Thursday, July 1, 2010


Back in the early 1970's when the Texas Supreme Court  ruled our system of funding public education in Texas was unconstitutional, Republicans, led by Representative Culberson, now a member of Congress, had some unique ideas on how to meet the challenge.  The Court held our state’s constitution required the State Legislature to provide all of the school children of Texas with an equal opportunity for a quality education.  Representative Culberson’s solution was simply to amend the Constitution and remove the provision guaranteeing quality of education.

Under the leadership of Governor Perry it seems the Republican mantra has not changed a great deal.  By all measurements among public education systems in the United States, Texas is ranked either 46th or 

Primarily, we are ranked so low because we have a state board of education which is the laughing stock of the country. In fact, there's a substantial number of conservatives in the Legislature who would just as soon see public education dismantled. In fact, state support for education has eroded substantially in Texas.

In the 1940's Texas was among the leaders in the nation in funding and caring for public education.  At that time the state furnished about 60 to 65% of all funding for the state education system.  Now, we are down to somewhere around 30%, and have an education system mandated by the state but basically funded locally.  

While bragging about no new taxes, the State Legislature continues to force homeowners, small business owners and other property owners to do what is the constitutionally mandated duty of the state. 

To make matters even worse, Governor Perry has grandly turned down the opportunity to compete for several billions of federal dollars stating he is afraid federal bureaucrats will lower the standards for Texas.

Texas would have to lower standards? Hardly. In fact, we're below the national norm now. How on earth could we be in any worse shape as far as demanding accountability from our educational system?
Governor Perry, while making political speeches, brags about what a great system of education we have in Texas--a brag which will not stand close examination.  Those in charge of public education in Texas have now devalued the TAKS test which has been used for several years as the measurement of accomplishment of students in public education.  State bureaucrats, along with Governor Perry, have hailed higher scores on standardized tests administered throughout the state’s system.  

What they fail to reveal is the fact they have lowered the standards so that it is now a lot easier to look as though the students are doing better in the various categories. 

To me it certainly takes gall for the governor of a state to stand bold-faced in front of his constituents and brag about a public education system where only 38% of 4th graders were rated as proficient in math and 28% in reading.  This is according to national “normed” tests--tests taken by all other students in the nation.  

However, to show you the difference, the Texas test shows that a whopping 86% passed the TAKS in math and 84% in reading. How could they fail the national test and pass the Texas test with such flying colors? 

There are several problems with our governor's brag about having a great system and the way it measures accomplishments of our students. First of all, it's a lie. Governors shouldn't lie to their constituents. Second of all, it keeps Texans from really knowing how badly off we are and from being motivated to do something about it. 

As a leading educator in the United States pointed out, we may fool ourselves temporarily, but eventually Texas’ students are going to have to compete with students in the rest of the world.  

We are building a trap for the future of our Texas kids, and the blame should be laid at the foot of our current governor and his cronies who value politics over productivity.

And one further note:  Subsequent to this posting of Senator Parker's article, the Commissioner of Education has announced yet another iteration of testing that started 1980 with TABS [Texas Assessment of Basic Skills] and five years later the test was changed and recast as TEAMS [Texas Assessment of Minimum Skills]. Then in the early 90s the test was changed again to TAAS [Texas Assessment of Academic Skills], to be followed a few years later by TEKS [Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills] and then a short time later in the spring of '03 this became TAKS [Texas Assessment of Knowledge & Skills]. Now comes STAAR, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. It may be significant to note that none of the previously installed tests ever reached their full implementation--all were implemented on a multi-year phase-in process, such that, in order to be accredited in the first year, the schools had to achieve only 25% passing, and then the pass rate was inched up 5% per year. The TAKS 2010 standard for academically acceptable was 70% passing in Reading, 70% Writing, 70% Social Studies, 60% Mathematics, and 55% Science. Keep in mind that this is the standard for the percentage of students passing. In other words, in each school, depending on the subject, the school could have been rated as "acceptable" for anywhere between 30-45% of the students to actually fail the test. But that's not all. Another measure, a so-called ''projected" success rate, is sometimes used to waive certain students' failure to pass this year because it looked like they were improving at a rate that was ''on track'' to pass somewhere further on up in their schooling before they graduated [See Texas Tribune: Projecting Success of Failing Students Often Wrong]. Some educators have been overheard to call this the ''pixie dust'' or educa-mystical approach to accountability, magically changing a school rating from 'unacceptable' to 'acceptable'. [THH - July 12]

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