Thursday, March 3, 2016

How Well Is Texas Doing With Public Education?

One of my fellow board members of Make Education a Priority shared a report with me that evaluated schools across the country based on six different criteria and then assigned an overall grade for public education in each state.  The report, published by the Network for Public Education (NPE), an organization founded by Diane Ravitch, can be found by clicking here

The truly sad part of this report is that no state graded higher than a C overall.  While some states did better in one or more of the criteria, the overall ratings reflect the deficiencies confronting public education today.  They also point out the challenges based on a set of criteria established by NPE during the evaluation process.  Note that the study methodology is outlined quite well in the document itself.

The six evaluation criteria and Texas’ grade for each are as follows. 
  •           No High Stakes Testing; Texas Grade - C
  •           Professionalization of Teaching; Texas Grade – F
  •           Resistance to Privatization; Texas Grade - F
  •           School Finance; Texas Grade – D
  •           Spend Taxpayer Resources Wisely; Texas Grade – D
  •           Chance for Success; Texas Grade – F

With these as the backdrop, the overall grade given to the public education system in Texas is an F.  While I applaud the intent of trying to evaluate a public system that is under attack on many fronts, both at the national and state level, it seems to me that this evaluation serves to “feed” those who are behind efforts to tear down our public education system.  I personally would like to see a greater emphasis on actions that will reverse the trends and start to improve grades in each of the categories.

It is worth noting that some of the changes in public education are grounded in actions or efforts originated in Texas.  For example, Texas adopted the first state mandated criterion-referenced test in 1980.  The proliferation of high stakes testing occurred under the administration of President George W. Bush.  And the impetus to reverse what had become a devastating use of high stakes testing was initiated by Texas Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment (TAMSA), resulting in a reduction in end-of-course exams from 15 to 5, approved in the 83th Legislative Session in 2013.

The continued use of a single letter grade to assess performance at a campus level or at a district level does little to define ways to address the problem.  It is important, therefore, that the grades assigned to the six criteria and to the State of Texas as a whole simply serve as a reference point for communities, students and staff, and local businesses.  Grades should be used as a starting point in defining actions to improve overall performance.  Take time to review the data but, more importantly, take time to engage in those activities that Make Education a Priority. The 5.3 million Texas public education students are counting on all of us to do so!

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