Texas Schools' Effectiveness Varies Widely By Race, Aptitude

NCPA Study Shows 6th Grade Test Scores Could Rise if Schools Focus on "What They Do Best"

DALLAS (May 8, 2003) -- Schools in Texas differ widely in their ability to teach students, according to a new report by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). The report found that differences within schools are almost as great as those among schools.

The NCPA report rates schools for the first time on their ability to teach different student subpopulations, including Hispanic, black, economically disadvantaged, and high- and low-achievers. Most schools that excel in one category are mediocre in others. Parents can learn where their child's school ranks statewide, within their area and their district online.

"Some schools score well across the board and some score poorly," said NCPA Policy Analyst Matt Moore, "but it's important for parents to know which schools score highly in teaching particular student groups." For example:

  • Degolyer Elementary School in north Dallas ranks 97th or 85th overall in the Dallas area (297th statewide), but ranks 4th or 3rd (7th statewide) for its ability to teach low-achieving students. By contrast, Moseley Elementary in southeast Dallas ranks 8th or 7th (11th statewide) for teaching high-achievers, but only 278th or 271st (1,127th statewide) overall.
  • Souder Elementary in Everman ranks 3rd in the Fort Worth area (56th statewide) for teaching high-achievers, but only 88th or 82nd (790th statewide) for low-achievers. By contrast, Sherrod Elementary in Arlington ranks 13th (112th statewide) for low-achievers in the Fort Worth area, but only 72nd or 68th (628th statewide) for high-achievers.
  • Carpenter Elementary in south Dallas is the top ranked school in the Dallas area (2nd statewide) for teaching Hispanic children, but only ranks 89th or 82nd (216th statewide) for teaching black children; while Field Elementary in northwest Dallas is the 2nd or 4th best school in the Dallas area (9th statewide) for teaching black children, but ranks 49th or 28th (116th statewide) for teaching Hispanics.
  • West Hurst Elementary is ranked 7th in the Fort Worth area (21st statewide) for teaching black children, but only ranks 57th (450th statewide) for teaching Hispanic children; while Amos Elementary in Arlington is ranks 5th or 6th in the Fort Worth area (38th statewide) for teaching Hispanic children, but ranks 55th (428th statewide) for teaching blacks.

"We would probably get better results for everyone if we allow schools to specialize in what they do best," said NCPA President John C Goodman. The study concludes that informed public school choice has the potential to improve student performance across the board.

The NCPA's rankings are devised using state-of-the-art techniques for calculating the value added by the school, as opposed to the value added by parents and other factors. The report is based on test scores of sixth-grade students on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), and the ranks are based on the changes in the scores of individual students, rather than school averages. Dr. Lori Taylor, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, provided the data for the report.