During his sophomore year, Jose Avalos was urged by a principal to drop out of high school. The next year, his brother was told to do the same after entering the 10th grade. A third Avalos brother shared the same fate in 2009.
Administrators at Bowie High School cited excessive tardiness in their efforts to remove the siblings. But now the brothers suspect they were targeted for an entirely different reason: The district was trying to push out hundreds of low-performing sophomores to prevent them from taking accountability tests. The scheme was designed to help El Paso schools raise academic standards, qualify for more federal money and ensure the superintendent got hefty bonuses.
"I thought I was going crazy. I even doubted my sons," said the boys' mother, Grisel Avalos. She said she tried several times to keep her sons in class, but district officials "were on the side of the teachers and the principal."