EDUCATION COMMITTEE REVIEWS PUBLIC SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY
Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Shirley Neeley testified today before the Senate Education Committee regarding the state's methods for tracking student progress and educational quality in Texas public schools. According to Neeley, Texas was one of the first states to adopt an accountability system in 1984 and leads the way in education accountability models. She added that Texas education standards are more rigorous that the national standard, and that other states follow the Texas model when creating their own accountability plans.
TEA official Dr. Criss Cloudt went into more detail about how the state looks at achievement for different schools. The state sets achievement goals based on a number of demographics, such as race, geography, and socio-economic factors. It also tracks progress and achievement based on these demographics, in order to see what type of student is being best served.
The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test is one of the main indicators of student progress. Neeley asserted that the test becomes more and more rigorous every year, as the passing standard is raised annually.
The committee also heard from statistician Dr. William Sanders, who has spent the last 25 years working on the problem of quantitatively analyzing student achievement. He advocated the value-added approach, where students aren't broken into groups, but each individual student's progress is followed from first grade on. By using longitudinal studies, he said, the state can accurately track student progress, but can also anticipate the students' future progress, as well as the quality of the education that students receive.
There was also discussion of end-of-course exams as a way to track progress. Proponents say that a final cumulative exam will show how much a student has learned over the school year, while opponents contend that these tests punish students who do not test well. All recommendations will be considered for legislation improving school accountability standards in the 80th Legislative session.