This article appeared in the Winter 2016-17 edition of The Classroom Teacher.

Despite the seemingly never-ending attempts to create new exit strategies from the public schools, a near-constant focus on teacher misbehavior, and the challenges of inadequate school funding and employee compensation/benefits — it turns out that Texas teachers are doing a really good job.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a series of tests administered across the nation; the reading, writing, math and science assessments in fourth and eighth grade are reported out at the state level. The NAEP tests are described as the only standardized assessments regularly administered to a nationally representative sample of U.S. students. Texas is consistently among the top performers for minority students, and a recent examination of states’ performance adjusted for socioeconomic factors put the state very near the top of the pack.

Adjusted for demographics per a recent Urban Institute report, Texas ranks third in the nation in overall student performance (only Massachusetts and New Jersey rank higher). This is very important data, because many policy-makers look at the Texas raw scores, which rank 32nd in the nation, and believe that our public schools are under-performing. But there’s no getting around the impact of socio-economic factors on learning, and when those are factored in,
it’s clear that Texas schools are, in fact, getting the job done.

Of course, the ultimate goal is to improve learning to the point that adjusting for demographics becomes unnecessary, and of course performance on a standardized test is not the best measure of how students, teachers and schools are doing. But in a time when policymakers are still heavily reliant on standardized tests as a measure of success, it’s nice to be able to point to research that confirms what Texas public education advocates already knew to be true. Just imagine what our schools could do with resources matching our performance levels!