Pushing beyond mediocrity in Texas education

Is education in Texas mediocre?

State District Judge John Dietz, who is presiding over Texas’ school finance trial in Austin,  wondered Tuesday, Nov. 20, if “maybe we as a state have been satisfied with mediocrity,” according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Dietz added that Texas’ tougher academic standards may simply reflect a new global reality.

First, are we mediocre when it comes to education? It is not easy to determine, but here’s one look at it:

Education Week ranked Texas 12th nationally this year in “six areas of educational policy and performance.” Not bad (with a score of 79.2), and above the national average (76.5). Texas did its best in “Transitions & Alignment,” with an A or 92.9 grade, and in “Standards, Assessments, & Accountability,” with an A- or 92.2. We garnered C grades in “The Teaching Profession,” “Chances for Success,” and “K-12 Achievement.” Texas took a big hit in regard to “School Finance,” drawing a D+ or 67.6.

It looks like we are pretty mediocre. So, what about tougher academic standards.

“Last year, the state began implementing a new, more difficult standardized test known as STAAR,” the Star-Telegramreported.

At the trial, Nabor Cortez, superintendent of La Feria Independent School District in the Rio Grande Valley, said schools with large concentrations of low income-students struggle to meet Texas’ rising performance standards. “He said 90 percent of La Feria’s low-income students didn’t pass the English Language 1 test and that virtually none of the district’s students are on track to pass the higher STAAR standards that will be phased in through 2016,” the Star-Telegram reported.

This apparently is when Judge Dietz interjected the comment about past satisfaction with mediocrity. “Maybe through our testing and accountability, we have been kind of pushing people through the education factory,” Dietz said. “Maybe this — with the increased rigor — is an attempt to reach reality.”

Cortez responded: “We don’t have a problem getting kids to that level. We just need the resources to be able to do it.”

You get the picture. We are in an educational bind in Texas. We need to raise our standards to compete nationally and globally. We have been satisfied with mediocrity for way too long. But all of our students need the opportunity to progress.

Poverty impacts education. Funding impacts education. The children living in poverty cannot do anything about their starting point in society, but we as a state can provide the funds to help them achieve.

Followers of Christ are big on helping those in poverty to gain an economic foothold in society. There is no more effective or inexpensive way to do that than to encourage and to fund quality education for all Texans.

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