NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Texas Students Lead Nation In Improved Performance

July 26, 2000

Students across the country are scoring higher in math, according to a new study from the Rand Corp. Progress was particularly evident among black and Hispanic students -- with the greatest improvements being recorded in Texas.

Using scores from seven federally sponsored National Assessment of Educational Progress tests administered from 1990 to 1996, Rand researchers detected more progress in that period than in the previous two decades. The study compared test results of students from similar family and ethnic backgrounds across state lines.

  • While Texas ranked first among reform-minded states, California came in last -- with Texas students scoring an average of 11 percent higher on the tests than comparable students in California.
  • Other states awarded high marks were Wisconsin, Montana, Iowa, Maine and North Dakota.
  • In addition to California, states turning in weak performances were Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas and Rhode Island.
  • The researchers found that spending more money wisely can boost student performance -- but increasing teachers' salaries has little effect.

David Grissmer, a Rand physicist who led the study, commented that Texas Gov. George W. Bush "is putting his resources in the right place." But he cited California as an example "of what happens when resources get frayed." In fact, black and Hispanic students in Texas scored 15 percent higher than their California counterparts.

Grissmer credited reforms that have been introduced in Texas for the improvements. They include putting a substantial number of students in state-sponsored prekindergarten programs, targeting more resources for schools in lower-income areas and using test scores to highlight differences in performance between schools.

Source: John J. Fialka, "Math Scores Rise in U.S. Public Schools, With Minorities and Texas Leading the Way," Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2000.


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