Archives for category: Texas

Glenn W. Smith, an experienced journalist in Texas, gives his analysis of the politics of school funding and the renewed drive for vouchers.

Smith wonders:

Is it just a coincidence that private school funding schemes are gaining steam as a far more diverse bunch of kids are sitting in our public classrooms? Less than 29 percent of our public school children are white, down more than a third from the year 2000. Hispanics now make up 52 percent of the Texas school population. African-Americans are 13 percent and Asians 4 percent of students.

The advocates, led by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, claim they want vouchers so “poor kids can escape failing schools,” but these people have never shown any interest in saving kids or their families.

These same policymakers refused to accept billions in federal Medicaid reform dollars, leaving millions of the less fortunate without adequate health care. Now we discover that the maternal death rate in Texas has skyrocketed, especially among poor African-American women. In addition, as the Houston Chronicle reported last week, the state abandoned hundreds of thousands of special needs children by arbitrary cuts to special education.

Also, we shouldn’t forget the refusal of Patrick, Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican leaders to entertain statewide increases in the minimum wage. Low-wage workers should be happy to eat the stale cake their superiors deign to give them.

The policymakers responsible for these atrocities are the same ones telling us their school privatization plans are intended to help the very people they are punishing in every other major policy area — from health care to political representation to economic opportunity.

Smith predicts that Patrick’s voucher plans will fail, mainly because of resistance by rural Republicans:

In 2017 Patrick might push some of his schemes through the state Senate that he controls. But this is one issue in which rural lawmakers, many of them conservative Republicans, are allied with moderate or liberal urban representatives.

Public schools remain critical centers of life in many rural communities. Folks there lived through the “Wal-Marting” of their towns as the giant retailer drove the mom and pop stores out of business. They aren’t about to let that happen to their schools. They aren’t going to sit by as the Little Red Schoolhouse is turned into the Great Big Red State Profit Center.

Patrick’s plans appear to call for the creation of two K-12 school systems, one public, and one private. This is also giving many conservatives pause. Texas can’t afford that. Various estimates put the tab in the billions.

Let’s hope that Smith is right, and that the good sense of rural Republicans and urban Democrats will save public education in Texas.

Right-wingers in Texas want vouchers, but they have been stymied again and again by a coalition of rural Republicans who support their community public schools and urban Democrats who don’t want to destroy public education.

So now the right-wingers want “education savings accounts,” so parents can use public money to pay for other options, such as private school.

Advocates of the so-called school choice movement want the state to give each Texas student who no longer wants to attend public school an education savings account. The student would use the account to pay for other education options, such as private schools, tutors, curriculum for home schooling or college credit courses, giving students more choice in their education, according to proponents.

Public school supporters aren’t buying it. They say education savings accounts are masquerading as private school vouchers, diverting money from cash-strapped school districts to private schools without holding them to the same standard of accountability.

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. You can call a voucher something else, but it’s still a voucher,” said Charles Luke of the Coalition for Public Schools, which opposes using public funds to support private and religious schools. “We need to invest in our community schools rather than create a completely separate, parallel system and expand government.”

What the Republican right fringe doesn’t realize is that when everyone has his or her own choice, no one is responsible any more to support all children. Taxpayers won’t pass bond issues. Why should Mr. Brown pay for Ms. Jones’ son to go to private or religious school?

I am reposting this because the earlier version lacked a link and the conclusion of the study.

The study is called “Charter Schools and Labor Market Outcomes.”

This is an astonishing study, not just because of its findings but because of its authors. Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer are economists who have frequently studied charters, incentives and their effects on test scores. Fryer’s research institute at Harvard was started with several millions from the Broad Foundation. Fryer is a member of the Massachusetts State Board of Education.

Here is the abstract of their study of charter schools in Texas and labor market outcomes:

“We estimate the impact of charter schools on early-life labor market outcomes using administrative data from Texas. We find that, at the mean, charter schools have no impact on test scores and a negative impact on earnings. No Excuses charter schools increase test scores and four-year college enrollment, but have a small and statistically insignificant impact on earnings, while other types of charter schools decrease test scores, four-year college enrollment, and earn- ings. Moving to school-level estimates, we find that charter schools that decrease test scores also tend to decrease earnings, while charter schools that increase test scores have no discernible impact on earnings. In contrast, high school graduation effects are predictive of earnings effects throughout the distribution of school quality. The paper concludes with a speculative discussion of what might explain our set of facts.”

