Published: January 6, 2005
Standards and Accountability: Texas has clear and specific standards at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in mathematics. It has clear and specific standards in English at the elementary and high school levels; and in science, for elementary and middle schools. The American Federation of Teachers gives none of the state’s social studies/history standards that rating.
But the state offers standards-based exams at all levels in English and math. Science tests are aligned with the state standards at the elementary and high school levels; social studies tests are aligned with state content standards at the middle and high school levels.
Except in English, the state relies heavily on multiple-choice tests, which costs it some points.
The state is well-known for its accountability system, which includes school report cards, school ratings based on test results, help for schools identified as low-performing, and consequences for schools that fail to improve.
Such sanctions include possible school closure and an option for students to transfer to higher-performing schools. The state does not, though, provide financial rewards to high-performing or improving schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Texas does not mandate that future teachers complete a set number of hours in subject-matter courses.
Instead, teacher-preparation institutions can determine the semester hours necessary to address the state content standards for prospective educators. The state does, however, stipulate that teacher-candidates complete at least 12 weeks of student teaching.
The state requires all middle and high school teachers to pass subject-area and subject-specific- pedagogy exams to earn licenses in their fields. But Texas loses points because it does not assess the classroom performance of teachers for them to earn continuing teaching licenses. The state does not have a tiered licensure system. Instead, teachers renew their standard certificates every five years by completing professional development. The state pays for professional development, but it does not require districts to set aside a certain amount of time for that purpose.
While Texas requires districts to mentor all teachers during their first year on the job, it does not subsidize that mentoring. The state rates its teacher-preparation institutions based on performance standards, and it publishes those ratings along with the passing rates of graduates on teacher-certification tests.
School Climate: Texas has a charter school law that the Center for Education Reform rates moderately strong.
The average class size in elementary schools, according to the federal 2000 Schools and Staffing Survey, is 18.5 pupils, smaller than in most other states. Furthermore, the state places limits on class size in grades K-4 and reports class-size information on school report cards.
Other indicators are not as good. Results from the background survey of the National Assessment of Educational Progress show, for instance, that students in Texas are less likely than students in other states to attend schools where more than half of parents attend parent-teacher conferences.
Equity: Texas’ grade for resource equity falls in about the middle nationally, and the state still has a lot of room for improvement. The state ranks 38th of the 50 states on the wealth-neutrality score, which means it has moderate inequities in state and local funding for education based on the property wealth of districts. Also, according to the state’s coefficient of variation, there are moderate discrepancies in spending across districts. Texas ranks 33rd out of the 50 states on that indicator, at 13.9 percent. Spending: Texas spent $7,183 per pupil in the 2001-02 school year, below the national average of $7,734. That amount placed the state 38th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The state ranks 35th of the 50 states and the District of Columbia on the spending index, which takes into account both the percentage of students in the state who are in districts spending at least the national average, and how far below average the rest of the students fall.
Only about 7 percent of students in the state are in districts spending at least the national average.
At 3.8 percent, Texas ties the national average in the percentage of taxable resources spent on education. The state kept education spending above the rate of inflation from 1992 to 2002.
Vol. 24, Issue 17, Page 133