Facts and insights about Texas public schools

Random header image... Refresh for more!

Low-Income Students New Majority in Public Schools

A new research bulletin published by the Southern Education Foundation found that the nation’s public education reached a defining moment in 2013: More than half of students in public schools come from low-income families. According to the report, this has been a steadily growing trend since 1989, when low-income students accounted for less than 32 percent of enrollment.

The largest proportions of low-income students are located in the South and West. Texas ranked sixth (60 percent) out of the 21 states with the highest proportions of students living in poverty.

February 27, 2015

Texas Graduation Rate Continues to Surpass National Average

The latest figures released by the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics show that the Texas Class of 2013 high school graduation rate was 88 percent, outpacing the national rate of 81 percent. This marks the third consecutive year that the state’s high school graduation rate exceeded the national average.

The Texas graduation rate hit 88 percent for the second consecutive year, tying Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Wisconsin for the nation’s second highest ranking. Only Iowa at 90 percent posted a higher graduation rate for the Class of 2013.

To view a state-by-state breakdown of graduation rates for the Class of 2013, visit http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_2010-11_to_2012-13.asp.

February 26, 2015

Opinion: Vouchers Are Not Good Policy

The numbers on school vouchers don’t add up, according to Houston attorneys Kelly Frels and David Thompson. In a recent editorial in the Houston Chronicle, Frels and Thompson raised concerns about proposed legislation that would provide vouchers equal to 60 percent of the average cost of a public school education.

“The problem is that the state doesn’t contribute 60 percent of the average cost of a student’s education. The state only pays an average of about 45 percent of the total; the remainder is paid by local property taxes.

In many Texas school districts, the state share is considerably below average. In some “Robin Hood” districts, state funding is almost nonexistent. These districts actually give local property tax revenues to the state. If the state each year contributes only $1,200 on average for every student in the Houston Independent School District, why would it make sense for the state to give a $4,000 voucher for the student to leave HISD? Isn’t a child attending HISD worth as much to the state as the state would be willing to spend on a voucher?”

Read the full column.

February 25, 2015

A Perspective on School Board Service

Andra Self, president of the Texas Association of School Boards and Lufkin ISD school board member, offers her insights on board service.

“In every school district in the state, citizens decide to volunteer to stand for a public vote and then to serve – without pay – to help ensure that our public schools do their best to serve our communities, our families, most importantly, our children.

These community servants do not consider students in their schools to be faceless numbers. They know the students and families affected by the decisions of the board. They see the children growing up, moving from grade to grade. They have relationships with the people of the district.

That immediate proximity and direct accountability is exactly what makes the locally elected school boards the best place for decisions about our schools. This structure means that the schools are continually improved to serve their particular students in the best manner possible.”

Read the full column.

February 7, 2015

New Report: The Iceberg Effect

In American public schools today, the rate of childhood poverty is five times greater than it is in Finland, according to a new report released by the Horace Mann League (HML) and the National Superintendents Roundtable. The report, School Performance in Context: The Iceberg Effect, shows that the United States (US) remains the wealthiest nation with the most highly educated workforce compared to other G-7 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom) plus Finland and China. However, the US also reflects high levels of economic inequity and social stress compared to the other nations, which are related to student performance.

The study is a unique analysis, which for the first time compares K–12 education internationally on an array of social and economic indicators, not just test scores. The goal was to provide a clearer snapshot of each country’s performance, including its wealth, diversity, community safety, and support for families and schools.

January 28, 2015

STAAR End-of-Course Passing Rate Hits 90 Percent

Latest figures from the Texas Education Agency show that 90.3 percent of students in the Class of 2015 have successfully completed all exams required for graduation. Under House Bill 5 passed by the Texas Legislature in 2013, students are required to pass five end-of-course exams along with their courses to receive a high school diploma. The Class of 2015 is the first graduating class under the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing requirements.

Students will have one more opportunity to take the STAAR end-of-course assessments before graduation this spring. As a point of comparison, 90.2 percent of students in the Class of 2005—the first required to take four Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) exams for high school graduation—passed all tests at the time of graduation.

January 21, 2015

Texas Schools Making Progress

“Texas schools have made remarkable progress in very important areas, and everyone should know about it,” says Michael Marder, professor of physics and co-director of UTeach at The University of Texas at Austin. In the Winter 2014 issue of the Association of Texas Professional Educator’s ATPE News, Marder reviews assessment numbers by subgroups, showing that the state’s students are making gains. He says that overall rankings can be deceptive:

“Why do Texas students overall rank much lower than both the state’s low-income students and its well-off students? The answer is that Texas has a particularly large share of low-income students, around 50 percent. In judging the effectiveness of teachers and schools, it is only fair to take that into account, and the way to do that is to pay more attention to the rankings of subgroups such as low-income students than to overall rankings.”

This is a statistical phenomenon Jim Hull, senior policy analyst at the National School Board Association’s Center for Public Education, explains in his article “High School Achievement Paradox.” As Hull writes, “Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t always tell the whole truth.”

January 20, 2015

Vouchers Back on the Table

School vouchers will be a key topic again this legislative session.  News Radio 1200 WOAI reported on a new bill introduced in advance of the session that would “allow public property tax money to ‘follow the child’ and help pay tuition into a private school.”

The proposed legislation comes with the release of a report by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Texas Association of Business. The Austin-American Statesman editorial board commented on the report: “The result is a study that cherry picks data from existing school choice programs around the country, including an experiment in Milwaukee, Wis., that the Laffer report uses to suggest Texas could cut its existing drop-out rate in half. Hogwash. The evidence from educational research is far from clear that school choice programs improve student outcomes. While the state may save money initially by spending 40 percent less than it already spends under our current inadequate public school funding, there might be high costs down the road.”

January 16, 2015

Texas Schools: More Students, More Diversity

The state’s public schools are seeing a steady increase in the number of students they serve. Enrollment has increased by more than 59 percent in the past 26 years. Total enrollment for 2013–14 was 5,151,925—a 19 percent increase, or more than 823,897 students, from 2003–04.

Texas schools also are growing faster than the national average. According to national figures, public school enrollment in Texas increased by 20.1 percent in 2001–11, which is more than five times the increase in the United States (3.9 percent) over the same time period.

The TEA report, Enrollment in Texas Public Schools 2013–14, shows that schools are serving more ethnically and culturally diverse populations. In 2013–14, the student body was 51.8 percent Hispanic, 29.5 percent white, 12.7 percent African American, 3.7 percent Asian, and 1.9 percent multiracial. The percentage of students receiving bilingual or English as a Second Language (ESL) instructional services increased from 14 percent in 2003–04 to 17.1 percent in 2013–14.

December 8, 2014

An Inside Look at the Job of a Teacher

What it really means to be a public school educator today,” a recent article in The Washington Post, offers a teacher’s perspective on what educators face in their day-to-day work. The post is a response to Time magazine’s cover story, “Rotten Apples,” on efforts to reduce or end job protections for teachers.

Other articles of interest: “Teacher to parents: About THAT kid (the one who hits, disrupts and influences YOUR kid)” and “You think you know what teachers do. Right? Wrong.” Texas Public Radio also posted a roundtable discussion on what makes a great teacher.

November 21, 2014