Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

February 28, 2007

Top 10 Percent–we meant income, not grades

Filed under: education — texased @ 9:02 am

People are upset since 72% of the admissions at UT Austin have been under the top ten percent law forcing many students to attend places like UT San Antonio instead.

Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas/Southwest:

But Democratic Sens. Royce West of Dallas and Rodney Ellis of Houston said they remain unconvinced that any change is necessary.

“Someone’s going to have to show me it’s broken and needs to be fixed,” said West, who filibustered a bill in 2003 that would have capped automatic enrollment at 60 percent of the freshman class.

I love the irony of this. The same people who are whining about UT’s inability to recruit valuable poets or artists because they aren’t in the top ten percent of their class are the same ones who initiated the forerunner of NCLB.

So all of a sudden, they realize that there are ways of valuing an academic experience other than grades and test scores? Then there are those who point out that not all high school programs are created the same–some are more rigorous than others. Really? Why is that? Regardless of why these differences might exist, our legislators want to make sure that the student in more white, upper middle class competitive programs don’t suffer compare to others. Well, how about making sure all programs are financially capable of being equal instead?

Then there is the enormous elephant in the room as pointed out by West and Ellis. What’s broken about the system? No one has claimed that these students are failing at a higher rate. Maybe because they aren’t?

(HB 588)
FALL 2003


  • The limitation of college admissions test scores as a predictor of freshman year performance continues to be illustrated by these reports insofar as mean SAT scores for the top 10% and non-top 10% groups in the entering class of 2002 were virtually identical (1226 and 1222 respectively), but the top 10% significantly outperformed the non-top 10% group. The mean freshman year GPA for the top 10% was3.24 compared to 2.90 for the non-top 10%. (See Table 6.)
  • Since 1996, among all racial/ethnic groups, top 10% outperformed non-top 10% students even when the non-top 10% groups had higher SAT scores. (See Tables 6a-d.)
  • Since 1996, top 10% outperformed non-top 10% students at each of the University’s colleges and schools.

It appears that this policy has finally proven that individuals in the top 10 % do better in college than those with higher SAT scores but not in the top 10%.

So who is being hurt by this policy? Where’s the problem? The problem is that some children of wealthy and semi-wealthy Texans aren’t “measuring” up and their parents can no longer count on sending their kids to UT. Standards are okay as long as it doesn’t affect their children’s ability to go to the college of their choice.

I do like following proposal the best. According to the San Antonio Express News, “House Bill 794 links the percentage of minority students accepted under the top 10 percent rule to the number of minorities already enrolled at the school the previous semester or to the percentage of minorities on the school’s football team.”


February 26, 2007

No Radio Frequency Identification in Schools?

Filed under: Texas — texased @ 9:25 pm

One attempt to slow the growth of big brother in society.

80(R) HB 1925 – Introduced version – Bill Text:

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT relating to the transmission of information regarding public school students through the use of radio frequency identification technology.
SECTION 1. Subchapter Z, Chapter 25, Education Code, is amended by adding Section 25.903 to read as follows:
Sec. 25.903. CERTAIN MANDATORY STUDENT IDENTIFICATION METHODS PROHIBITED. (a) In this section, “radio frequency identification technology” means a wireless identification system that uses an electromagnetic radio frequency signal to transmit data without physical contact between a card, badge, or tag and another device.
(b) A school district may not require a student to use an identification device that uses radio frequency identification technology or similar technology to identify the student, transmit information regarding the student, or track the location of the student.
(c) A school district that permits the voluntary use of a student identification device described by Subsection (b) shall provide an alternative method of identification for a student if the student’s parent or guardian submits timely written objection to the use of radio frequency identification technology.

February 25, 2007

Being a legal adult isn’t enough to get out of compulsory attendance

Filed under: education — texased @ 11:53 am

80(R) HB 566 – Introduced version – Bill Text:

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT relating to compulsory school attendance for students who are at least 18 years of age.BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Section 25.085(e), Education Code, is amended to read as follows:
(e) A person who voluntarily enrolls in school or voluntarily attends school after the person’s 18th birthday shall attend school each school day for the entire period the program of instruction is offered, and shall attend until the end of the school year. Section 25.094 applies to a person described by this subsection. Sections 25.093 and 25.095 do not apply to the parent of a person described by this subsection. [A school district may revoke for the remainder of the school year the enrollment of a person who has more than five absences in a semester that are not excused under Section 25.087. A person whose enrollment is revoked under this subsection may be considered an unauthorized person on school district grounds for purposes of Section 37.107.]

So what happens if the 18 year old stops going to school? Is the state going to force him to go? Will she be fined? What about a 19 year old who was held back  in school at some point,  does he have to go? Do you think Mike Hamilton has any idea of how many students actually drop out at age 18 or unable to attend school because of too many unexcused absences?

