George Scott is a veteran public policy researcher whose professional career includes stints as a community-based journalist, newspaper owner, chamber of commerce president and political media-relations consultant.
He served for some 15 years as a senior researcher, and then president of a Harris County Texas based public policy research organization during which he analyzed budgets and policy initiatives of the City of Houston, Harris County, Houston I.S.D., other school districts in Harris County, Houston Community College, and the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority.
While serving as president of the organization, Scott was appointed to serve on the Board of Managers of the Harris County Hospital District, one of the largest public health hospitals in the United States. Scott’s service on the Board came after five tumultuous years of political discord and financial deterioration of the District.
Scott’s financial analysis and assessment of the issues convinced him that the Harris County Commissioners Court was primarily responsible for the financial crisis that had been created, an assessment which disappointed and frustrated the Harris County Judge who appointed him to the Board.
As a Board member, Scott helped lead a 16-month effort to restore financial stability to the Hospital District. He produced detailed position papers, openly challenged the County budget officer’s rosier assessments of the situation, and appeared before a high-level committee including the organization’s leader of the Greater Houston Partnership to warn it of the dire consequences that were about to happen.
“I told them the truth. I told them that Houston was about to open a downtown baseball stadium where all the important politicians and corporate leaders would gather to congratulate themselves on their vision of downtown revitalization,” Scott said. “And at almost the exact same time, the Hospital District would be voting to impose draconian, massive cuts in public healthcare and they should anticipate a justified level of racial strife unparalleled in the history of Houston.”
It was a bruising political battle that was highly publicized. In the end, the Commissioners Court relented and restored financial security to the District.
With this mission accomplished, Scott, who it is clear would have either been fired or not reappointed to the Board by the Commissioners Court, resigned his volunteer position having achieved the results he believed were essential to the public and political health of Houston and Harris County.
However, it was during his work at the research organization that Scott became particularly interested in Texas public education accountability.
In what was viewed at the time as an ‘odd-couple’ pairing, Scott teamed with the president of the Houston Federation of Teachers to come to the aid of a beleaguered inner-city African American principal in Houston I.S.D. to protect his work at Wesley Elementary School.
Scott and HFT president Gayle Fallon responded forcefully to defend principal Thaddeus Lott’s campus administration and teachers from wrongful allegations by the Houston I.S.D. administrators that high student performance among the school’s at-risk population was due to cheating.
The Houston Chronicle detailed an April 1991 administrative raid on the campus in a story in which Fallon and Scott were featured defending Lott. It was publicity from this article that attracted the attention of the ABC Prime Time Live news show.
The executive producer of the show was struck by the fact that the president of a group financed by major corporations, and the president of a teachers’ organization could work so closely and effectively together on behalf of an inner city, minority principal at a campus that had over 95% at-risk students.
The end result of this effort was a major feature story on Prime Time Live. Lott and his staff were totally exonerated. The Houston I.S.D. superintendent “moved on” as the saying goes. Lott was allowed to create one of the first public charter schools in Houston I.S.D. in Acres Homes in Houston.
Scott said he learned three important lessons from that situation over 17 years ago.
“The first is that knee-jerk conservative mantras attacking those who represent classroom teachers in their organizations are counterproductive. The second is that public school administrators are capable of imposing unspeakable injustice and burden upon campus and classroom educators in the trenches of public education. The third is that school boards often degenerate into cheerleading squads for high-level administrators. These boards are often devoid of proactive leadership, and are responsive to administrative accountability in a genuine sense only when crisis erupts,” Scott said.
This entire situation at Wesley Elementary School should have and could have been handled at the school board level. Yet, it took the president of a business group and the president of a teachers’ union to proactively create a political environment where the outstanding work of this inner city principal would not be destroyed, he said.
“My work at Wesley Elementary School was a life-changing experience. Public education accountability became my primary research interest,” Scott said.
“I was a strong advocate of the accountability testing program in the early days of TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills). The philosophical premises were right and I believed the initial round of data produced by the Texas Education Agency,” Scott said.
Because Scott was recognized as a strong supporter of the accountability movement and was a routine source to both local and national news media on the subject, TEA Education Commissioner Mike Moses appointed Scott to his Accountability Advisory Committee.
Scott served on that committee with two future Secretaries of Education – Dr. Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings (currently holds the post). Another member of that panel was Sandy Kress, a primary author of the No Child Left Behind national legislation patterned after the Texas system.
Armed with easier access to ‘important’ people and given new insight into raw data, Scott became an outspoken opponent of the State’s accountability system.
By 1998, his organization had published two reports on the system, thereby becoming the first organization in the United States (news or otherwise) to begin offering an empirical based analysis of TEA data.
When Commissioner Moses balked at providing additional data to Scott, he resigned from accountability position. He subsequently became one of the fiercest critics of the so-called ‘Texas Educational Miracle’.
He is noted for his custom-ordered public information requests that generate data in formats that are much more amenable to genuine performance analysis.
The National Academy of Sciences invited Scott to participate in a conference in Irvine, California in 1999 where educators from Texas and Kentucky gathered to praise their accomplishments.
It was at this meeting that the Rand Corporation’s senior education researcher Dr. Stephen Klein presented informal findings to the group that questioned the academic integrity of Texas’ assertions of great academic progress by at-risk minority students in Texas based upon TAAS.
While certainly not an outgrowth of Scott’s earlier reports, the Rand Corporation’s informal findings presented at that California conference validated Scott’s concerns from a year earlier.
Outraged by Dr. Klein’s statement at the conference and challenging its conclusion, Texas officials lobbied for the Rand Corporation to pursue a more rigorous study. The organization did. A year later, the national organization issued a formal report concluding that Texas’ assertions of dramatic academic progress in the era of the Texas Educational Miracle could not be validated by independent comparative analysis.
Later, Scott provided the New York Times with raw data he had obtained in an open records request from the Houston I.S.D. The Times spent two months or more independently evaluating the raw data. Subsequently, it produced a major news story further questioning the integrity of Texas’ claims.
While no longer funded by an organization, Scott has maintained his research efforts. The primary foundation of that effort has been to obtain custom-ordered raw data on student academic performance.
The latest round of data that Scott has gathered will become the reporting foundation of George Scott Reports.
“There has been a dramatic deterioration of the academic integrity of the modern classroom particularly in math instruction,” Scott said. “Parents should understand that even their ‘good’ students are becoming more and more at risk as every academic year passes.”
“I have started GeorgeScottReports.com as a service to parents,” Scott said. “If parents find it useful and I gain positive feedback from the effort, I’ll keep this going. If it falls on deaf ears, I won’t,” Scott said.
“I have been at this for a long time. I have experience and knowledge that I know can help parents confront the overwhelming challenges they face in today’s deteriorating public education system,” he said.
“The days of parents being able to depend upon high level administrators, school board members and politicians of any persuasion to represent the interests of their children have long passed,” Scott said.
“I have not been active on the speaker’s circuit in several years. However, when I was I used one line that is even more true today than it has ever been,” Scott said. “It is this: ‘There are 3 great victims of what has become of the tragic disintegration of public education: the students, the teachers and the taxpayers.”
That is the exact order of the priority of GeorgeScottReports.com.