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Public Education

Texas has been a leader among states in taking steps to improve the quality of its public education. It has increased accountability and instituted more rigorous curricula, but it continues to face challenges in preparing its students for success in the 21st century.

Student Population

Texas has the nation’s second-largest elementary and secondary school enrollment, accounting for 9 percent of the U.S. total.155 The state’s 1,031 public school districts, including 7,729 campuses, and 191 charter operator, including 332 campuses, provide early education through twelfth grade for about 4.6 million students, 20 percent more than ten years ago.156

The State Data Center estimates that the public elementary and secondary school population will grow by about 900,000 between 2010 and 2040, assuming net migration rates of about one-half of that experienced during the 1990-2000 decade.157

Exhibit 27

Ethnicity of Students in Texas Public Schools
1996-97 Actual – 2040 Projected

Ethnicity 1996-7 Actual 2006-7 Actual 2040 Projected
White 45.6% 35.7% 25.9%
Black 14.3% 14.4% 9.5%
Hispanic 37.4% 46.3% 60.9%
Other 2.7% 3.6% 3.7%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%

Source: Texas Education Agency and Texas State Data Center.

The state’s student population has become more diverse over the last decade and will continue to do so through 2040, according to current projections. The segment with the greatest growth is Hispanics, whose share will grow to about 60.9 percent of the total; Whites will decline to 25.9 percent; Blacks will decline to 9.5 percent; and “Other” ethnicities will grow to 3.7 percent of the total (Exhibit 27).158

In addition, the state’s share of students identified as Limited English Proficient (LEP) rose from 13.4 percent in 1996-97 to 16 percent of all children in 2006-07.159 The Texas Education Agency (TEA) reports that 127 languages are spoken by the state’s schoolchildren.160

Texas also has seen a significant increase in the number and percentage of economically disadvantaged students in public schools. In the 1996-97 school year, about 1.8 million students, or 48.1 percent of all Texas students, were identified as economically disadvantaged. In the 2006-07 school year, about 2.5 million children – 55.5 percent of all Texas students – were considered economically disadvantaged.161


In 1990, the Texas Legislature established the state’s first accountability system for public education based on school district and campus ratings tied to certain measurable indicators. The system currently uses TAKS test scores, alternative test scores for Special Education students, annual dropout rates and school completion rates.162 Using these indicators, the system rates school districts and campuses as “Exemplary,” “Recognized,” “Academically Acceptable” or “Academically Unacceptable.”163

Exhibit 28

2007 TAKS Results:
Selected Characteristics
Sum of All Tests, All Grades Tested

Student Population Percent Passing All TAKS Tests
State 67%
Black 52%
Hispanic 59%
White 80%
Native American 71%
Asian/Pacific 87%
Male 67%
Female 67%
LEP 47%
Economically Disadvantaged 57%

Note: Includes 8th grade Science.

Source: Texas Education Agency.

As of August 2007, excluding charter schools, 19 Texas public school districts were rated Exemplary; 190 were rated Recognized; 801 were rated Academically Acceptable; and 21 were rated Academically Unacceptable. Of total campuses, again excluding charter operators, 628 were rated Exemplary; 2,317 were rated Recognized; 3,891 were rated Academically Acceptable; 232 were rated Academically Unacceptable; and 661 were listed as “Not Rated: Other.”164 The latter category includes districts and campuses that are not rated in the accountability system, such as alternative education or early childhood programs.

