The Texas Legislature is now in full swing and, of course, the Texas Institute for Education Reform (TIER) is at every table on every significant public education issue at stake, hopefully providing meaningful policy advocacy leadership. We have a comprehensive agenda for the session, but I am often asked–if I could get only one major thing accomplished in this session ,what would it be.
That is not an easy question to answer, but I think it goes something like this. Texas has been at this thing called standards and accountability based education reform for about 25 years, with substantial results in terms of student achievement and national leadership. This has been an all-hands effort on the part of elected officials, educators, business leaders, and parents. It has also been incremental in nature in the sense that, as we have progressed in our standards, we have ratcheted up the expectations for our kids and our educators. This has produced fairly consistent incremental gains, but also some frustration about where we are and where we are going. So now we are at the point, after all these years, that we owe it to the kids, their parents, our educators, and the taxpayers to define the “end game”–what should be our expectations for our children and what should be the value of a Texas high school diploma?
In response, as state policy makers began about a year ago to consider significant revisions to the state education accountability system, our organization and its allies established what we believe should be the organizing principle of the new system, a hybrid between college readiness and workplace readiness we call postsecondary readiness. This is defined as follows:
“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 technical or industry certification, without the need for remediation.”
A proxy for this definition is community college readiness without remediation. This we believe is the minimally acceptable standard of expectation for all Texas students who pursue the recommended curriculum to a high school diploma, regardless of the postsecondary path they choose.
From this organizing principle flows grade level benchmarked standards along a K-12 “ramp” leading to the postsecondary readiness exit; vertically scaled assessments with value-added capability measuring growth along the way; criteria holding schools accountable for student progress; and interventions to help those educators and students in need.
So this is my answer to the question “if I had only one wish”–that the Legislature would embed in law this organizing principle, for which the motto would be “one standard, multiple pathways, equal rigor”. Frankly, to do so would greatly simplify filling out the remainder of the system and its execution and would provide all the players in the chain the necessary clarity of mission and expectations.
With any luck, we will get this accomplished, maybe sooner than later. Meanwhile, visit our web site at www.texaseducationreform.org for updates on our progress. And remember, we need all the help we can get.