Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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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

First STAAR Class Well on its Way

This year’s junior class is already well on its way to graduation next year!  The Texas Education Agency announced this week that 81% of the Class of 2015 has already passed all five required STAAR end-of-course exams — before getting to their senior year.

This is the first class graduating under the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing requirements.

At this same point during the state’s prior testing program (the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills or TAKS), 28 percent of students in the first class graduating under TAKS had not successfully completed their testing requirements for graduation at the end of their junior year.

Also, of the 19% of the juniors still short of the state requirement, roughly half need to pass just one more end-of-course exam.

See the TEA release here.

June 13, 2014

Roadmap for Reforming School Discipline

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center announced the release of a new report today that includes more than 60 recommendations for improving school discipline.  The findings are based on more than 700 interviews over a three year period with leaders in education, health, law enforcement and juvenile justice.

More information available at:   http://csgjusticecenter.org/youth/press-releases/council-of-state-governments-justice-center-releases-roadmap-for-reforming-school-discipline/

June 3, 2014

Passing Rates Stable on STAAR

The Texas Education Agency reported that for the third consecutive year STAAR passing rates for grades 3-8 are relatively stable.  See the agency news release here:  http://www.tea.state.tx.us/news_release.aspx?id=25769811685

 

May 30, 2014

School District Locator

Here’s a link to TEA’s revised and improved School District Locator:

http://www.tea.state.tx.us/School_District_Locator/School_District_Locator/

 

 

May 13, 2014

State Support Declining for School Facilities

The percent of state revenues to bond debt expenditures in the debt service fund has substantially declined from about 31.9% in fiscal year 2002 to 11.2% in fiscal year 2013, according to a report by the Texas Association of School Business Officials (TASBO).

See the report:

http://www.tasbo.org/resources/business-news-list/1231-state-policy-makers-are-relying-on-greater-support-from-local-taxpayers-in-funding-instructional-campuses

 

May 5, 2014

Texas Graduation Rates Tie for Second Place Nationally

Graduation rates are up nationally, and Texas is among the leaders.

According to a newly released U.S. Department of Education report, the U.S. high school graduation rate has reached 80 percent for the first time ever.

For Texas, the news is even better.  Only Iowa posted a higher graduation rate than Texas for the Class of 2012.  Texas, with a graduation rate of 88 percent, tied for second place with Nebraska, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

 

See U.S. Department of Education report:    http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014391.pdf

See TEA release:  http://www.tea.state.tx.us/news_release.aspx?id=25769810912

May 1, 2014