The key criterion of the accountability system is the competency of students in core subjects as measured by testing against academic standards.165 The most current standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), became effective on September 1, 1998. Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) testing based on these standards began in spring 2003, and accountability ratings using the new tests began in fall 2004.166

The 2007 Texas Legislature, however, passed legislation that phases out TAKS for grades 9-12, including the exit-level test required to receive a diploma. In its place, beginning in the 2011-12 school year, ninth-grade students will take end-of-course exams in core subjects, including those previously covered in the exit-level test. To pass these exams, a student must score at least 60 points on a scale of 100; to receive a diploma, students must score a cumulative average of at least 70 points when all tests are considered.167

TAKS testing will continue for students in grades 3 through 8 in reading; grades 4 and 7 in writing; grades 3 through 8 in mathematics; grades 5 and 8 in science; and grade 8 in social studies. Exhibit 28 provides the percentage shares of students who passed all assessments in the 2006-07 academic year.168

In addition, Texas has also instituted the “Student Success Initiative,” which requires students to pass the TAKS reading assessment or an approved alternate test in third grade, or receive a unanimous decision by a school’s grade placement committee, to advance to fourth grade. Students must also meet requirements for reading and mathematics in fifth grade and in eighth grade to be promoted to the next grade.169

Exhibit 29

Average Scores for Texas Students in Grade 8
and State Rankings, National Assessment
of Educational Progress, 2000-2007

Subject 2000 Average Score 2000 State Ranking 2007 Average Score 2007 State Ranking
Mathematics 273 20 286 15
Reading* 262* 26 261 31
Science* 143 28 143* 35

* Reading average score is for 2002; no 2000 score is available. Science average score is for 2005; no 2007 score is available. Six states were not included in the Science assessment.

Source: National Center for Educational Statistics.

A National Center for Educational Statistics report for 2007, The Nation’s Report Card, provides interstate comparisons based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), administered by the U.S. Department of Education and a bipartisan governing board; the NAEP is a collection of tests that measure levels of proficiency in core subject areas.170

The report found that Texas eighth-graders scored above the national average of 280 in mathematics, ranking 15th in the nation; their reading scores were tied at the national average; and science scores, last measured in 2005, were slightly lower than the national average of 147. Their reading rank among the states was 31st, however, and their science rank was 35th. In addition, while mathematics scores and ranking improved from 2000, reading and science scores remained relatively stable, and the state’s rankings declined (Exhibit 29).171

Although Texas’ fourth-graders improved their scores during the same time period in all three subjects, so did children in other states, causing Texas’ state ranking to decline in mathematics and reading (Exhibit 30). Their mathematics score was higher than the national average of 239, their reading score tied the national average, and they scored one point higher in science.172

Exhibit 30

Average Scores for Texas Students in Grade 4
and State Rankings, National Assessment of
Educational Progress 2000-2007

Subject 2000 Average Score 2000 State Ranking 2007 Average Score 2007 State Ranking
Mathematics 231 7 242 20
Reading* 217* 29 220 31
Science* 145 29 150* 29

* Reading average score is for 2002; no 2000 score is available. Science average score is for 2005; no 2007 score is available. Six states were not included in the Science assessment.

Source: National Center for Educational Statistics.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 requires all states to have students proficient in math and reading by 2013-14. To measure their proficiency, all states must have a state-defined accountability system and report “adequate yearly progress” toward proficiency on a state, district and campus basis. They must measure progress based on annual tests and related academic indicators, such as graduation rates, and have annual goals designed to ensure that all districts and campuses have students proficient by 2013-14.173 To comply with the law, Texas measures districts and schools against TAKS or alternative test participation and performance standards or performance improvement standards and against graduation rates, if the district or school offers Grade 12, or attendance rates if they do not.174

Parents whose children attend schools receiving federal Title I funds (aid awarded based on the percentage of students from low-income families) that do not meet these annual improvement goals for two consecutive years may transfer their child within the district, and the district must pay for the transportation. If school districts fail to meet adequate yearly progress goals for three years running, they must provide free tutoring services outside the regular school day; schools that remain in this status after three years are subject to corrective action and restructuring, including takeover or reorganization.

