Student readiness: Securing Texas’ future prosperity
Texas 2036 and the George W. Bush Institute explore student career readiness and its impacts on Texas’ future prosperity in their report “The State of Readiness: Are Texas students prepared for life after high school?” Here is a preview of what the data says about ensuring Texas’ children can share in the economic success of Texas.
Improving student readiness to secure Texas’ future prosperity
Texas will continue to be an economic powerhouse, both in our nation and the world. For Texas’ children to have an opportunity to share in this prosperity, the state must make a focused effort to improve its approach to student readiness.
What Texas needs to do right now
As part of this focused effort, Texas must recommit to measuring readiness at every stage of a student’s schooling. Texas must maintain its commitment to measuring student outcomes, in all grades and core subjects, on an annual basis if we truly want our students to be ready for life after high school.
A student might receive a carpentry certification, but if they cannot read the email telling them when to show up at a job site, that certification is not actually usable. And if they can’t perform the math necessary to build – or manage their business – their career will be short-lived.
Texas must reject calls to dilute measurement at all stages of the student’s education. Such efforts represent a significant threat to the college and career readiness of Texas students. We cannot afford to repeat past mistakes, the consequences of which we are still facing today.
Next steps toward improving student readiness
Commit to measurement and accountability
A statewide assessment system, like the STAAR exam, provides transparency and facilitates targeted interventions to improve student outcomes where help is needed. Data provided by such a system is critical to ensuring that Texas’ 5.4 million students are on track to graduate ready for life after high school. Without this system, parents and taxpayers across the state do not how objective insight into how students and schools are performing.
Enhancing available workforce data
Texas must support the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative by investing in data infrastructures and analysis that provide parents and policymakers with actionable information about employment opportunities both now and in the future. This data should be used to continue to improve the state’s approach to Industry Based Certifications.
Ensuring student readiness
Every year, tens of thousands of Texas high school graduates are told they are “career ready” because they receive a certification in a career or technical skill. What these students and parents do not know is that many of the certifications they have received are meaningless, accruing no benefits other than to improve that school district’s accountability score. This is not acceptable.
Texas must ensure that a student deemed college, career, or military ready is truly ready to compete and succeed in their chosen path. The TEA has revised the current approach to IBCs in their proposed changes to the A-F system. By 2026, in order for a student to receive credit for an IBC in the academic accountability system, they will need to take a series of career courses to receive a certification. This is a good start.
Texas must adopt a more rigorous approach to college and career readiness indicators that responds to the realities our students will be living in during the coming decades. This may require tough conversations with school and community leaders as the state does the difficult work of improving its public education system to serve the students of today and tomorrow. But Texas’ students deserve nothing less.
Legislative Improvements to STAAR
The Texas Legislature has committed to updating and improving the STAAR exam, most recently with House Bill 3906 (86R), a bipartisan bill that received unanimous support in the House and the Senate.
- With HB 3906, the Legislature took major steps toward improving the quality of STAAR test questions, ensuring that they more closely mirror the classroom experience by reducing the number of multiple-choice questions and integrating the writing assessment into other subjects.
- The state has invested $70 million into this redesign to make sure that the STAAR exam is the best test that it can be.
- Texas is currently piloting a program that would further reduce the footprint of the STAAR exam in Texas classrooms by shortening the exam and administering it in three smaller increments across the year.
- As a result of these changes, parents and teachers will have better and more regular information on student learning, addressing concerns about the adequacy of once-per-year reporting.