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Volume II, Number 10, December, 2004

The New Slim Bush Resume - Would you hire this person?

One would hope to see a leading educator hired as Secretary of Education, as the position has become increasingly important under the current administration, but the woman selected to lead the department for the next few years has a slim resume.

In recent years, the Bush administration has introduced an entirely new kind of resume - one that tells you little that you would want to know about the person in question. This first became evident to the editor of this journal when researching the background of Chris Doherty, the director of Reading First. It was hard to find any dates, names of employers or educational credentials in the very brief resume posted at the Ed Department's site. It took more than an hour of skilled Google use to ferret out his work and educational experience!

The same thing happened when we checked out the resume of the newly designated Secretary of Ed, Margaret Spellings.

Here is the whole thing, quoted exactly as it appeared on December 4, 2004.

This does not tell us much. We would like to know where she went to school, what she studied and what her credentials are to lead the nation's schools, but the resume is silent on these issues as well as her employment history.

Why does the White House create resumes that are so short and silent? No one would ever win a job submitting such resumes or "biographies" as the White House prefers to call them.

This is a PR resume consistent with an administration tendency to keep information from the public.

Did Ms. Spelling ever work in a school?

Was Ms. Spelling ever a teacher? a principal? a superintendent?

According to the New York Times, she has not run a school district . . .

Though Ms. Spellings has never run a school system, she has a long history working on education issues, serving as associate executive director for governmental and external relations of the Texas Association of School Boards before going to work for Mr. Bush in Austin. As then-Governor Bush's adviser on education issues, she oversaw a state reading initiative, a plan to reduce automatic promotion, and the passage of the state's charter school law.
Source: November 18, 2004 Bush Nominates a Close Adviser for Top Education Post By DIANA JEAN SCHEMO

We learn from the Houston Chronicle (article) that Mrs. Spellings graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in political science and then went to work as chief clerk for the Texas House Public Education Committee in the early 1980s. She moved on in 1988 to serve as a lobbyist for the Texas Association of School Boards. She helped elect George W. Bush Governor and then worked in his administration as an education adviser. She then followed him to Washington as a policy adviser (see above).

During most of these years she has fought for educational changes like vouchers and choice that many public school advocates oppose. During her years in Texas, she was part of engineering the so-called "Texas Miracle" that created apparently improved dropout statistics and test scores by questionable tactics outlined in several earlier articles. See "Engineering Educational Miracles" and "A Lost Generation? A Million Left Behind?"

Where have all the children gone?

Hundreds of thousands of Texas students never made it to graduation from their high schools in the past seven years, but the reported dropout rates of many Texas school districts came through in small single digits.

A miracle? Hardly. More like a disgrace, a statistical sleight of hand that does more to cover up failure than demonstrate success.

The Texas ATTRITION RATE (on the right) provides a far more revealing (and harsh) portrait of what actually happens to many Texas students.

Where are those thousands of children today? Were they simply LEFT BEHIND? Discarded? Many were lost, forgotten, neglected and in some cases even PUSHED OUT. Push out the weak students and you will see test scores skyrocket.

If you were running for President or Secretary of Education, which number would make you look better, the dropout rate or the attrition rate?

Enrollments for the Houston ISD in 2001-2002
Source: The Dallas Morning News - August 31, 2003

Attrition Rate (%), by Student Group
Texas Public Schools, 2000
Grades 7-12
Grades 9-12
Asian/Pacific Islander
Native American
Economically Disadvantaged
Source: Secondary School Completion and Dropouts in Texas Public Schools
Texas Education Agency

"In 2001-02, Texas schools enrolled 364,270 freshmen – and 225,756 seniors. The state's official annual dropout rate: 1 percent."

Source: The Dallas Morning News - August 31, 2003

"True dropout rate? It takes calculating" By JOSHUA BENTON

In the past four years we have witnessed the take-over of the educational policy apparatus by outsiders without educational credentials. While they govern with a heavy hand and impose programs on schools, they most often come to education without classroom experience in the public schools and without training in educational research.

Many of these recently powerful policy makers have advanced degrees in political economy and public policy, but some have no advanced degree at all. Their prime credential is often something as concrete as loyal service to a conservative cause. A major element they share is a lack of respect for the public system and a firm belief that charter schools, choice and private enterprise ventures are all preferred alternatives.

Up until this point, Congress has blunted the most extreme of the choice measures advanced by the Bush administration, but as power swings, we can expect to see an expansion of the NCLB testing juggernaut to secondary schools accompanied by more robust choice provisions and the diversion of scanty public funds to private experiments and ventures.

Sadly, the veneer may change in the Ed Department as we see a kinder and gentler manner take the podium, but the policy is likely to become more rugged, more slanted and more damaging as the skillful smiling new leader advances a cause which has at its core the destruction of the public system.

Killing us softly . . . gently . . . ever so smoothly.

But killing us, nevertheless.

The main victims will be the children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds who will suffer a narrow curriculum and a fast food education.

Historians will look back at this decade and call it the Educational Dark Ages for the damage being done.

Educational historians will look back and call it the "Ice Age."

Would you hire this person to lead our nation's schools?

I think not.

© 2004 No Child Left and FNO Press, all rights reserved.
What can you do to change this law before it does great damage to the schools and children in your state and town?
  1. Subscribe to "No Child Left" to stay informed about efforts to repeal NCLB. Click here.
  2. Speak with the school board members, administrators and teachers in your community to learn how NCLB will change schools and learning in your town.
  3. Start communicating with your Senators and Representatives to let them know you want this law changed to put more emphasis on capacity building and support rather than testing and punishment.
  4. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper expressing your concerns. Illustrate the dangers of this law with specific and compelling examples.
  5. Emphasize concrete alternatives that would do more to improve the futures of disadvantaged children.

A List of ESEA (NCLB) Amendments

1. Fund social programs that impact school readiness so that all children actually enter school ready to learn as the first President Bush promised long ago.

2. Fund capacity building (enhanced teaching and learning) in districts and districts for several years before engaging in punishing labels and reckless choice provisions. Capacity building might mean providing hundreds of hours of training in effective reading strategies, for example. But it does not mean training everybody in a single highly scripted program endorsed by the administration for pseudo-scientific reasons.

3. Devote public money to truly public schools. Be careful not to divert funds to reckless experiments or diploma mills.

4. Fund enough construction of new schools within public systems so parental choice is real.

5. Support informed school choice within public systems.

6. Emphasize rewards and incentives rather than sanctions.

7. Hold all publicly funded schools to standards for performance and quality, whether actually private, charter or truly public. Be careful about simplistic notions of high stakes testing.

8. Fund recruitment and preparation of effective teachers and aides from all racial and economic groups to close the gap between current staffing levels and what is desirable.

9. End the insulting, broad brush assaults on teachers and administrators struggling against difficult challenges.

10. Capitalize on the good research conducted to discover what works best in schools and avoid simplistic panaceas and platitudes imported from the world of business and medicine.

11. Enrich the options available to all children. Forswear tightly scripted, robotic programs and the fast food approaches to school improvement.

12. Build school improvement on a richly defined foundation of alternatives and strategies.

13. Eliminate Trojan horses, hidden agendas and shameful politics from ESEA.

14. Stop using Madison Avenue techniques to hide the harsh realities of so-called compassionate conservatism.