Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Top Ten Percent Rule

I would like to see the next Texan in the White House be from Plano. I believe we can develop the best leaders in the world right here in Plano, Texas. And I would like to see our next Texan in the White House be a graduate of a Texas university instead of graduating from Harvard or Yale.

America needs to free itself from the strangle-hold of Harvard and Yale. We have many fine universities here in Texas. When I worked in Research and Development at a Fortune 500 company I checked out the credentials of a rising executive who crossed my path. This executive got an undergraduate degree from Texas A&M and a doctorate from Cal Tech. So I was in Florida reading about a successful Texas Aggie.

The University of Texas has crossed my path a few times recently. When Dr. John Wheeler, the physicist who coined the term "black hole," died I saw in his obituary that he taught at the University of Texas. A friend of mine told me that Edsger Dijkstra, a very famous computer scientist, worked at UT and that UT has an online repository of his papers. The New York Times Book Review recently had good things to say about a new book by Philip Bobbitt, and mentioned he taught at UT.

It's great to read good things about UT or Texas A&M, but we do not read that a President of the US graduated from either of them. We need our best students to go to school in Texas, and we need to offer them the best education in America so they do need to go to Harvard or Yale. But then Texas Bill 588 sends the top 10 percent of the worst schools in Texas to UT and Texas A&M.

Think of it: a child can graduate from an academically unacceptable school, be unprepared to go to any college, have absurdly low SAT scores, and still be guaranteed a seat at UT or Texas A&M. After all the years that these schools have worked to build their national and international reputations, then the Texas Legislature stabs them in the back. And the work to raise Texas up the ladder of power in America goes down the drain along with the average SAT scores at our formerly top schools.

What the Texas State Legislature is saying to children trapped in failed schools is, "don't worry that you are getting a substandard education, here's a pass to enter UT or TAMU." That's awful! The Legislature should be trying to fix bad schools, not deceiving those communities into thinking that it's okay to go to bad school because there are no consequences for a bad education!

The top-ten-percent fiasco is part of our failed accountability system. Neither the Legislature nor the TEA know how to turn an unsuccessful school into a successful school. This is the ghost that haunts the TAKS system: the TEA can identify unsuccessful schools, but cannot make them successful.

Consider the absurdity of our TAKS system. (1) We already know which schools and districts are in trouble, but we keep testing them even though we don't know how to improve them. (2) We make going to unsuccessful schools an advantage for getting into UT and TAMU, so why would anyone want to fix those schools?

I'm sure we are sending more of our best students to Arkansas and Oklahoma, but that does not do Texas any good. We need to build up our own universities. We should not be working hard to send our good students to Oklahoma and Arkansas, we should keep them here. And the hope is gone of replacing Harvard and Yale with UT and TAMU in the hearts of our best students.

The citizens of Texas deserve better than what we are getting from our legislature. The ISD boards across the state need to rally their communities against the mistakes coming out of Austin.


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