By Sally Absher

Remember your Mother’s words of wisdom: you can tell a lot about a person by their associations.

At the November 3 BOE work session, Dr. McIntyre mentioned one of his associations.

McIntyre said, “The former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige was here in Knoxville last Friday and I had the privilege of spending a few hours with him. I’d been introduced to him through one of my professional networks and he’s agreed to serve as sort of an informal mentor and executive coach for me. I believe his insights and wisdom will be pretty valuable to my continued professional growth … This is a great opportunity for me, and I’m pretty excited about that.”

Well that’s pretty impressive – a former U.S. Secretary of Education mentoring our Superintendent. By the way, they were introduced through the Broad Academy network. Did a red flag just go up?

Dr. Rod Paige served as U.S. Secretary of Education from 2001 – 2005. He was instrumental in the passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) under George W. Bush. Prior to that appointment, Paige served as Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District Schools in Texas.

The “Texas Miracle” was the marketing strategy the Bush team used to propagandize public support for the law.

What was the “miracle?” During the eight years he served as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, the Texas system showed “amazing results as test scores soared and dropout rates plunged” to near zero.

Robert Kimball was an assistant principal at Sharpstown High School, one of the schools in the middle of the “Texas miracle.” His high school, consisting of mostly poor, minority and migrant students, had a freshman class of 1,000 that dwindled to fewer than 300 students by senior year – with not one reported dropout!

And Kimball’s school was not alone – in the school district that President Bush and Secretary of Education Rod Paige held up as the national showcase for accountability and the poster child for the federal NCLB law, a dozen of the city’s poorest schools reported dropout rates under one percent.

Kimball called this a “fantasy land.” Early in 2003, with the help of Dr. Kimball, a local TV station broke the news that Sharpstown High had falsified its dropout data, which led to a state audit of 16 Houston schools.

The audit found that of 5,500 teenagers who had left school, 3,000 should have been counted as dropouts but were not. How could this happen?

Schools were misclassifying, or miscoding, students as leaving for a variety of legitimate reasons: getting their GED, transferring to another school, or returning to their native country. But when interviewed during the audit, over half the students admitted they had simply dropped out.

HISD also received national attention for raising the average scores on a 10th grade statewide achievement test. Principals were judged on how well their students did on the test.


But at Houston schools, Kimball says, principals taught addition by subtraction: They raised average test scores by keeping low-performing kids from taking the test. And in some cases, that meant keeping kids from getting to the 10th grade at all.

When the story broke, Kimball said, “You need to understand the atmosphere in Houston. People are afraid. The superintendent has frequent meetings with principals…the principals are really, really scared. They have to make their numbers.

And what if they failed to make their numbers? Termination – one of many innovations championed by Dr. Paige during his tenure as superintendent from 1994 to 2001. He got rid of tenure for principals and mandated that they sign one-year contracts that allowed dismissal “without cause” and without a hearing.

But Paige didn’t just resort to punitive means to reach his ends. Principals who made their numbers earned a $5,000 bonus, district administrators up to $20,000. At Sharpstown High alone, Dr. Kimball said, $75,000 in bonus money was issued the year before the fictitious numbers were exposed.

And Paige took his dishonest ways with him when he joined the Bush Administration.  In 2006 it was reported that under his helm, Department of Education officials violated conflict of interest rules when awarding grants to states under Bush’s billion-dollar reading initiative “Reading First,” and steered contracts to favored textbook publishers.

Paige also infamously compared the National Education Association to a “terrorist organization” because of the way it was resisting many provisions of the NCLB law. Today we teachers, parents, and even students resisting the latest “reforms” under Race to the Top…”reforms” that McIntyre is embracing and promoting.

Is McIntyre counting on Paige to save him from the teachers and parents who oppose his schemes? Rod Paige has deep ties to the Bush family in Texas, and there is a twisted web of connections between Paige, McIntyre, Huffman, Haslam, and the Bush family.

Bush’s brother Jeb is the head of Foundations for Excellence in Education (FEE). FEE claims to be working on public education reform, but according to, FEE is legally laundering public money and donations to serve Bush’s political ambitions. Jeb’s education ‘non-profit’ was exposed as a lobbying outfit by this organization in 2013.

Jeb Bush pushed Haslam to appoint Kevin Huffman as TN Commissioner of Education after his election as governor in 2010. As commissioner, Huffman served on the Council of Chief State School Officers, a private trade association that was an early proponent of Common Core & public school privatization, as well as Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change,” a reform-exclusive club of Bush-serving state superintendents.

Last Thursday it was announced that state education chief Huffman is leaving his position for the private sector. We wonder if Jeb Bush has someone lined up to be his successor. No doubt the next Commissioner of Education will share the agenda and philosophy of Haslam and the reform crowd.

While he was mayor of Knoxville, Haslam ushered McIntyre in as KCS superintendent. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that McIntyre is here to sell our kids to private charter profiteers like is happening with the Achievement School District in Memphis (see references to the ‘regional support structure’ in the KCS 2020 Strategic Plan).

And now, Rod Paige is serving as a mentor and role model for our Superintendent. Grand. What could go wrong?

With the slew of recent financial debacles originating at the AJ Building, one concern is how much this is going to cost us. But don’t worry. The AJ folks assure us there is no cost (at least not financial – they didn’t address the cost to teacher morale).

Apparently, the Broad Center, which introduced McIntyre and Dr. Paige, is covering the expenses associated with Dr. Paige’s involvement.