2023 Year in Review: The top stories in K-12 education
Every Texan has interacted with the public education system in some form or fashion. Whether it’s your own K-12 experience, the experience of a child, friend or relative, or even the work experience of those in the education space, many care about Texas education and have thoughts on how best it should be done.
This year was full of stories documenting both triumph and need in the Texas education system. The Legislature debated a number of issues and priorities, schools shared success stories and struggles coming out of the pandemic, and a plethora of data was used to highlight ways that districts and the state can boost student achievement.
In that vein, below are stories worth reading as we enter the new year:
Equity in Math
A 2019 policy change to implement an opt-out policy for advanced math pathways in middle school led to increases in enrollment in these higher level courses, especially among Hispanic, Black and English-learner children. This powerful tool to expand access to high level math courses has been so successful that the state passed Senate Bill 2124 this session, moving this policy statewide.
An Uncertified Teacher Workforce
Following the pandemic, many worried that the state would face a massive teacher shortage. Teacher workforce data released this year found that while the total level of teachers actually increased, a large number of new teachers were uncertified. The data showed that roughly 30% of newly hired teachers held no teacher certification of any kind, raising alarms for those concerned about the teacher workforce pipeline in Texas.
Follow the Teacher (Vacancy Task Force)
Last year, Gov. Greg Abbott commissioned a task force aimed at providing legislators with recommendations to address teacher vacancies and workforce concerns across the state. The task force released their recommendations in February, which included increased teacher pay, access to materials, workforce conditions, and training.
The State of of Texas Student Achievement
Every stakeholder in Texas education, including parents, teachers, and legislators, have invested enormous amounts of time, money, and resources in trying to increase student achievement after COVID and reverse the massive amount of learning loss from the pandemic. This year’s STAAR scores showed that there is reason to celebrate as well as areas of significant concern. Most importantly, the work is not done. While passage rates increased, the current levels of math achievement and levels of subject Mastery across the board should raise concern for education stakeholders and advocates.
High Quality Instructional Materials For All
The Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1605, which took massive steps to increase access to high-quality curriculum to every district in Texas, providing over $300 million to districts to buy high-quality instructional materials (HQIM). This op-ed by former state Rep. Dan Huberty highlighted the importance of these reforms and the promise they hold for Texas students.
A and B Mirage
New data reveals that parents are not aware of just how far behind their children have lagged academically in school and whether they are on grade level. Learning Heroes and Gallup found that roughly nine in 10 parents believe that their students are on grade level, which is not supported by the test score data. Their polling showed that’s the case in Texas as well, where only 43% of students are on grade level in math and 52% on grade level in reading.
Secretary Spellings reflects on Texas public education
Former Texas 2036 President and CEO Margaret Spellings shared in an interview with Texas Monthly some wisdom and reflections about the state of education in Texas and her hopes for the state. She said:
Transforming an educational system that serves millions is inevitably a long-haul mission, requiring steadfast resilience and unshakable optimism. We cannot sit around and whine and moan about the situation and then not get on the battlefield and fight. You’re part of the problem if you don’t fight.
I have no doubt that Texans can find common ground when future generations and our future economy are at stake.
As we enter into the new year, these are words worth holding on to. Transforming an education system and fighting for Texas students is always worth it.