NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Texas Shows Accountability Works

August 31, 2000

If you demand more of people, you will get more from them and their lives will improve, says Newsweek columnist Robert J. Samuelson. A case in point is school reform in Texas.

School reform began in 1993 under Democratic Gov. Ann Richards and continued after George W. Bush's election in 1994. It requires students to pass an exam -- called the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills -- before graduating.

  • From 1994 to 1998, the proportion of students passing the exam rose from 53 percent to 78 percent.
  • Among blacks, the passage rate increased from 31 percent to 63 percent; among Hispanics, from 39 percent to 70 percent.

Some scholars and newspaper reports have tried to discredit the gains, but Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute shows that the two main criticisms are unfounded.

  • Cheating and a progressive easing of the tests do not account for the gains -- other standardized tests show similar, though smaller, increases.
  • Test scores were not raised because dropout rates among the worst students increased; Greene estimates dropout rates -- though still high -- have declined.
  • And in fact, a recent Rand Corporation study of standardized test scores -- adjusted by students' economic and social background -- found Texas students had the largest gains of any state.

Students are more focused, and teachers are held "accountable," argues Greene.

Source: Robert J. Samuelson, "The Lesson Of Tough Love," Newsweek, September 4, 2000.


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