Arne Duncan Rick Perry Texas School SystemWhy is Secretary of Education Arne Duncan down on the Texas school system, and more pointedly, Rick Perry — especially when Texas students reportedly scored right around the national averages in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress? That is the question being asked by Time’s Andrew Rotherman.

Time also points out that an August report released by the group that administers the ACT college-admissions exam, reveals Texas high school graduates barely trail the national averages for college readiness.

It is for this reason Time’s Rotherman found Duncan’s revelation on Bloomberg Television that the Texas school system “has really struggled” under Rick Perry, to be particularly odd. During the interview Duncan stated that “far too few of their [Texas'] high school graduates are actually prepared to go on to college,” and added that he feels “very, very badly for the children” in Texas.

Really?

That’s when Rotherman decided to probe Duncan, who, ironically, is the former head of the Chicago school system.

“Texas has challenges. The record speaks for itself. Lots of other states have challenges too. But there is a lot of hard work that needs to be done in Texas and a lot of children who need a chance to get a great education” Duncan stated.

But what record? The record that shows students in Texas perform better than those in Illinois?  Time pointed out to Duncan that NAEP revealed Texas’ fourth- and eighth-graders greatly outperformed their peers in Chicago in reading and math.

“I would have to look at all the details, but there are real challenges in Texas. And like every other state, they should be addressed openly and honestly as in Illinois, as in Chicago, and everywhere else” was Duncan’s only reply. Time adds:

True, the national averages aren’t great, but Texas is right there with the pack. So why is Duncan dissing the Lone Star State? Its minority students outperform minority students in Chicago, albeit by smaller margins. And with a high school graduation rate of about 73%, Texas may be slightly below the national average, but it’s doing a lot better than Chicago, which only graduates about 56% of its students.

But the bottom line is that although schools in Texas are no great shakes, they’re hardly the nation’s worst.

The timing of Duncan’s unsubstantiated accusation seems a bit too convenient. Perhaps administration officals are putting 2012 political aspirations before the truth where it comes to our nation’s students.