In 2007, 96.8 percent of Texas school districts and 67.6 percent of campuses, including charters, received Title I funds.175 While most of the state’s 1,205 regular and charter public school districts measured for adequate yearly progress met standards in 2007, 131 Title I districts and another five non-Title I districts did not. Of 7,111 regular and charter campuses measured statewide, 485 Title I campuses and 179 non-Title I campuses missed the standards.176

Although the state uses TAKS results to comply with NCLB, TAKS is not comparable with other states’ tests. The NAEP tests, however, provide for interstate comparisons of proficiency in core subject areas.177

In 2007, the NAEP found that 30 percent of Texas’ fourth-graders were proficient or better in reading compared to a national average of 32 percent. Forty percent were proficient or better in mathematics, compared to a national average of 39 percent. On the other hand, 84 percent of fourth-graders met the TAKS reading standard in 2007, and 86 percent met the TAKS mathematics standard (Exhibit 31).178

Exhibit 31

Comparison of Proficiency in Reading and
Mathematics TAKS (Spring 2007) and NAEP (2007)

Grade/Subject TAKS
Percent Meeting Standard
Percent At or Above Proficiency (Texas)
Percent At or Above Proficiency (National Average)
4th Grade Reading 84% 30% 32%
4th Grade Mathematics 86% 40% 39%
8th Grade Reading 89% 28% 29%
8th Grade Mathematics 73% 35% 31%

Note: Meeting the 4th grade TAKS reading standard required getting 27 of 40 points correct; the mathematics standard required getting 28 of 42 points correct. Meeting the 8th grade TAKS reading standard required getting 33 of 48 points correct; the mathematics standard required getting 30 of 50 points correct. The NAEP “proficient” standard for reading required fourth graders to score 238 or more and eighth graders to score 281 or more on a 500-point scale score. The NAEP “proficient” standard for mathematics required fourth graders to score 249 or more and eighth graders to score 299 or more on a 500-point scale score.

Source: Texas Education Agency and National Center for Educational Statistics.

The NAEP also found that 28 percent of Texas eighth-graders were proficient or better in reading, compared to a national average of 29 percent; 35 percent were proficient or better in mathematics compared to a national average of 31 percent. About 89 percent of eighth-graders met the TAKS reading standard in 2007, and 73 percent met the TAKS mathematics standard.179


Texas business and educational experts have stressed the need to continue increasing educational standards to make more students college-ready.180 The number of credits required to graduate under Texas’ “Recommended” graduation plan has risen to 26, beginning with students entering the ninth grade in the 2007-08 academic year; the number of advanced mathematics and science credits required under the program increased from three to four.181

The more stringent Recommended plan became the standard graduation plan for entering ninth-graders in the 2004-05 school year; this plan includes all of the courses that most colleges require for admission. Students also may graduate under the Distinguished Achievement plan, which has even more stringent requirements; or the Minimum plan, which is less stringent than the Recommended plan, requiring only 22 credits to graduate, but parental and school approval are required for participation.182

As a result of these changes, the percentage of students graduating under the Recommended or Distinguished Achievement plans rose from about 51 percent in 2000-01 to more than 75 percent in 2005-06, although the total number of public high school graduates in Texas peaked in 2003-04 with 244,165; in 2005-06, only 240,485 graduated (Exhibit 32).183

Exhibit 32

Texas Public High School Graduates

Graduation Plan 2000-01 Percent of
2003-04 Percent of
2005-06 Percent of
Recommended 99,454 46.2% 147,051 60.2% 157,626 65.5%
Distinguished Achievement 10,661 5.0% 19,920 8.2% 24,355 10.1%
Minimum 105,201 48.9% 77,194 31.6% 58,504 24.3%
Total 215,316 100.0% 244,165 100.0% 240,485 100.0%

Note: Numbers may not total due to rounding.

Source: Texas Education Agency.

In addition to stronger graduation requirements, the state has made more college-level courses available to students in high school. Students are being offered more Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses , which provide college credit if students score high enough on exams. In 2006, 18.9 percent of students attempted at least one AP or IB exam, and 51.3 percent of them met the minimum score for college credit on at least one exam.184 Concurrent or dual-enrollment courses, which provide both high school and college credit, are becoming more common as well.

