Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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A–F is a Poor Way to Evaluate Districts and Schools

District and school evaluation is an important and potentially valuable process. It’s also a difficult thing to do well.

Texas’ will soon label districts with A‒F letter grades. Because they are so simplistic, these grades aren’t likely to shed much light on complex district performance data or the number of students with learning challenges in any district.

Author David Stasny says, “So far, the early analysis clearly has shown a very strong correlation between a high level of family poverty and lower school and district ‘grades.’” You might think the grades of districts that have a large population of poor students but still manage to be high performing would be higher. “Under the current system this is absolutely not the case,” Stasny writes.

Read “Assigning a letter grade is a poor way to evaluate education,” by David Stasny, The Eagle. Stasny is a member of the Bryan ISD school board and the TASB Legislative Advisory Council.

July 19, 2018

Commentary: Texas Districts Need to Keep More of the Tax Dollars They Raise

Dallas ISD is a district that faces challenges yet has a track record of success.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa projects that the number of “improvement required schools” will decrease from 13 last year to three for the coming year. A good teacher evaluation system and program to put effective teachers where they are most needed has helped to turn schools around. The district has also seen across-the-board improvements on STAAR tests in reading and math. These strides were made even though 90 percent of the district’s students are poor and face a variety of challenges that make learning more difficult.

For the first time next year, the district will have to relinquish $39 million to the state for property poor districts. The editorial notes that state lawmakers couldn’t have had Dallas ISD in mind when recapture was adopted. It reads, “It’s up to legislators to come out of public school finance hearings this summer with the goal of revisiting this policy and finally overhauling the system—so the very kids they were trying to help won’t be hurt.”

Read “Dallas ISD will send millions back to the state—and Texas needs to help schoolkids keep more of it,” in the Dallas Morning News.

July 17, 2018

New investigation of charter schools shows they lack diversity

A new study of charter schools shows that their student makeup differs markedly from area public schools. Specifically, those schools attract more white students.

There are 115 charter schools in the US that have a percentage of white students at least 20 points higher than at any of the traditional public schools in the districts where they are located. This 20-percentage-point difference is often used in federal desegregation lawsuits as a measure of which schools are considered racially identifiable. Racially identifiable white charter schools have emerged in 18 of the 42 states with charter schools (Texas is home to 19 of these charter schools).

Lake Oconee Academy in Georgia is one such charter. “…Some residents say that policies at the school make it hard for black families to enroll their kids: Land’s End uniforms they can’t afford, and the fact that the charter doesn’t provide bus transportation to and from school, while the other public schools do,” the author writes.

Read “Nearly 750 charter schools are whiter than the nearby district schools,” by Emmanuel Felton, The Hechinger Report.

July 12, 2018

Recapture Takes a Serious Bite Out of District Budgets

Austin’s property taxes continue to rise so you’d think Austin ISD would be in good shape headed into the 2018–19 school year. Unfortunately, the more the district collects in taxes, the more it hands over to the state.

The district recently approved a budget that sends more than half of its local tax revenue ($670 million) to the state. Part of that money is redistributed to smaller, poorer school districts, and part is used to fill other state budget holes. If the pace of recapture keeps up, the district could deplete its reserves within the next three years. “This is not Robin Hood, this is piracy,” said Trustee Ted Gordon.

Read “Missing from Austin ISD’s Budget? More Than Half the Money Raised from Property Taxes,” by Claire McInerny, KUT.

July 6, 2018

UT/TT Poll: Texas Voters Aren’t Satisfied with the State’s Handling of Public Education

A new poll by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune indicates that most Texans don’t approve of the way state leaders and legislators are handling public education. Just 16 percent approve, with 51 percent disapproving and 33 percent having no opinion.

When asked “What do you think should be the primary source of funding for public education in Texas?” 50 percent said state government, 32 percent said local districts (property taxes), and 18 percent said they didn’t know.

Read “Texans think state leaders are falling short on public education, UT/TT Poll finds,” in the Texas Tribune.

