics.
Note to Derbyshire fans:
Of course, the fact that the man President Bush later made Secretary of Education resorted to cheating in an attempt to show progress for minority youths does not mean that real progress can’t be made. It just means that making real progress will cost money, demand sustained, concentrated management attention, and not come overnight.
If you’re considering voting to re-elect the current administration, ask yourself a question: Why does Rod Paige still have his job? A President who actually cared about education would have fired him on the spot after learning that his primary management strategy was rigging the numbers.