NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Texas Schools Hailed As Model For Nation

May 28, 1999

Public schools in Texas -- long regarded as among the most troubled in the nation -- are now being viewed by educators as an emerging model of equity, progress and accountability. On both state and national exams, students' scores have improved dramatically in just a few years.

All groups within the state's school system -- white, low-income and minorities -- perform in the top ranks when compared to their peers in other states.

  • On the last nationally administered math test for fourth graders, the 1996 National Assessment of Educational Progress, black students in Texas ranked first among all black fourth graders in the country, whites ranked first among all whites, and Hispanic Texans ranked sixth.
  • That compares to California's black fourth graders who ranked 36th and New York's Hispanic fourth graders who ranked 30th.
  • On national reading tests in 1998, black fourth graders in Texas were ranked ninth nationally, and white fourth graders came in second.
  • Last year, 76 percent of third graders in Texas passed the state's standardized test of academic skills -- compared to only 58 percent in 1994.
  • Yet spending per pupil in Texas is slightly below the national average and the improvements do not follow any notable increase in spending.

Observers report that what is different in the Texas system is emphasis on accountability, which relies on testing and clear goals.

Some Hispanic groups charge that testing is racist, since minorities traditionally do less well on tests than whites. But Texas Gov. George W. Bush contends that "it is racist not to test, because by not testing we don't know and by not knowing we are just moving children through the system."

Source: Ethan Bronner, "Turnaround in Texas Schools Looks Good for Bush in 2000," New York Times, May 28, 1999.


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