Is TEA Really Achieving?

Examining the latest Texas Education Agency claim of excellence

TEA Commissioner Scott: All is well in Texas schools. Apparently.
TEA Commissioner Scott: All is well in Texas schools. Apparently.

Any time the Texas Education Agency boasts about what a great job it's doing for schools and students, there's always going to be a quizzical eyebrow raised. So today's claim that it leads the nation in college readiness bears some examination.

Here's what the TEA said in this morning's press release:

Texas is the first, and so far, only state to meet all the American Diploma Project’s five key college and career readiness measures, Achieve, a national bipartisan organization, announced today.
Which is great (although arguably not grammatical): But let's see what Achieve actually said:
With the passage of (House Bill 3) in June 2009, Texas became the only state that meets the minimum criteria Achieve believes necessary to measure and provide incentives for college and career readiness.
The important word there is "measure." So Texas has not reached anything of worth: It's just passed a school accountability bill. That's the difference between curing someone's fever and just buying a medical thermometer.

There are three important codas:

One: The ADP measures are wholly an Achieve creation and only 31 of the 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) are "ADP network members."

Two: Texas still (no matter how much Commissioner Robert Scott tries to tout a new metric concocted by the National Governors Association) has the lowest high school graduation rate in the nation. What was that thing Karl Rove said about "you have your numbers, but I have the numbers?"

Three: HB3 only took effect at the beginning of the academic year, so there are no indicators yet as to whether it will actually work (because, as everyone knows, the Texas school accountability system has always been a rip-roaring success.)

The bald political reality is that Texas needs to justify Gov. Rick Perry's decision to opt out of the (utterly non-compulsory) Common Core State Standards Initiative. He arguably only did that to justify his decision to reject Federal Race to the Top funds that would have put money where it was needed – in the classroom. He arguably only did that because, you know, Washington is evil (especially in an election year.)

So what will happen to justify this justification to the justification?

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Texas Education Agency, American Diploma Project, Achieve, Common Core State Standards Initiative, Race to the Top

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