Despite recent progress, many education and business leaders remain concerned that Texas is not producing enough high school graduates with the skills needed to succeed in college or the workplace. To help address this concern, the Texas Legislature in 2006 directed the State Board of Education (SBOE) to develop college readiness standards and incorporate them into the TEKS. To assist SBOE in this task, the Legislature also directed the commissioners of education and higher education to appoint “vertical teams” of high school and college faculty. These vertical teams are responsible for developing college readiness standards in English language arts, math, science and social studies. These standards will be subjected to public comment before being approved by the Commissioner of Education and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. They will then be submitted to SBOE for consideration; SBOE has final authority for deciding what will be included in the new curriculum standards.185

In April 2007, Governor Perry appointed the Commission for a College Ready Texas to “engage all Texans in a discU.S.on of what skills and knowledge a student must possess to be college ready, and to provide expert resources and general support to the vertical teams and the State Board of Education (SBOE).” The commission, of which Comptroller Susan Combs is a member, released a report in November 2007 outlining its findings and recommendations. The report made recommendations to strengthen the state’s high school curriculum to help ensure graduates are prepared to succeed in college or the workforce. As noted above, SBOE will make the final decisions on what to include in the TEKS. 186

Many students are not reaping the advantages of recent educational improvements. The most common reason for dropping out is falling behind in school. Freshmen have the highest retention rates – that is, the rate at which they are forced to repeat a grade. In 2005-06, 16.5 percent of Texas freshmen were retained in Grade 9, the highest rate by far of any grade. Grade 10 had the next highest rate, at 8.7 percent; on the other hand, only 1.8 percent of eighth-graders were retained. Hardest-hit are minorities, who are about twice as likely to be held back; about one in five Black and Hispanic students do not advance to Grade 10 after Grade 9.187

The Texas Education Agency’s (TEA’s) reported attrition rate, which compares ninth-grade enrollment in 2002-03 (372,396) to twelfth-grade enrollment in 2005-06 (256,799) was 31 percent; however, this rate does not take into account such factors as student enrollment growth or retention and students who graduate early, receive a GED or leave for a legitimate reason other than dropping out.188

Using TEA ’s current definition, the 2005-06 annual dropout rate for Texas public school students in Grades 9-12 was 3.7 percent; for Grades 7-12, it was 2.6 percent. TEA ’s annual dropout rate is much lower than its attrition rate because it only measures the number of students who dropped out in one year – the “annual” rate. TEA recently changed its dropout rate definition to the National Center for Education Statistics’ definition, to allow for interstate comparisons, so TEA ’s current rates cannot be compared with its previous rates. NCES defines a dropout as a student who “does not return to public school the following fall, is not expelled, and does not graduate, receive a GED, continue school the public school system, begin college, or die.” 189

Males represented a higher proportion of dropoU.S.than females – 55.5 percent compared to 44.5 percent; of the total 7th-12th grade population, males represented 51.3 percent compared to 48.7 percent for females. Among ethnic groU.S. Hispanics represented 56.5 percent of total dropoU.S.compared to 22.6 percent for Blacks and 19.4 percent for Whites; of the total 7th-12th grade population, Hispanics represented 41.5 percent compared to 15.4 percent for Blacks and 39.6 percent for Whites.190

Of the total students who graduate from high school, about one-half attend a two-year college or undergraduate university within a year of graduation. Of total graduating students, about 41.6 percent of Hispanics, 44.5 percent of Blacks, 46.6 percent of Native Americans, 57.7 percent of Whites and 63.5 percent of Asians attend college within a year of graduating.191

For those who do not, some may attend proprietary schools to obtain a skill or credential while others begin employment, usually in low-skilled, low-wage positions. For students who do not intend to further their education beyond high school, career and technology education is their only chance to learn a skill before entering the work force.

Career and Technology Education

Secondary career and technology education in Texas and throughout the nation has become more expansive, rigorous and integrated with academics in recent years. This trend began in the 1990s, in response to demands for more skilled and knowledgeable employees that could adapt to the changing demands of a global economy.

