Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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School Funding Top Concern in PDK/Gallup Poll

For the 15th consecutive year, Americans say lack of funding is the number-one problem confronting local schools, according to the recent PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. Respondents also continued a decades-long trend of giving good marks to their local schools, with 48 percent rating them an “A” or “B.” Parents who rate their schools an “A” or “B” report that the schools communicate more effectively with them.

The public disagrees on what they view as the main focus of public education. PDK found 45 percent of respondents believe the goal should be preparing students academically, while 25 percent feel the focus should be on preparing students for work and 26 percent on preparing them to be good citizens.

Americans are fairly evenly split on many questions related to educational standards: 45 percent say changes in educational standards are for the better, while 51 percent say the changes have made things worse. Fewer than half of Americans (46 percent) say the educational standards in their public schools are about right, and 43 percent say expectations for students are too low.

Since 1969, the PDK/Gallup Poll has been a respected and independent voice reporting on public opinion about public education in the United States. The complete report and highlights are available on the PDK Website.

September 26, 2016

Are Education Savings Accounts the Equivalent of Vouchers?

If you ask Texas public school supporters, they are, and they would divert money from already cash-strapped school districts to private schools without the same level of accountability.

A plan to move to education savings accounts is gaining support among conservative legislators. It would allow students to use their account to pay for private schools, tutors, home-school curriculum, or college credit courses.

Read “Education savings accounts same as vouchers, critics say,” by Julie Chang (Austin American-Statesman) to learn more.

September 15, 2016

A New School Year Brought Transformation for Smith Elementary

This back-to-school story, Grit and Grace—Secret Ingredients for School Transformation by Raise Your Hand Texas, focuses on the challenges of transforming Cedric C. Smith Elementary School in Magnolia ISD. The school suffered from a bad reputation brought on by poor academic performance and the stagnant culture of the school’s staff.

When Principal Letty Roman came on board, it was close to the start of the school year, but she was committed to changing the status quo. She met with some resistance, but her work, along with that of the Smith Elementary staff, eventually helped the school earn the most academic distinctions of any school in Magnolia ISD.

The mission of Raise Your Hand Texas is to strengthen and improve public schools for all Texas students.

August 24, 2016

Texas Public School Leaders Make Sound Strategic and Fiscal Decisions

In Misconceptions: Schools Don’t Spend Wisely, the nonprofit Raise Your Hand Texas tackled the common misconception that public schools don’t do a good job of managing public funds.

The fact is, all Texas districts have to compensate educators and other personnel (and that’s a big expense). They also spend a significant portion of their funding on nonnegotiable district operations (food service and transportation, to name a couple). How much is left for districts to spend on their own local initiatives and programs? Read the story to get some perspective on what  percentage of district spending is discretionary and what districts do with those funds.

The mission of Raise Your Hand Texas is to strengthen and improve public schools for all Texas students.

August 4, 2016

STAAR Passing Rates Rise for Students in Grades 3–8

Following four years of stagnant test scores, Texas students in grades 3–8 had higher passing rates on 13 of 17 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exams based on 2015 passing standards. Higher passing standards were put in place in 2016.

“Student success on STAAR is generally up this year when compared to last year’s standards, which reflects the day-in, day-out hard work of teachers in the classroom throughout our state,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath.

TEA has posted the results.

July 20, 2016

What’s Right with Texas Public Schools

Do you think you have an accurate picture of Texas public schools?

Chances are the headlines you read or news you hear focuses on the bad or sensational news, rather than the good work done daily by district leaders, educators, and students. In her column, “Just the Facts, Ma’am,” featured in Texas Lone Star magazine, TASB Associate Executive Director Karen Strong offers seldom-seen evidence of the excellence of Texas public schools.

If you’d like to read more good news about schools, check out the entire July issue. It’s our annual “good news” issue.


July 14, 2016

Superintendents on Public Ed Funding: You Can Pay Me Now, or Pay Me Later

In the commentary, “Everything is Bigger in Texas—Except Public Education,” Alamo Heights ISD Superintendent Kevin Brown calls the current state of school finance a “You can pay me now or pay me later” proposition. He and a cadre of other superintendents note that Texas has a lot to brag about, with the noteworthy exception of the state’s effort to fund schools. “Regardless of how you crunch the numbers and adjust for the cost of living or what year of data you use, Texas always ranks near the bottom nationally in funding,” Brown writes.

While Texas boasts a high graduation rate and many graduates are ready for higher education or careers in spite of low funding, Brown says, “…We can no longer fool ourselves into believing…that we can sustain those results over time or that we shouldn’t do even better.”

Brown adds that while the Texas Supreme Court recently ruled that the correlation between more money and better education are uncertain, decades of school finance rulings and legislation brought about a school finance system based entirely on that correlation, complete with the redistribution of wealth from “rich” districts to “poor” districts to the tune of $1.5 billion per year.

July 12, 2016

US Schools Are Steadily Improving

In “America’s Not-So-Broken Education System,” Jack Schneider says that “. . . one can see that across many generations, the schools have slowly and steadily improved.” Schneider, an author and professor of education, examines some of the arguments made by education reformers.

“. . . it is important not to confuse inequity with ineptitude. History may reveal broken promises around racial and economic justice. But it does not support the story of a broken education system. Instead, the long view reveals a far less dramatic truth—that most aspects of public education have gotten better, generation by generation.

The evolution of America’s school system has been slow. But providing a first-rate public education to every child in the country is a monumental task. Today, 50 million US students attend roughly 100,000 schools and are educated by over 3 million teachers. The scale alone is overwhelming. And the aim of schooling is equally ambitious. Educators are not just designing gadgets or building websites. At this phenomenal scale, they are trying to make people—a fantastically difficult task for which there is no quick fix, no simple solution, no ‘hack.’”

June 27, 2016

The Long-Term Return on Investing in Public Education

“Future prosperity, both for individuals and for society depends on education,” says M. Ray Perryman, president and chief executive officer of The Perryman Group. And he has crunched the numbers to prove it. In a recent guest column, Perryman shared his calculations to determine the long-term return per dollar of state spending on education.

“What if I told you about an investment that would yield almost $50 for every $1 you invested? What if on top of that, it improved lives, increased volunteerism, and otherwise paid major dividends to individuals and society? A ‘no brainer,’ right? Similar logic applies to strategic investments by the State in public education, and it’s irrational and shortsighted to ignore the tremendous return on this particular investment of taxpayer dollars.”

June 21, 2016

‘School Funding Responsibility Is Squarely on Legislators’

So, what happens now that the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that the school finance system is constitutional? That’s the question many people are asking. And the answer: The ball is back in the Legislature’s court. In the June issue of Texas Lone Star magazine, the Texas Association of School Boards urges Texans take action to move our state’s leaders to address school funding. Read more.

June 9, 2016