It is commonplace for us to say that we want the best for our children, including education, but it is not so commonplace to be sure we give it to them. Education is the essential underpinning of every human activity – whether it is simply to be able to communicate with each other, have the mental tools to create innovative solutions to problems, or earn enough to care for ourselves.
As adults, we should all care about whether our public school system is delivering the goods. It would seem that it is struggling and we may or may not be mindful of where the shortfall lies.
In late May, Texans for Positive Economic Policy in conjunction with the Texas A&M University, issued the educational transparency tool called Texas Smart Schools. It can be found at www.Txsmartschools.org and it provides data pertaining to each and every school district in the state, including all charters, with information as detailed as how our individual campuses are performing.
The Texas Legislature in HB 4, which was passed last session, made improvements to the pre-kindergarten program and it is going to be critical that those efforts are able to be measured. What works? And what doesn’t? Both metrics are vital to making any needed changes.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office report which surveyed the years between 2000 and 2014 found that schools with higher indices of poverty had a much narrower curriculum for their students. That doesn’t bode well for those students in an increasingly global economy.
When we put together Texas Smart Schools, we hoped that educators, parents, business men and women would take the time to actually look at how their local schools and districts are performing. If there is a nearby school that is outperforming its peers, it should be applauded first, and then copied. What are they doing and how are they doing it?
For a number of decades, there have been a series of reports in frightening repetition which look at American students as they fail to compete effectively with children from across the globe. Our obligation as Texans and citizens is to engage in efforts that will produce the best educational results for all. Yes, all Texans. And right now. These Texans in school today don’t have any time to waste. I urge you to look at Texas Smart Schools, and work to make all schools perform at their highest potential. This kind of transparency can be transformative.
Susan Combs, former Comptroller, and Principal of Texans for Positive Economic Policy, based in Austin.