About 941,000 Texas public school students were enrolled in a career and technology program in 2006-07, a number representing almost half of all students in grades 7-12.192 Business education has the highest concentration of students, with 35 percent of career and technology students enrolled in at least one of these courses in 2004-05. About 19 percent were enrolled in family and consumer sciences; the remaining study areas each had less than 15 percent of total enrollment.193

The variety of courses in career and technology has expanded in recent years, as computer technology has opened new fields and occupations and gender barriers have been reduced. Some schools have developed “academies” in certain areas, such as business or allied health, which offer courses that are integrated to provide for a cohesive continuum of training.

Another significant change in career and technology education has been the infusion of academics and an understanding of global competitiveness, making them more relevant and challenging than in the past.

To provide more course options and the latest technologies, texts, equipment and information, many high schools have formed partnerships with community colleges and universities; if they qualify academically, students may take some courses at a community college or university campus or from a college professor who teaches at the high school. Students may receive high school and college credit for these dual or concurrent enrollment classes.

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) rules allow students to take no more than two dual or concurrent enrollment classes per semester unless they meet certain exceptional qualifications. Some high schools may further limit this number.194 More commonly, students enroll in Tech Prep programs, which provide college credit for college-level technology courses taken in high school upon graduation and enrollment in the community college.

High schools generally require students enrolling concurrently to pay for course tuition, fees and books, which can provide a disincentive, although colleges may waive all or some portion of these tuition and fees. TEA currently has a pilot project to reimbU.S. certain districts for books bought for economically disadvantaged students.195

School Finance

The total actual cost of Texas public education, including capital outlay and debt service, was $9,629 per student in 2005-06; instruction represented 44.6 percent of that amount. Since the 2000-01 school year, the total actual cost per student has risen by 16.8 percent, from $8,245. The average teacher salary increased by 8.8 percent during the same time period.196

State funding for public education is provided through the Permanent School Fund, the Available School Fund and the Foundation School Program. The Foundation School Program, composed of state revenue and local property tax revenue, funds the largest share of education. State funds are disbU.S.d according to a system of formulas based on district and student characteristics. State funding is intended to ensure that each school district can provide adequate educational resources to meet the needs of its students regardless of its local property tax base.

One issue that has been debated for many years has been the declining state share of public school funding. By 2005-06, local property taxes were providing 48.3 percent of all revenue used to fund public schools, as opposed to 43 percent in 2000-01; the state’s share declined from 41.8 percent to 33.9 percent over the same period (Exhibit 33).197 In 2004-05,
compared with other states, Texas ranked 49th in the state’s share of per pupil revenue but 17th in its local share of per pupil revenue.198

Exhibit 33

Revenue Sources for Texas Public Education (in billions)

Sources 2000-01 Actual Revenue Percent of
2005-06 Actual Revenue Percent of
2006-07 Actual Revenue Percent of
Local Taxes $12.9 43.0% $19.1 48.3% $18.8 51.0%
State $12.5 41.8% $13.4 33.9% $15.3 41.5%
Federal $2.4 8.2% $4.5 11.5% $1.3 3.5%
Other Local* $2.1 7.1% $2.5 6.3% $1.4 3.9%
Total $29.9 100.0% $39.5 100.0% $36.8 100.0%

* ‘Other Local’ refers to local revenues primarily from services provided to other school districts. Data do not include equity transfers or certain other receipts, such as sale of bonds.
Note: Numbers may not total due to rounding.

Source: Texas Education Agency.