February 23, 2007

Best Practices?

Filed under: Education reform — texased @ 9:47 pm

What kind of employer would prevent workers from asking questions about assignments? What kind of employer would put a water cooler in each cubicle to keep employees from getting up and potentially congregating around the water cooler? What kind of employer would muffle chair legs with tennis balls to keep them from making noise? What kind of employer would group all the low performing employees together in a department?

Apparently whatever employer hires the kids who are in one of Northside ISD’s third grade classrooms. Students aren’t supposed to ask for clarification after directions have been given once. To keep them in their seats, desks are grouped together so that they can easily reach tissues or hand sanitizers and never have to get up from their chairs. Students are being tracked by “ability” level. The classroom walls are bare and the halls contain only pictures of the school mascot.

So since it’s a recognized school, does that make these “best practices?”

February 22, 2007

Community Colleges: To go or not to go

Filed under: Accountability, community colleges — texased @ 8:16 pm

College has been popping up in my life lately. My son would be a freshman in high school so I’ve been thinking about things like transcripts, dual credit, and how the heck we’re going to pay for it. Since he can take dual credit classes for free, I would like for him to try a class or two at our local community college, San Antonio College (SAC). But I think it would be a mistake for him to start his college career at SAC with the intention to transfer to a four year university later. Why? Because it’s highly unlikely that he would ever make the transfer.

Let me explain. First, I know that community colleges provide an important avenue to higher education for a lot of people. Like my mother. After immigrating to the United States and getting her GED, she took classes at the local community colleges. She went full time the year I was a senior in high school and then transferred to a four year private university to complete her degree.

I have a friend who dropped out of high school, got his GED at SAC, and eventually graduated from UTSA. I have another friend in her thirties who started with some remedial classes at SAC and is now transferring to UTSA.

These people all have something in common that I think was a critical factor in their success at actually completely a four year degree–they all knew what they wanted. They weren’t taking classes to figure out what they were interested in or to decide if they even like college. They were doing it for very specific academic and financial reasons.

The people I know who started at SAC because they weren’t sure what they wanted to do in college and didn’t want to spend the money to start out at a four year institution never finished. The very attributes that made SAC valuable to my mother and others, undermined those who were less certain about the purpose of college.

It’s easy to work part-time or even full-time while attending SAC. Maybe you could use the extra money and you don’t take a full load. Maybe your boss sees you as a full-time employee and doesn’t care about you needing to meet with a professor during work hours. Maybe without being inundated in an academic culture, it’s easier to give in to distractions.

Since you don’t know what you want to do in college, you don’t pay attention to which classes transfer and which don’t. You fail some classes because you didn’t drop them in time and it affects your gpa and ability to transfer. The money you might have saved is lost when you have to repeat classes because you couldn’t find the time to fit it into your work or study schedule.

This isn’t just me bad mouthing SAC or community colleges in general. I actually took my two required government classes in summer school at SAC and I thought the professors were very good. But I knew exactly which classes I could take at SAC and have them transfer. I wasn’t trying to figure out what I wanted out of college, I already knew.

Less then 13% of students in 2005 transferred from SAC to a four year institution. This number has actually declined since the year 2000. Less than ten percent of the students actually receive a Baccalaureate degree or above within six years. So who do you think make up most of that ten percent–non-traditional students who have returned to school with a goal or younger students trying to figure out what they want to do?

Many people would say then why spend more money to send these students to a more expensive, four year university? Because they do a better job of focusing their students on academics and graduating them. Granted, a 50% graduation rate in six years is nothing to brag about (I think UTSA’s is in the 30% range) but that’s better than ten percent.

As for it costing more, there’s also more financial aid available as well. And which costs more, a student flunking out after a year at a four year institution or a student spending two or three years taking a classes at a community college before dropping out to work full time?

Then there is a role model effect of being on campus and interacting with other students who are about to graduate and are interviewing with employers that is missing from community colleges. It can be a lot harder to see the payoff taking classes here and there with people you won’t see again after the class is over.

Ultimately, college is what you make of it. And community colleges like SAC play an important role in providing opportunities for higher education that simply do not exist in other countries. It may be the only financially viable means for a person to start college. But if you think starting off at a community college is a way to save money while getting pre-requisites out of the way and figuring out what you want to do, you’re going to be wrong somewhere around 80 to 90 percent of the time.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has a Higher Education Accountability System available online. Some of the SAC information is at http://www.txhighereddata.org/Interactive/Accountability/CC_Success.cfm.

February 21, 2007

Can race matter only some of the time?

Filed under: Accountability, High Stakes Testing, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), race — texased @ 10:25 am

Bush’s double standard on race in schools | csmonitor.com:

Not surprisingly, the Bush administration is supporting the plaintiffs’ arguments that the use of such racial criteria is unconstitutional. It was no doubt delighted to hear Justice Anthony Kennedy say during oral arguments that “characterizing each student by reason of the color of his or her skin should only be, if ever allowed, allowed as a last resort.”

