Texas has been Racing to the Top for a Decade

Texas doesn’t tag along, but sometimes for good reason.  They didn’t adopt the Common Core because they believe their standards are better.  They didn’t apply for Race to the Top because they’ve been racing to the top for a decade and think they’ve learned a few things along the way.
Texas disaggregated results before it was required and used the data to begin narrowing achievement gaps.
Texas was among the first states to adopt college/career ready graduation requirements.  This years juniors must earn four credits in English, mathematics, science and social studies.
Texas has a strong data system and was one of 20 states to receive a federal grant, matched by the Dell Foundation, to make it better.
The Texas High School Project is a unique public-private partnership created in 2003 to expand quality options and improve struggling schools.  THSP includes:

  • Network of 41 Early College High Schools where students have the opportunity to earn an AA with their high school diploma
  • 50 STEM schools
  • Struggling schools in three dozen districts have participated in the school redesign program

The THSP and more than a decade of work on school accountability has given TEA unusually good experience and capacity when it comes to school turnarounds.  Their experience, combined with a false start by the feds, led to some friction around School Improvement Grants that you may hear more about soon.
While they haven’t raised their charter cap, Commissioner Scott is amending the charters of high performers to allow multiple campuses supported by an innovative facilities finance mechanism.  The KIPP and YES charter initiative in Houston is a national model for quality at scale.  Uplift and Idea are great networks that feature International Baccalaureate.  Harmony is a great STEM network that got a boost from THSP.  David Dunn’s charter association represents 370 charters and he’s working hard to aim new charters at the least well served populations.
I’m a fan of Common Core and RttT, but grant seekers—be it a school, district, or state—need to differentiate between good money and bad money.  Good money helps you accomplish your goals.  Bad money is a distraction.
Texas is famous for social studies debates.  Like most states, Texas has work to do on the equitable distribution of effective teachers.  Despite challenges and a little TexMex spice, Texas is on my short list of states that gets it.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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