Miracle Whipped

Fifty gets you 70 in the mysterious world of TAAS

Critics of TAAS think they know why the changeover wasn't made last year. John Fullinwider, Dallas "teacher-of-the-year" in 1997, a winner of the Dallas "Excellence in Teaching" award in 1996 and a longtime community activist, says if the state had stopped trying to equate back to 1994 last year, "George Bush would be out there on the campaign trail defending lower TAAS scores instead of bragging about the Texas miracle.

"Whether the motive is sinister or not, the political effect is awfully convenient. In spite of all the talk of making the test more rigorous, they've actually padded these scores. There's a cushion, so that during George Bush's second term the scores can continue to rise."

But for Fullinwider, who teaches kids in trouble in the Dallas system's alternative high school, the real bite of the issue is far removed from presidential politics.

"The stakes on TAAS are so high," he says. "At the campus level now, you have people being indicted for cheating on TAAS scores. Then to find out that at the very pinnacle of TEA in Austin, they're doing something with the numbers to show steady progress. It's fraudulent. The very idea of basing a kid's graduation on this test given all we know about it now is just indefensible."

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