But Bush officials are being inconsistent. They don’t apply that standard to their own public education policies. It’s time they embraced the premise of their own student testing rules – race matters – and support efforts to promote access and diversity in schools.

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, is remarkable because it deals with racial issues in a manner at odds with nearly every other policy advocated by the Bush administration – including its current argument to the Supreme Court that school desegregation plans must be “race neutral.” NCLB requires that schools show adequate progress in each of 10 “subgroups” of students. These subgroups include nonracial categories such as disabled, poor, and limited English proficient students, as well as racial and ethnic categories such as blacks, Hispanics, Asians, native Americans, and whites.

So schools are free to say, “sorry, you’re black and don’t have high enough scores to be admitted to this college program” but can penalize a school for not meeting AYP for a sub-group of black students?

I suppose that you can make the argument that these “failures” should have been addressed by the time a student leaves the public school system and that is exactly what NCLB is trying to do. But that does bring up the problem with proposed vouchers solutions, why can a public school lose money because it doesn’t meet accountability standards but a private school can accept vouchers without meeting the same standards?

Then there are the implications for a NCLB system for colleges that is being proposed at both the state and federal level. Will colleges be evaluated on the performance of “sub-groups?” This would probably encourage schools not to make “modifications” or “exceptions” to admission standards so that they can reduce the number of students admitted that would need extra help. (Wow, what would happen to college football and basketball?)

I can see where advocates for minority populations will be outraged and do everything possible to prevent such actions. However, there would be another side to this. What happens when the minority students admitted under “the equal” criteria start failing at a higher rate than the general student population? Wouldn’t that prove that there is something about the college environment that hinders success among these minority students? Wouldn’t schools have to spend more money on these students to prevent them from showing up as a failing sub-group on whatever evaluation system is being used?

It seems to me society recognizes that it is important for our schools to succeed at educating “minority” students given that they will be a majority in a generation or two is some of our largest states, Texas included. But why should colleges and private schools get off the hook at having to admit applicants and avoid struggling “sub-groups” while public schools are punished for failing them? If we acknowledge that it’s essential for society to educate these students then what are we doing to assist schools in this task? How many private schools would be for a voucher system if they had to take any student that applied and potentially loose their ability to have any other students funded if some should fail?

The principled interpretation of NCLB is that race shouldn’t matter, therefore schools will be evaluated to make sure that they succeed at educating all students so we look at racial categories to make sure no group is being ignored. However, if the data show that race still matters in the public schools, why shouldn’t colleges develop programs to help address those deficiencies so that these students can succeed in college? Are we saying that even though we acknowledge that the public schools have failed certain groups that anything done to address that failure outside the public schools is discrimination?

Bush’s double standard on race in schools | csmonitor.com:

Yet NCLB is a tacit admission that race matters. How can the Bush administration force primary and secondary schools to pay specific attention to test scores of students of particular racial groups while arguing that similar racial attention should be illegal for admission to the same public schools being tested? Even conservative opponents of affirmative action have called this approach “schizophrenic” and unprincipled.

February 18, 2007

So who would work for Apple?

Filed under: Education reform, Teacher issues — texased @ 1:29 pm

What kind of person could you get to make broad, sweeping statements on topics about which he’s obviously seriously uninformed? Steve Jobs.

Apple CEO Jobs attacks teacher unions | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle:

AUSTIN — Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs lambasted teacher unions today, claiming no amount of technology in the classroom would improve public schools until principals could fire bad teachers.Jobs compared schools to businesses with principals serving as CEOs.

“What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn’t get rid of people that they thought weren’t any good?” he asked to loud applause during an education reform conference.

“Not really great ones because if you’re really smart you go, ‘I can’t win.'”

In a rare joint appearance, Jobs shared the stage with competitor Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc. Both spoke to the gathering about the potential for bringing technological advances to classrooms.

“I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way,” Jobs said.

Regardless of the situation in other states, public schools have more than enough authority to get rid of bad teachers in Texas. I would love for Jobs to give one example where a Texas public school could not fire a teacher even though they have documentation to prove the person is incompetent.

Notice, I used the word “documentation.” I think Michael Dell is much closer to the truth.

Apple CEO Jobs attacks teacher unions | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle:

Dell also blamed problems in public schools on the lack of a competitive job market for principals.

If a principal does her job appropriately, she can get rid of an ineffective teacher. We’re not talking about mounds of documentation here. Does Steve Jobs just walk up to an employee and fire him without first notifying him of performance problems? Surely he expects his managers to notify employees there is a problem and give them the opportunity to improve before being fired?

