Dallas Morning News: Duncan flat-out lied about Texas education

Time Magazine’s Andrew Rotherham professed to being “confused” over Arne Duncan’s attack on the performance of Texas schools — and his ignorance over the performance of the Chicago school district Duncan actually ran.  The Dallas Morning News’ editorial writer Rodger Jones isn’t confused at all.  He’s irate.  In a column that appeared in yesterday’s newspaper, Jones prints the response to Duncan from Robert Scott, Texas’ education chief, but not before getting in a few shots himself at Duncan’s “lies”:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s insult to Texas public education was a politically motivated distortion that doesn’t become a federal official in his position.

What a load this guy is.

We shouldn’t hear lies come out of the mouth of the nation’s top education official (photo at right) when he discusses the record of millions of students and dedicated educators.

What lies?  Well, Duncan told a whopper about Texas class sizes, for one, a rather shabby and easily checkable lie at that:

The tipoff that Duncan doesn’t care about facts was his statement about “massive increases in class size in Texas” during Rick Perry’s time in the governor’s office. …

I checked TEA records on statewide class size averages. Primary grades held steady, of course, while most secondary class averages went down during the Perry years.

Examples: Secondary math classes averaged 20.3 students in 2000-01 and dropped to 18.5 by last year. Average size of secondary English/language arts classes fell from 20.2 students in 2000-01 to 17.8 by last year.

Anybody could look this stuff up. It’s right there on the TEA website. Duncan surely has a few thousand employees who could help him find it.

Here’s another clue: Texas caps student-to-teacher ratios in primary and secondary education by statute at 22:1.  That limitation has been in place during the entire time that Perry has been governor in Texas.  The nation’s Secretary of Education apparently doesn’t know how to do research before positing claims, or — as Jones accuses — deliberately lied for political purposes.

The obvious political purpose is to attack a Republican challenger to his boss, which would put Duncan out of work.  Jones offers another motive: Perry’s refusal to join Duncan’s Race to the Top.  Perry balked at the program as part of his general opposition to federal interference in state jurisdiction, which Jones calls “political,” but offers it as a reason that Duncan would want to make Texas’ education efforts look deficient.

But are they deficient?  TEA chief Scott argues in his open letter to Duncan that Texas is actually doing better than average on several important metrics:

— In 2009, Texas ranked 7th in a 26 state comparison of the only states reporting four-year on-time graduation rates. That year Texas’ on-time graduation rate was 80.6%. The Texas on-time graduation rate for 2010 is now 84.3%, an amazing 3.7 percentage point increase in a single year on the dropout indicator that you are now requiring all states to report to the Department.

— Texas is ranked 13th in Ed Week’s Quality Counts report. Quality Counts gave Texas an “A” in “Standards, Assessment and Accountability,” and an “A” in “Transitions and Alignment” of the Texas system with college and career readiness. This year’s graduating class is the first to graduate under Texas’ required 4×4 graduation requirements (four years of math, science, English language arts and social studies) and we are already seeing great things from the class of 2011.

— The Texas class of 2011 posted a record-high math score on the ACT college entrance exam. The Texas average math score was 21.5 and was higher than the national average of 21.1. ACT scores from 2007 to 2011 showed increases in all four subjects.

— The 2009 NAEP Science results were impressive, as well. Texas’ African American eighth-grade students earned the highest score in the nation and our Hispanic eighth-grade students were eighth. Only eighth-grade students attending the Department of Defense schools scored higher than Texas’ white students who were tied with white students in Massachusetts. On the fourth-grade test, Texas’ African American students out-performed their peers in every state accept Virginia and those students attending Department of Defense Schools. Texas’ fourth-grade white students were ranked third behind only Virginia and Massachusetts.

It seems that the Secretary of Education needs to repeat a course or two on research, honesty, and integrity.