Texas holds steady – at the bottom

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If your favorite Division I basketball team was ranked 41st in the nation, you wouldn’t have much to brag about. And that’s out of 351 colleges and universities. Texas has far fewer bragging rights as the 41st state in the nation in Education Week’s newest Quality Counts rankings.

This is the third year in a row Texas hasn’t broken the top 40 in the annual analysis’ nationwide rankings. The state rankings are based on three indicators: Chance-for-Success, K-12 Achievement, and School Finance. Progress doesn’t always happen fast, but we should have seen some progress over the past five years. In 2014, we ranked 40th in Chance-for-Success, 21st in K-12 Achievement, and 41st in School Finance. This year, our rankings look shockingly similar. The only change was moving down three spots in the measure of student achievement.

Texas’ stagnation can be explained by the state’s reluctance to change education policy. In 2014, most Texas teachers were paid on a step-and-ladder salary schedule that didn’t reward teachers for student results. The same can be said today. In 2014, districts lacked comprehensive incentives to bring innovation into classrooms and schools. The same can be said today. In 2014, the state struggled with underperforming schools and an inability or unwillingness to change them. For the most part, the same can be said today. In 2014, the vast majority of schools delivered roughly the same education in roughly the same way to the students zoned to attend them. The same can be said today.

Here we are five years later at 41st in the nation – again. I doubt you’re wondering why. Fear of change has thwarted efforts to make the hard decisions that will increase teacher effectiveness, improve struggling schools, and bring much-needed innovation into Texas education.

Fortunately, not all is lost. It’s a new year, and we can get the ball rolling on comprehensive change now. By committing to transformation instead of dabbling around the edges, we can start edging out the competition. Slowly, but surely, Texas can earn that number one ranking. I don’t know about you, but I think Texas students deserve to be on that podium. We can make that happen.

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