Texas Students Unprepared for College, Work

Young boy writing on a desk in a classroom | Image by Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

An alarming new study by the George W. Bush Institute and the nonprofit Texas 2036 found that student outcomes in Texas are flagging, with school systems leaving kids less prepared for college or entry into the workforce than most other states in the country.

An executive summary of the report stated:

“Too many Texas students do not have the knowledge and skills to succeed in their next grade, much less in the workforce. This lack of readiness begins in the early grades, and students rarely catch up. Ninety-three percent of students who are not on grade level in third grade are still not on grade level by fifth grade. During the 2021-2022 school year, no grade level was more than 60% ready for the next grade.”

The report follows a recent announcement by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) that it would be taking over the Houston Independent School District (HISD) after its poor academic outcomes at two campuses triggered a law allowing the locally-elected leadership to be dismissed and replaced by a state-appointed board of managers, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

The report identified serious indicators of educational failure, including math and reading ability and graduation rates, all of which suffered the last few years. The failures were due, in part, to the disruption caused to in-person learning by the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding school shutdowns.

“While some Texas students have seen their math scores begin to recover, middle schoolers continue to see year-over-year declines. … Only 38% of eighth-graders were on grade level in 2022, leaving over 260,000 eighth-graders behind with only four years to catch up before entering college or the workforce,” reads the report.

It further noted, “Only 22% of Texas eighth-graders currently earn a postsecondary degree or credential within six years of high school graduation,” projecting that by 2036 “70% of the jobs in Texas will require a postsecondary credential.”

The report’s authors were slightly more optimistic when it came to reading, stating, “Today, over 50% of Texas students are on grade level in reading for the first time since the STAAR was administered in 2012. While this news is encouraging, over 1.5 million third through tenth-grade students are still not at grade level in reading.”

For its part, the Dallas Independent School District’s latest TEA accountability report found that only 39% of students scored at grade level in math on the STAAR exam, and 43% scored at grade level in reading, below the statewide averages of 42% and 53%, respectively.

Additionally, only 81.1% of the district’s graduating Class of 2022 earned a diploma in four years, well below the statewide average (90%) and even below HISD (85.7%).

Michael Barba, policy director for K-12 education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), claimed that the gap between state standards and actual student performance was due to students not being exposed to consistent, rigorous educational instruction, adding that teachers currently lack the time to prepare such lessons on a regular basis.

“For these reasons, we are working to improve the quality of public school instructional materials via the Coalition for Education Excellence, and working to provide families more education options through Education Savings Accounts,” Barba told The Dallas Express via email.

The report by Texas 2036 and the George W. Bush Institute projected that today’s students stand to lose $104 billion in future earnings due to their lack of readiness for college and work, pointing out that the state economy already relies on hiring out-of-state talent.

“Public schools serve many functions — they are community hubs that serve families across our state with a range of activities and supports. But we cannot lose sight of their primary goal: to ensure that all young Texans are prepared for their next steps and economic well-being. Taxpayers invest more than $70B of Texas taxpayer money toward that goal each year,” reads the report.

It recommends that decision-makers in Texas education “commit to measurement and accountability,” “enhance available workforce data,” and “ensure student readiness.”

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  1. Pap

    Maybe if they would go back to teaching kids what they need to know to succeed, like they used to, instead of all the leftist social garbage, their scores would rise again. Oh, and put teachers back in charge of the classrooms. You misbehave, you’re out. Children cannot learn with idiocy and violence in the class.

  2. James Reid

    Smaller schools districts seem to do better than larger school districts. Why not consider splitting Dallas and Houston ISD into sub-districts with their own administrations? It can’t do any worse than what is happening now.

  3. RSW

    Hey, but they are great at video games, aren’t they?

  4. Sharyn Wisdom

    this explains the politicians we get.


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