Some of us listened for eight long years to the nauseating self-pronouncement that education was getting better under the George W. Bush “No Child Left Behind” program. State leadership boasts most of our tests indicate public education in Texas is getting better. While there are an abundance of indicators to suggest our Texas system may be failing many of our students, our Texas leadership continues to proclaim standardized tests given incrementally to various grades indicate we are doing fine.
We are still among the leaders of all states in dropouts, teenage pregnancies, and do not even lead all of the Southern states in our commitment to public and higher education, as evidenced by our miserably miserly appropriations.
A recent examination of the federal test results indicate that although 25% of eighth-graders in Texas seem to be doing well according to state standards, we are trailing in eighth-graders’ test results compared to most other states. You might ask how this could be?
It’s fairly simple. Our standards are lower. We have improved the quality of test scores in Texas by lowering the rating of test scores deemed to be satisfactory in the state. As a matter of fact the analyses of federal results indicate Texas has the standards which are fourth from the bottom of all of the states of the Union. In other words, Texas claims tests in reading and math of 188 and 225, respectively, are adequate scores to consider our system okay, the national base level in reading and math is 208 and 243.
In plain English, our state minimum standards are substantially easier than those recommended by the United States Department of Education.
One of the conservatives on our State Board of Education argues that parents are smart enough to tell whether or not schools are good schools or not–a statement with which I would take strong issue. Unfortunately, there are too many parents in this state encouraged by such statements from State Board members who believe if the school house looks okay, doesn’t have a leaky roof, and the football team has a winning season, then everything is lovely.
Unfortunately, the above does not represent good measuring sticks for whether or not we have good schools.
While I am not an advocate of simply throwing money at schools and hoping they will get better, I am an advocate of more innovative programs which have been proven throughout the United States to work in elevating student achievement and learning. Unfortunately, almost all of these innovative programs cost more money.
Until our State Board concerns itself more with improving education than they do political philosophy, I fear Texas and Texas’ students will still lag the nation in educational achievement.