In an effort to ease the burden on property taxpayers, the 2005 Legislature cut school property taxes by an estimated 11 percent in 2007 and 33 percent in 2008; however, increasing property valU.S.are likely to offset some of this relief. Budgeted financial data for 2006-07 show the state’s share of revenue growing to 41.5 percent and increasing by almost $2 billion over the previous year. In addition, revenue from local taxes is budgeted to decline to $18.8 billion from $19.1 billion in 2005-06; however, the percent of local share is budgeted to increase primarily because federal and other local revenue are expected to decline sharply. State share is likely to increase again for the 2007-08 school year as the new school funding system is fully implemented.199

Preliminary data from TEA confirm that the state share of aid will expand in fiscal 2007 and 2008 as a result of actions by the 2007 Legislature. Exhibit 34 shows the state share growing from 52.6 percent in fiscal 2006 to 61.5 percent in 2008; the total funding per student, as measured by Refined Average Daily Attendance (RADA), will also grow by 44.7 percent, from $4,852 in fiscal 2006 to $7,026 in fiscal 2008.200

Exhibit 34

State Aid Funding

  2002-03 2005-06 (p) 2006-07 (p) 2007-08 (p)
Total Refined ADA (RADA) 3,939,620 4,187,231 4,252,288 4,361,881
Total State Aid $10,824,191,130 $10,683,875,820 $14,462,444,375 $18,831,899,272
Local Share $8,097,616,916 $9,631,462,023 $10,445,878,115 $11,785,994,760
Total State and Local $18,921,808,046 $20,315,337,843 $24,908,322,490 $30,617,894,032
State Aid per RADA $2,748 $2,552 $3,401 $4,317
Local Share per RADA $2,055 $2,300 $2,457 $2,702
Total per RADA $4,803 $4,852 $5,858 $7,019
Percent State 57.2% 52.6% 58.1% 61.5%
Percent Local 42.8% 47.4% 41.9% 38.5%

Note: Data as of December 10, 2007.

Source: Texas Education Agency.

As the state’s accountability system has matured, funding teacher pay according to performance has become a subject of debate. Starting in fall 2007, Texas began funding the “Awards for Student Achievement” teacher incentive program at $97.5 million per year for teachers at educationally disadvantaged campuses; in addition, the new Educator Excellence Awards Program will provide $147.8 million in fiscal 2009 for teacher incentive funding in districts with approved plans.201

The base amount that teachers are paid is another ongoing issue; as a result, the 2005 Legislature provided funding for a net $2,000 base salary increase for teachers.202 The 2007 Legislature further increased educator salaries by about $430 for the 2008-09 biennium.203

During 2006-07, Texas teachers earned an average of $44,897 for regular duties, 17 percent more than the $38,361 average for 2000-01.204 (The average is affected by the teachers’ collective number of years of experience and state and local pay increases. Average salaries for teachers may also be less than for people with comparable education and experience because they work under a 10-month contract.)

A related issue has been the need to reduce high turnover rates, especially among less experienced teachers. Average salaries for all teachers have risen over the last several years, but pay for beginning teachers, especially, and those with less experience has increased at a higher rate than that for more experienced teachers since 2000-01 (Exhibit 35).205

Exhibit 35

Texas Average Actual Salary, Public School Teachers,
2000-01 and 2006-07 School Years

Experience 2000-01 Average Actual Salary 2006-07 Average Actual Salary Percent Change
Beginning $29,824 $38,095 27.7%
1-5 Years $31,987 $39,880 24.7%
6-10 Years $35,304 $42,380 20.0%
11-20 Years $41,755 $47,042 12.7%
>20 Years $48,183 $55,028 14.2%

Source: Texas Education Agency.

The state’s number of teachers with less experience also increased at a higher rate (Exhibit 36).206

This shift has reduced Texas teachers’ average years of experience from 11.9 in 2000-01 to 11.3 years in 2006-07. The average turnover rate also declined, from 16 percent in 2000-01 to 15.6 percent in 2006-07, possibly due to the salary increases.207

Exhibit 36

Texas Public School Teachers, By Years of Experience,
2000-01 and 2006-07 School Years

Experience 2000-01 2006-07 Percent Change
Beginning 21,493.2 25,153.0 17.0%
1-5 Years 75,174.0 90,607.2 20.5%
6-10 Years 49,717.2 60,919.8 22.5%
11-20 Years 69,508.6 73,448.4 5.7%
>20 Years 58,923.6 61,337.9 4.1%

Note: Number of teachers is based on full-time equivalent teachers.

Source: Texas Education Agency.

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