I recently read an article from the Houston Chronicle titled “Fixing Texas’ failing education system is critical for employers”. The article was published in the March 17 edition of the Chronicle but, like most major market newspapers today, unless you have a subscription to the paper or to their digital edition, it is very difficult to actually read the article. Through perseverance and with an assist from a trustee in the Houston area, I was able to read the article.
The headline is certainly eye catching and the type of headline that sells newspapers, but is it reality? Is the system failing or do we have just a few schools that are challenged and require assistance and collaboration with stakeholders? And when was the last time that the author of the article, Chris Tomlinson, visited a public school? In fact, that same question could be asked about others who were quoted in the article.
I can’t disagree with the basic premise. Viewed from a different angle, the article asserts, and rightfully so, that a quality public education system is essential to the growth and continued vitality of our economy. While constitutionally mandated (as noted in the article), the public education system acknowledges its role in a vibrant Texas economy through delivery of a number of programs that challenge students to succeed and to excel. Whether offering programs like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), academies in fields such as medical and engineering, or a Career and Technical Education (CTE) track, Texas public schools consistently focus on what is required to meet the ever changing needs of a diverse student population.
The article starts out by challenging the reader to visit a third grade and observe the reading capability of that third grade class. I certainly do not argue or disagree with the importance of being able to read at that level. But I do wonder where those who criticize reading results are doing anything to help address the problem. For example, as a print media, what is the Houston Chronicle doing to promote on grade level or higher reading skills, not just in third grade but across the elementary grade spectrum?. Is this maybe an opportunity for media companies, many of whom are faced with declining readership, to tackle new and aggressive ways to engage young students’ minds and to promote reading?
This should not be about documenting the problems in some schools; that’s the easy part. Instead, it should be about what stakeholders, including print media and Texas businesses, are doing to understand and then address the challenges these districts face. In fairness, the article cites that a contributing factor in falling short in meeting employers’ expectations is a reduction in business apprentice programs. So while the business community expresses concerns that the public education system is falling short of expectations, what is it doing, in turn, to help address the problem?
In truth, there is no single answer to address the problems and what the author labelled as a failing public education system. But the article by Mr. Tomlinson does point out the importance of all parties, including districts, businesses, community members and the legislature, working together to address the issue. Remember, it’s easy to lay the blame at someone else’s door step. What is needed is a collaborative effort involving all stakeholders to Make Education a Priority for the nearly 5.3 million Texas public education students.