The paper concludes with this speculation:

“Charter schools, in particular No Excuses charter schools, are considered by many to be the most important education reform of the past quarter century. At the very least, however, this paper cautions that charter schools may not have the large effects on earnings many predicted. It is plausible this is due to the growing pains of an early charter sector that was “building the plane as they flew it.” This will be better known with the fullness of time. Much more troubling, it seems, is the possibility that what it takes to increase achievement among the poor in charter schools deprives them of other skills that are important for labor markets.”

Apparently, the obedience and conformity taught in No Excuses charter schools do not help people in jobs where initiative and independent thinking are valued.

The charter industry in Texas wants to take part of the capital funding that now goes to public schools. Charter schools in Texas do not perform as well as public schools, but they have a powerful lobby of business elites who are contemptuous of public schools.

Currently, public schools are required to give space to charter schools. Public education in Texas have been underfunded since the legislature cut $5.2 Billion from them in 2011.

But charters want their own dedicated funding stream, even though the funding will be taken from public schools.

Here’s a thought: why don’t the billionaires like John Arnold and Tecans for Education pay for charter facilities?

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-3 to strike down restrictions on abortion in Texas that would have caused most clinics to close. If fully implemented, the state law would have reduced the number of places where abortions could be performed to only 10.

The reactionaries who control the Texas legislature will have to think of something new. If they have any spare time left over after wrangling the abortion issue, they might consider restoring the billions of dollars they cut from public schools in 2011.

Patrick Michels of the Texas Observer cites all the ways that ETS messed up the STAAR tests in Texas. It is not a pretty picture. Texans almost missed Pearson after encountering the incompetence of ETS. Almost.

Questions with no right answers.

Test booklets sent to the wrong schools.

Students’ answers deleted.

No answers from ETS on testing day.

Boxes of completed tests lost in the mail.

Short answer essays with improbably low scores.

Long waits for test scores, some never delivered.

The upshot?

Somebody should be held accountable!

The Texas Association of School Administrators has asked [State Commissioner Mike] Morath not to use this year’s test scores to rate schools. In an open letter to Morath published in the Houston Chronicle, Ben Becker — part of the parents’ group that sued TEA claiming this year’s test is too long — said that Morath owes “the people of Texas a transparent accounting” of this year’s problems, otherwise, “you must throw out all the scores, order them expunged from student records, and assure they are not used for any decision-making. Anywhere. Period.”

Morath responded to Becker, telling him that while the spring test scores will be late, he believes they’ll still be accurate. Morath’s staff apparently drafted an apology letter to parents in April, according to the emails obtained by the Observer, but is waiting to send it once all of the spring test results are out — which now won’t happen until early July.

State Senator Kel Seliger, who has praised Morath for his leadership so far, has told the Amarillo Globe-News that Texas simply shouldn’t pay ETS for its work on this year’s STAAR. Whatever action Morath takes to hold ETS accountable after this year, lawmakers are certain to have their own ideas for reforming STAAR when they reconvene in January.

Don’t mess with Texas.

The Dallas Morning News published an editorial praising high-stakes testing. The News thinks the tests are necessary and valuable, even though parents don’t.


You can tell that no one on the editorial board has children in public schools, because they can’t understand why parents object to the state’s obsession with standardized testing. They congratulate patents got not opting out. They say nothing about the billions of dollars cut from Texas schools in 2011.


They just love that data. The kids, not so much.


They write:


“Dallas Morning News education writer Corbett Smith reports that only about 2,000 Texas families refused the test in 2015-16. That number is tiny compared with New York, where 240,000 opted out of the assessment, or Colorado, where 100,000 didn’t take it.


“Opting out of STAAR tests isn’t easy in Texas — but it is possible. So the low number leads us to hope that, despite the massive dislike of accountability exams, parents recognize STAAR’s importance.


“This newspaper shares that belief. That’s why our goals for 2016 include advocating for accountability and making a renewed case for the importance of testing, despite the system’s flaws. We have pledged to listen carefully to critics and bone up on best practices so we can urge reform that works.


“The first cleanup falls squarely on the state’s new testing vendor. New Jersey-based Educational Testing Services, which won a $280 million contract from the state, has left campuses mired in computer glitches and exam flaws. Just Thursday, it was accused of losing all the elementary and middle school tests in a small Central Texas school district.


“Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath assessed the mess this way: Those problems are “unacceptable” and must be fixed.


“But the solution isn’t to throw out the whole system, and it’s encouraging to see that most families and school districts get that.


“Families deserve to know how their students are progressing against the state standard; without a consistent scorecard, too much is left to chance. That can be a special problem as children move into the later years of elementary school and into middle school, where students most often slip.


“Likewise, school districts need to know not only how their students are performing, but how to evaluate teachers and help them grow to be the best possible educators.”



