There are now 1,199 Texas schools identified as low performers by the Texas Education Agency. Last year there were 892.
There were major increases in the number of low-performing schools within some cities too. In Dallas, there was an increase from 59 low-performing schools to 71, and in Houston it increased from 53 to 86.
Schools make their way onto the list by having over half of their students fail the state test for two out of three years, or by picking up an “improvement required” rating. These schools, which are not meeting minimum academic standards, are responsible for teaching over 736,000 students.
Students at low-performing schools are allowed to transfer to other schools, but few are expected to do so because there is no transportation funding attached, making it an unrealistic option for many. And while they are allowed to leave their current school, there is no requirement that other schools accept them, and many simply don’t have the capacity.
Part of the reason cited for the decline among so many schools is a more challenging curriculum for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR test. “It is taking schools longer to adjust to the revised curriculum standards and the new test than we originally projected,” said TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe.
While that may be true, the part she left out is that it’s unreasonable to expect improvement in schools when the state doesn’t invest in them – and in fact makes it even harder for them to do their jobs. Incoming Governor Greg Abbott has spent years defending $5.4 billion in cuts to public education that have already been ruled unconstitutional for creating an unfair and inadequate education system. The cuts have eliminated the positions of thousands of teachers while Texas’s student population continues to grow. Meanwhile, the lawsuit has already cost millions of dollars, which will continue to grow as a result of Abbott appealing the case to the Texas Supreme Court.
Certainly teachers and school administrators have a major role to play in the performance of their schools. But Greg Abbott and the Republicans in the Texas legislature have taken no responsibility for the completely inadequate amount of resources they’ve left them with.