The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has recently released the 2022 student assessment results on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) and they are revealing in several ways. Governor Greg Abbott was recently challenged by Politifact to validate his claim that the Texas high school graduation rate is at 90% overall, ranking the state among the top five. Well, the good news is that Politifact found this claim to be true, but one must dig a little deeper for the complete story, which is that the more meaningful measure of student success is postsecondary readiness (PSR). This is defined as the range of academic, workforce, and social proficiency that high school students should acquire to successfully transition to skilled employment, advanced military training, an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, or industry certification, without the need for remediation. A useful proxy for this standard is community college readiness without the need for remediation.
Using the “meets standard” designation as a proxy for PSR as measured by student performance on the five STAAR end of course exams necessary for graduation (Algebra I, Biology, English I and II, and U. S. History) reveals statewide passing percentages for these exams of 46%, 57%, 48%, 57%, and 71%, respectively. Granted, to be fair, passing rates on three of the exams improved over the previous year and there are signs of movement back to the pre-pandemic results, but even at that level there remains a significant overall gap between graduating and doing so at the college, career, and military readiness level. After all, the effective high school graduation standard is Algebra I and English II! And the last time I looked at the data point, approximately 50% of Texas high school graduates entering community colleges were required to take at least one remedial course. We can and must do better.
The TEA is currently implementing changes that supposedly will require STAAR to be redesigned to more properly reflect current curriculum standards. Let’s hope so. And while we are at it we will need much more rigor with educator accountability to match in order to meet the expectations we have for our kids.