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FEATURE Smoke and Miracles Who really benefits in the accountability system? BY EMILY PYLE Since her appointment in January, Shirley Neeley, Governor Rick Perry’s new education commissioner, has made dozens of public appearances. Her main task is to stump for proposals of Perry’s that could come up if and when the governor calls a school finance special session later this spring. Since Perry is thinking bighis proposals include vouchers \(or some other kind as well as relaxed certification standards for teachers and pay incentives based largely on standardized test scoresNeeley will need all her considerable charm to sell his initiatives to a skeptical education community. So far, she’s taken the task on with the pep of a cheerleader. And the governor, in return, has been a cheerleader for Neeley. In particular, Perry has dwelt on Neeley’s achievements as superintendent of Galena Park ISD. In nine years, in a district that is mostly r Ma, \\ minority t and poor, Neeley almost doubled her students’ scores on the Texas center of the state’s accountability system. \(The TAAS was replaced by the more difficult Texas Assessment of Knowledge press office, Neeley’s story is a fable for the accountability age. And indeed it is, but the deeper you look into the numbers behind it, the more troubling this fable’s moral becomes. Neeley is more than just a missionary for Texas’ accountability system. She has been 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 4/09/04