Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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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

2014 Accountability Ratings Released

The Texas Education Agency released today ratings for districts and campuses for 2014.   The full news release is here.

 

August 8, 2014

TEA Provides Accountability Video

A new video explaining the accountability system has been released by the Texas Education Agency.   Learn what goes into the annual ratings of schools, districts, and charters.

See the video here.

 

 

August 7, 2014

2013 Grads Set a New Record

The class of 2013 set a new record for on-time graduation rate, reaching 88 percent, according to the Texas Education Agency.   The previous record high was 87.7 percent set by the class of 2012.   This is the sixth consecutive year the rate has increased.

See the TEA news release here.

August 6, 2014

Stand Up 4 Texas Public Schools

The new issue of Texas Lone Star Magazine has a special message: public schools are worth standing up for! In this special edition, you’ll read about the good news coming out of public schools and find out how you can share it.

Cover of July 2014 Texas Lone Star with little girl holding American flags

July 22, 2014

Teacher Pay Lags; Class Size Grows

Texas public school teachers are caught in a squeeze between state funding cuts which keep salaries low and increasing numbers of students who are economically disadvantaged and English-language learners.

Read the latest article in Texas Tribune’s 10-part series.

 

July 11, 2014

Graduation Rates Deserve Celebration

Anne Foster, executive director of Parents for Public Schools and a former school board member in Richardson ISD, provided this article:

Like high schools across the state and nation, North Texas campuses have finished graduation season. As a former school board member in one of those districts, I can say there was no more meaningful experience than handing out diplomas to bright-eyed students as they crossed the stage.

It is, after all, the moment of success — for the students, for their parents and families, for their high school and for their school district. It’s the end goal, the one that can lead to other goals, but the one that too many students never reach.

Over the past few decades, it was difficult to know what the graduation rates really were — as best we could tell they were dismal. They also were hard to track.

For example, students get “lost” when they drop out and then come back to a different school, or when they move around, or when they take longer than the norm to graduate. In addition, schools used vastly different tracking mechanisms, making it difficult to obtain consistent and solid data.

In 2008, the federal government created a new calculation system that has helped schools report data the same way and gain more consistency.

This year the news was good — graduation rates are up nationally 10 percent over the past decade. The improved rate, based on 2012 data, is 80 percent, a level not seen since the 1970s. Most of the gains have been made by black and Hispanic students, and it is encouraging to see the gap between minority and Anglo students decrease.

The progress results from intentional efforts that have hit the problem head on: There has been more of an awareness of the need to increase graduation rates. Schools have become more accountable for the numbers of students who graduate. They have worked one on one with students in danger of not graduating. Schools with the most challenges have been given additional support.

Although it will be challenging, hopes are high that by 2020, we will see the graduation rate at 90 percent, a goal set by America’s Promise, a group founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. It may take a focus on the social and emotional learning needs of students, as well as stronger parent engagement.

Other states could follow Texas’ lead on policy that gives school districts financial incentives to follow up with students who have been labeled dropouts. This policy may be why the graduation rate for low-income students in Texas is higher than the national average.

You didn’t hear the good news about improved graduation rates? I didn’t hear much fanfare about it either, and it got me to thinking: Have we become so accustomed to all the bad news we hear about our public schools that we aren’t even capable of hearing and receiving the good news?

So many people have joined in the chorus of “our failing schools” and are quick to point out the flaws — of students, teachers and schools. And yet we allow our public schools to take on all of the challenges of our society — poverty, bullying, children with incarcerated parents, children coming to school without speaking English, mobility — issues not created by schools but willingly absorbed by them.

Then instead of supporting and helping those schools, we criticize them, all the while not providing the necessary resources to do the job we ask of them. If we can’t celebrate good news like improved graduation rates, then it is we who are failing. Surely our schools deserve better than that.

This article also appeared in the Dallas Morning News on June 30, 2014.

 

July 1, 2014

Comments on Education Matters

Recently, the Texas Tribune interviewed a long-time figure in Texas public education.   See the interview at:     https://www.texastribune.org/plus/edu/vol-1/no-7/q-mike-moses/

 

June 30, 2014