As the new vendor of testing for Texas, ETS is off to a rocky start. It lost all the grades 3-8 test scores for Eanes, Texas. Think of all the weeks wasted on test prep: for nothing!


“The state’s new testing vendor reportedly lost all tests taken by elementary and middle school students in central Texas district of Eanes, according to a report from The Texas Tribune.


“The site reports that Educational Testing Services told officials at that district that it lost tests taken by students in third through eighth grade, potentially impacting up to 4,000 students.


“This is yet another problem in an ever-growing list of concerns for New Jersey-based ETS in its first year of administering the STAAR test. Problems have ranged from the tests missing a correct answer to scoring problems to security concerns.


“The problems started getting reported in March with computer glitches that gave students the wrong version of tests, locked up or even erased answers. About 14,220 students across the state were impacted.


“In the Burkburnett school district, for example, some students had to rewrite their essays as many as three times after the system repeatedly kicked them back to earlier questions in the test English I end-of-course test.


“One student, after redoing her essay several times, finally typed ‘whatever’ in her essay out of frustration,” superintendent Tylor Chaplin wrote in a letter to the Texas Education Agency in April as he expressed his growing frustration.”


If a teacher or a school did this, they would be in deep trouble.


Mistakes were made!


Who will be held accountable?

The Dallas Morning News wrote an editorial praising the valedictorian of Irving High School, in nearby Irving, Texas.

Luis Govea is the personification of the American dream. He came to Texas from Mexico in 2010, knowing only a few words in English. He is now the valedictorian of his class and has received a full scholarship to attend Stanford University.

When he first arrived in the U.S. from Mexico, Luis Govea knew only a few English words, including red, white, blue and apple.

Six years later, he’s been named Irving High School’s valedictorian and got to pick from full-ride scholarships from Yale, Harvard, Rice, Stanford, Dartmouth, the California Institute of Technology and Princeton.

“I applied and thought, ‘I got nothing to lose,’ ” said Luis, who will head to Stanford in the fall. “I never saw myself even last year choosing between those schools, and it’s a beautiful feeling.”

He won the scholarships through QuestBridge, a program that matches high-achieving students from low-income families with selective schools.

Luis is humble and self-effacing.

His personal motto:

“I hope someone sees my story, and it pushes them to try even harder,” Luis said. “Do your best; even if you fail, at least you tried. That’s my motto.”

He learned English by using the Rosetta Stone program on a school computer.

Irving High counselor Laura Zimmer said Luis’ parents have been instrumental to his success.

“I’ve never seen a student like him, and I’ve been teaching for 13 years,” Zimmer said. “When he got the letter from QuestBridge that day, he just sat there and he just cried because he was so happy. He’s not afraid of anything.”

Zimmer first met Luis during his sophomore year when he asked her for a list of clubs. He joined 20, from French club to Keep Irving Beautiful.

“He wants to be a part of everything, but he doesn’t feel the need to be in the limelight,” Zimmer said. “He’s very genuine, and he’s always smiling.”

Luis was on the academic decathlon team, and he was the first in school history to make it to the state competition, coach James Newman said.

“He never let any of us down, and then once he realized that we had complete 100 percent confidence in him, he took on the leadership role, especially this year as a senior,” Newman said. “It’s been an unbelievable journey with Luis, and I am so proud of him. I really am excited about this next chapter in his life.”

Luis is a National AP Scholar and has taken 20 AP exams, earning nine perfect scores of 5 and three scores of 4. He’s awaiting results of this year’s tests.

After poring over pamphlets, websites and lists of majors, Luis thought heavily about Princeton but changed his mind to Yale.

Then, late on May 1, the deadline to commit to a school, he was hovering over the “accept” button for Yale when a Facebook message popped up from a freshman at Stanford. They chatted for two hours, and Luis decided California was where he wanted to be — close to Silicon Valley.

Luis wrote at least 40 essays in the past year for scholarships on topics including chess, tacos, hamburgers, underwear, love letters and his journey from Mexico to the U.S.

He plans on majoring in bioengineering and computer science, and he said he hopes to become a researcher or a professor.

Next time you hear someone complaining about public schools, tell them about Luis. He came to Texas not speaking or reading English, and now he is first in his class at Irving High School, with a full scholarship to one of the nation’s greatest universities.

A group of parents in Texas has filed suit against the state education agency to stop the use of this year’s scores to punish students and schools.


The legislature passed a law requiring the tests to be shortened, but the state education agency did not comply.


Its failure to abide by the law invalidates the tests, the parents believe.


Commissioner Mike Morath does not agree and intends to use the test results for accountability purposes, continuing the test obsession in Texas.