Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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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

Checking the Graduation Numbers

TribTalk columnist Michael Marder examined the state’s high school graduation rates in the recent post “Stop doubting Texas’ graduation numbers.” He reviewed the Texas Education Agency’s recent report on the Class of 2013 and prepared his own analysis. As Marder concludes:

“Maybe the reason for the general disbelief is that good graduation rates could ruin a good story—that our schools are failing, that they’re inequitable, that they need radical overhaul, that not everyone is meant to go to college. But arguing over details and doubting the professionals who’ve done their jobs detract from how Texas stacks up against the other states… .”

October 23, 2014

Permanent School Fund Reaches Record High Value

A recent report shows the state’s Permanent School Fund is now the largest educational endowment in the country. The Fund’s $37.7 billion value as of June 30, 2014, surpasses that of the Harvard University endowment which stood at $36.4 billion at the same time.

According to Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, advancements in hydraulic fracturing technology are helping fuel the gains in the Fund.

A distribution from the Permanent School Fund is made every year to help purchase instructional materials and pay a portion of education costs in each school district. During the 2014–15 biennium, the Fund is distributing about $1.7 billion to Texas schools and anticipates distributing more than $2 billion during the next biennium. The endowment also provides a guarantee for bonds issued by local school districts and charter schools.

October 1, 2014

PDK/Gallup Poll, Part Two

A majority of Americans oppose using student standardized test scores to evaluate teachers, according to the PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. The second part of this year’s annual report, which was released this week, covers teacher quality and student experiences.

Americans support more rigorous entrance requirements into teacher preparation programs, and more than 70 percent think new teachers should spend at least a year under the guidance of a certified teacher before assuming sole responsibility for their own classes.

In response to questions about school reform issues, 77 percent of respondents feel there should be more focus on preparing students for career fields with better prospects for employment. However, Americans are split on encouraging students to choose a career specialty in high school vs. placing more emphasis on attending college.

Visit pdkpoll.org to view the poll results, including the first report on Common Core State Standards, standardized testing, international comparisons, school governance, and school choice.

September 17, 2014

Districts Receive High Marks on Financial Report

More than 98 percent of Texas public school districts earned passing grades in the 2013–14 financial accountability ratings. The Texas Education Agency report shows that almost 89 percent of districts received superior achievement status. For charter schools, 78.4 percent earned passing grades, with 37 percent receiving a superior rating.

2013-14 Rating
Above Standard838.10%5326.24%
Suspended Data Quality20.20%20.99%

The rating system, known as School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST), is based on 20 established financial indicators, such as operating expenditures for instruction, tax collection rates, student-teacher ratios, and long-term debt.

View the FIRST ratings for all districts and charters, including ratings from previous years.

September 12, 2014

News Roundup: Ruling in School Finance Trial

Last week, District Court Judge John Dietz released his final ruling in the school finance trial, saying the Texas school finance system is unconstitutional. If you haven’t had a chance to read all of the details of the ruling, here are some links to get you caught up.

The Texas Tribune published an overview of the judgment, which includes links to Dietz’s remarks and court findings.

The Texas Observer also included links to the court findings in its article “Everything you need to know about the Texas School Finance Ruling.”

Catherine Clark, recently retired from the Texas Association of School Boards, offered insights on the state’s school finance system in an interview with the Texas Tribune, and Bill Ratliff, a former lieutenant governor, also shared his thoughts on the school funding system in an interview with KLTV.

September 4, 2014

PDK/Gallup Poll: Majority Supports Local Control, Opposes Common Core

More than 50 percent of Americans believe local school boards should have the greatest influence in deciding what is taught in public schools. This finding is part of the annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. In this year’s poll, 60 percent of Americans said they oppose the Common Core State Standards, citing concerns that the standards will limit the flexibility that teachers have to teach what they think is best.

The report is the first of two to be published this year. The report released this week focuses on Common Core State Standards, student standardized testing, international comparisons, school governance, and school choice. The second, to be posted in October, will cover preparing and evaluating teachers, support for reforming America’s schools, student well-being, and preparing students for college and careers.

Visit pdkpoll.org to view the poll results.

August 21, 2014

Teacher Workload Demands

Teachers need more time to hone their skills, according to a recent article in The Atlantic. The article reviews Elizabeth Green’s new book, Building a Better Teacher, which explores the professional development needs of effective teachers. However, as the article points out, US teachers spend twice the hours in the classroom as their counterparts in other countries, resulting in teacher burnout, declining teacher retention rates, and lower student performance.

Teaching is all-consuming, and that absorption is part of the joy of the job. But if teaching is to be a profession of the mind (as well as of the heart) that retains top talent and delivers results on the same level that other countries boast, the people who spend hours with our children in the classroom also need what they currently don’t get: the hours with peers and mentors that are essential to improving their craft.

August 18, 2014

Accountability Video Now Available in Spanish

The Texas Education Agency has released a Spanish version of the video on the state’s accountability system. Also available in English, the video is aimed at helping parents and community members understand how schools, districts, and charters are evaluated.

August 13, 2014