Or is Apple so successful that it can afford to train and invest in new employees to replace those fired without trying to improve performance and protect the investment already made in that employee? After all, what kind of person is going to be willing to work for a company that fires employees with giving them a chance to address their short-comings? I thinkI would go apply for a job at Dell.

February 15, 2007

Why does it take a law….

Filed under: Texas State Board of Education — texased @ 6:50 am

80(R) SB 648 – Introduced version – Bill Text:

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT relating to information for teachers posted on the Texas Education Agency’s Internet website. �������BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
�������SECTION�1.��Subchapter I, Chapter 21, Education Code, is amended by adding Section 21.416 to read as follows:
�������Sec.�21.416.��TEACHER INFORMATION POSTED ON AGENCY WEBSITE. The agency shall post on the agency’s Internet website information relevant to the teaching profession, including information regarding:
�������������(1)��educator certification, including alternative certification information;
�������������(2)��school district job vacancies, organized by subject, grade level, and geographic area;
�������������(3)��salary schedules for each school district, organized by position and years of experience;
�������������(4)��the teacher appraisal process;
�������������(5)��continuing education requirements and opportunities;
�������������(6)��the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, including information relating to:
�������������������(A)��retirement benefits;
�������������������(B)��health insurance for active employees; and
�������������������(C)��health insurance for retirees;
�������������(7)��lesson plan ideas organized by grade level and subject area;
�������������(8)��Texas universities and colleges that offer advanced education degrees and financial assistance programs;
�������������(9)��instructional resources available through the regional education service centers; and
�������������(10)��links to education related websites.
�������SECTION�2.��This Act takes effect September 1, 2007.

I assume this means that this information isn’t currently available on the TEA website. Does it also mean that TEA wouldn’t put it on it’s website without the legislature mandating it? Apparently it wasn’t possible for Senator Eliot Shapleigh to convince the Texas State Board of Education or TEA that this is a good idea. Why?

February 13, 2007

Is it the money or the competition?

Filed under: Education reform — texased @ 6:59 am

Texas’ 2007 dropouts will cost taxpayers $377 million every year | NCPA:

The study finds that Texas school districts facing more private school competition have lower public school dropout rates. A modest school choice program, which would increase private school enrollment by just five percent, would reduce the public school dropout rate by 8,700 – 17,400 students per year. This would save between $27 and $53 million annually over the expected life of the students.

Or maybe they have a lower dropout rate because the school gets the same amount in local property taxes collected to support a fewer number of students.

Since the money is calculated by what the state would save, does that mean the study is supporting a state wide school finance system to support vouchers?

February 12, 2007

State control is okay as long as we win

Filed under: sports, Texas, University Interscholastic League — texased @ 10:26 am

MySA.com: Metro | State:

Texas is believed to be one of three states in which private schools are typically not allowed to compete with public schools in statewide extracurricular organizations.

So the vast majority of states have found a way for private schools to compete with public schools? And schools in Texas can’t because of what? We want to keep our academics untainted by the influence of sports. We want to keep our sports untainted by “pro” athletes?

The whole extracurricular thing in public schools has been something I’ve been thinking about a lot. If football offers such important benefits to students, why are the number of students who can participate limited? Why is it more important to have a winning football team rather than an intramural program where all interested students can participate? Spare me the potential college scholarship argument. We’re talking about the education justification for participation in sports or any extracurricular competition for that matter.

Why is so much invested into resources that are only used by a small percentage of the population of 14 to 18 year olds in the state? To make school more palatable to that small percentage of students? Does having a winning basketball team make it more likely that students who don’t participate in basketball will attend school?

Why do kids have to compete to get on the UIL number sense team or Destination Imagination? What is it about these activities that make them valuable only to those who are “good enough?”

Apparently private schools are excluded because if would be “unfair” for students to compete against those who don’t have to meet the same academic requirements because the academics are more important than the competition. However, is it fair that public school students who meet the academic requirements are denied the opportunity because they aren’t as good as the next kid? If academics are really so important, shouldn’t the A student be rewarded with the place on the baseball team over the C student? I know, I know, academics are important, but not that important.

What would happen if schools were not allowed to compete against one another? They can have all sorts of competitions they want, it just has to be internal. What are the drawbacks?

Loss of exposure to students of other backgrounds? What, there are student mixers during half time?

Limit the level of competition for those at the top of the sport? Sorry, even colleges are able to offer intramurals while competing with other schools.

Limit the opportunity for building “community spirit?” As opposed to generating a a social hierarchy based on excluding those who can’t compete?

I really don’t expect there to be a sudden change in attitude and we totally redesign the extracurricular process. That would be like actually creating an equitable public school finance system in Texas. I do wonder how many people would support high school extracurricular programs if you point out that it is really just a form of social control by the government that is increasingly subverting related activities outside the school system. But that would be un-Texan.

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