July 3, 2018

D.C. Voucher Program Students Perform Worse on Math

Washington, D.C. students who use federally funded vouchers to attend private schools perform significantly worse in math than their public school peers, according to a new federal study.

The study, from the Institute of Education Sciences, found that math scores were 10 percentage points lower for students who used vouchers compared with students who applied for the voucher program but were not selected through the lottery. Voucher students also had lower reading scores, though the difference was not statistically significant.

Read “Study: Students in only federally funded voucher program perform worse on math,” in the Washington Post.

June 6, 2018

Understanding What’s Fueling School Privatization

A new piece in the Washington Post provides a comprehensive look at the history of the movement to privatize U.S. public schools.

The conclusion of the piece notes that entrepreneurs were quick to see school privatization as a way “to tap into vast public resources” but that privatization isn’t living up to the claims of free-market boosters. On the whole, for-profit schools have shown “disappointing academic results, endemic corruption, and growing segregation…”

For-profit schools still have some true believers, even in Congress, which went so far as to ban the evaluation of Washington, D.C.’s voucher program. However, public confidence in those schools is waning.

“Given the overall record of charter schools, support in the general public and among minorities has been slipping. According to the most recent survey conducted by the pro-reform journal Education Next, support among all respondents dropped from 51 percent to 39 percent from 2016 to 2017.

“It turns out that when Americans know that market-based reforms drain funds from public schools, most oppose the policies. The success of the ed reform movement so far has depended on their not knowing.”

Read “What and who is fueling the movement to privatize public education—and why you should care?” in the Washington Post.

June 4, 2018

Fighting ‘Yellowbelly Politicians’ to Save Texas Public Schools

Jimmie Don Aycock, former state representative and public education advocate, is dialing his advocacy up a notch through his involvement in the Texas First Coalition, a nonprofit bringing education advocates and business leaders together with the goal of promoting quality public schools, a thriving business environment, government fiscal responsibility, and stronger ethics for elected officials.

Aycock did an extensive Q&A in the Waco Tribune focused on funding for public schools, the property tax system, the challenges of the current “byzantine” school finance system, and whether state leaders will step up to do the right thing for public school students.

Aycock is of the opinion that some state leaders don’t want to fund public education because their own kids go to private schools. “They just want out of the system and don’t really care what happens to everybody else,” Aycock said.

Read “Fighting ‘yellowbelly politicians’ to save Texas’ public schools: Q&A with Jimmie Don Aycock” in the Waco Tribune.

May 23, 2018

Thomas Ratliff Shares Thoughts on Charter Schools, Vouchers

In the latest TASB Talks podcast, Thomas Ratliff, former member of the State Board of Education and son of former Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff, provides a history lesson on the establishment of charter schools in Texas and compares the respective results of charter and public schools. Vouchers are likely to be included in legislation in the 2019 session of the Texas Legislature, so Ratliff weighs in on whether a voucher bill can pass.

Listen to the TASB Talks podcast.

May 18, 2018

Recapture May Thwart Dallas ISD’s Academic Success

A new editorial in the Dallas Morning News notes that Dallas ISD is enjoying academic success, including across-the-board STAAR testing growth. Another source of strength is the district’s strong signature programs: pre-K and innovative choice campuses.

Unfortunately, the district’s financial picture is not as bright. In 2018–19, the district will join Austin and Houston ISDs in sending millions of tax dollars back to the state. Rising property values and declining enrollment have made Dallas ISD a property wealthy district subject to recapture, in spite of 90 percent of its students being poor.

The district would benefit from additional funding to expand initiatives that are clearly working. Instead, it will have to return at least $39 million to the state’s general fund, thanks to the convoluted school funding formula that’s part of our system of school finance. “At a time when Dallas ISD is moving the academic needle for our city’s schoolchildren, it deserves both community and state support for much-needed dollars,” the editorial reads.

Read “As Dallas ISD sees academic progress, Austin’s ‘recapture’ of funds seems especially cruel blow,” in the Dallas Morning News.

 

May 16, 2018