Are the Texas public schools that serve many middle-class children performing well? Lots of parents think so. But many of these schools are not as good as they think.
Thats according to a new study from the Pacific Research Institute, which analyzed school performance in Texas using a number of different methodologies, and found evidence of widespread underachievement.
The PRI study looked at the pool of 1,115 Texas public schools where 33 percent or fewer of students are classified as low-income what many parents might consider middle-class schools.
The study also examined whether schools reached the states final Recommended benchmark of satisfactory academic performance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) standardized tests.
In order to achieve the Recommended benchmark, a seventh-grader had to get 37 of the 52 questions correct on the STAAR math test a mark of 71 percent.
Among the pool of predominantly non-low-income schools, 673, or 60 percent, had half or more of their students in at least one grade level fail to reach the Recommended level of satisfactory academic performance on a 2013 STAAR exam.
At Shady Grove Elementary School in the city of Keller, less than 4 percent of students are classified as low-income.
But 60 percent of Shady Grove third graders failed to meet or exceed the Recommended benchmark of satisfactory academic performance on the math exam. Among fourth graders, 55 percent failed to reach Recommended academic performance in math.
Also, in 758 of the 1,115 middle-class public schools or 68 percent students in at least one grade performed below average compared to schools with the same percentage of low-income students in 2013.
At Haslet Elementary School less than 10 percent of students are classified as low-income. On each of the six grade-level STAAR reading and math exams, using the Recommended benchmarks, Haslet Elementary students performed below the average of schools with the same percentage of low-income students.
The underachievement on the STAAR exams at Shady Grove, Haslet and other Texas schools with mostly non-low-income students should not be surprising. On the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress often referred to as the nations report card 53 percent of non-low-income Texas fourth graders failed to score at the proficient level in reading. Forty-seven percent of non-low-income Texas eighth graders failed to reach proficiency in math.
Surveys show that more Texas voters would choose a private school than a public school if given the choice. But Texas lawmakers have lagged behind their counterparts in other states in providing all families, regardless of income level, with school choice options.
Texas lawmakers should relieve such frustration and give parents and their children the school choice they want and need.