Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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FOTPS Defends Texas Educators

There were some contentious moments during the Texas Senate Education Committee hearing Thursday, March 26. Many feel that the entire hearing concerned legislation that is outwardly hostile to traditional public schools. In response, Friends of Texas Public Schools (FOTPS) Founder and CEO Scott Milder submitted the following letter to members of the Texas Senate:

Dear Texas Senate,

It is unfortunate that you feel the need to vilify our Texas public schools because your top campaign contributions come from folks who are determined to see vouchers finally pass. Condemning our public schools and casting harsh accusations of widespread failure is not only disrespectful and counterproductive, it is just flat inaccurate. Doing so for the benefit of a corrupted ideology seeking profit on the backs of our taxpayers from the billions invested in public education is reprehensible.

The public schools across this great state, including those in the heart of our largest metropolitan areas, are achieving extraordinary success in spite of your toxic rhetoric and lack of support. I recognize that you don’t want to hear it or read it because this reality contradicts your political and personal agendas, but if you should have even the slightest hint of curiosity about these public school achievements to which I refer, or any respect at all for those who’ve dedicated their lives to serving Texas in the classroom, please continue reading the sourced information below.

For those of you serving in the Senate who may be reasonably minded Texans and open to objectively learning more about our schools first-hand versus trusting what you read and hear as the gospel, I invite you to invest a full day on any public school campus in Texas to experience it for yourself. I will personally make those arrangements for you if you have the courage to accept.

Scott Milder
Founder & CEO
Friends of Texas Public Schools

As part of the letter, FOTPS shared a compilation of Texas public school achievements.

March 27, 2015

The Facts about Texas Schools

Education is a hot topic at the Texas Capitol. In these discussions, lots of information is being shared, but not all of it is quite accurate. Here are some facts to help clear up the confusion on some key misrepresentations.

What is being said at the Capitol: Public schools are failing.
The fact is: Texas ranks in the top four states for graduation rates, tying with Wisconsin at 88 percent for the third highest. Only Iowa (89.7) and Nebraska (88.5) posted higher rates. But Texas is outpacing other states in the graduation rates for specific student groups: first for African-American and Hispanic students and second for economically disadvantaged students.

What is being said at the Capitol: Vouchers are needed to help poor students in failing schools.
The fact is: 95 percent of Texas schools are succeeding. Students in the few schools not meeting standards have choices in their education; the PEG (Public Education Grant) Program enables those students to move to a different school in the same district or in another district.

March 27, 2015

PolitiFact examines claims of underperforming Texas schools

PolitiFact Texas reports that a recent statement made at a school choice rally is false. At the rally held in January, George P. Bush said that “a majority of our students are trapped in schools that are underperforming.” PolitiFact examined the source of the data used by Bush and reviewed state performance ratings for Texas districts and schools.

“Bush relied on another official’s speculation about how well schools might meet disputed federal standards that don’t apply to Texas this year anyway. Meantime, 2014 state ratings indicate more than nine in 10 districts fulfilled state-set standards and more than eight in 10 campuses did so. We rate this claim False.”

March 19, 2015

Majority of Texas school districts receive Accredited status

Of 1,222 Texas school districts and charters, 95 percent received a status designation of Accredited for the 2014–15 school year, according to figures released by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). An Accredited status recognizes districts and charters as public schools that meet specific academic and financial standards.

Statuses are based on state academic accountability ratings, the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (known commonly as School FIRST), data reporting, special program effectiveness, and compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements.

Twenty school districts and 14 charter schools received an Accredited-Warned status. Seven school districts and two charter schools received an Accredited-Probation status, which means they exhibit deficiencies in academic and/or financial performance over a three-year period that must be addressed to avoid revocation of accreditation status.

Three school districts received a Not Accredited-Revoked status for the current school year. A Not Accredited-Revoked status means TEA does not recognize the district as a Texas public school following multiple years of deficiencies in academic and/or financial performance. These school districts will have an opportunity for a record review at TEA and, ultimately, a review at the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

The accreditation statuses of 15 charter schools have been left pending due to revocation hearings currently under way, ongoing TEA investigations, and/or pending litigation.

The 2014–15 accreditation status for each school district and charter school can be found on the TEA Website.

March 12, 2015

New Report: 2015 State of Texas Children

More than 7 million children live in Texas, and of those, 25 percent live in poverty and 60.3 percent are economically disadvantaged. The Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) shared these numbers in its 2015 State of Texas Children: Texas Kids Count Report.

“Texas is consistently ranked one of the nation’s worst states for children, but we can make our state the best place for kids if we enact smart public policies now,” said Ann Beeson, Executive Director of CPPP. “With 1 in 11 US kids living in Texas, the future of young Texans will determine the future of our country.”

In the report CPPP recommends several policy solutions, including expanding prekindergarten statewide to high quality, full-day programs for currently eligible students.

“Texas stands at a crossroads. As the share of low-income students in Texas public schools grows (currently 60 percent), ensuring that all students are educated—regardless of family income—is critical to the future of Texas.”

Read the full report.

March 5, 2015

Understanding the Data on Failing Campuses

According to Texas Education Agency (TEA) data, there is a clear pattern for campuses identified as academically unacceptable (AU). Most of the campuses move out of that category by the next year. By the following year, only a few remain on the AU list. By the third year, the number drops sharply, indicating that campuses are responsive to the ratings and working steadily to improve.

At present, TEA shows that 72 campuses have been rated academically unacceptable for more than two years.

TEA’s Multi-Year Academically Unacceptable Campuses, 2004 to 2014, chart shows the improvement pattern. The chart reads diagonally. For example, 201 campuses were rated academically unacceptable in 2009. By 2010, only 22 of those 201 schools were rated AU, and by 2011, only 9 were still rated unacceptable.

March 4, 2015

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