Texas Can Achieve Its Main Education Goal

by Dr. Michael Marder, Executive Director of UTeach and Professor in the Department of Physics, University of Texas at Austin

See Part 1 of this series: Can Texas Achieve Its Main Education Goal?

60x30TX is a plan to increase the percentage of young Texans with college degrees and certificates to 60 percent by 2030. Once the goals are clearly defined, a path to achieve them opens.

The main goal of Texas’s current 60x30 plan is this: “By 2030, at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25–34 will have a certificate or degree.” The current rate for postsecondary completion is 22%, and about to drop because college readiness fell by nearly half in 2016. How can the state reach an ambitious education goal while moving fast in the wrong direction?

There is hope, because nothing is quite what it seems. The drop in college readiness happened because Texas canceled the main tests that proved students ready, not because students were less ready. The official postsecondary completion rate leaves out nearly half the Texas high school students who get a degree. The goal for young Texans neglects to mention that nearly half don’t grow up in Texas.

College Readiness

This is a solvable problem. If the state really wants to increase the number of students who complete a college degree or certificate, it must address the following issues:

— To take college courses without remediation students have to be deemed college ready; and

— To be deemed college eady they have to pass a test; and

— Experience shows that the best way for students to pass the test is during high school when teachers can help them; and

— Teachers can help the best when the test is connected to a class (as Algebra II and English III tests had been) rather than when the test is not (as the Texas Success Initiative Assessment or SAT are today).

— This indicates that if the state values having students demonstrate college readiness, it needs to go back to offering properly supported tests in high school.

Why have three years passed without a plan since Texas college readiness plunged?

Postsecondary Completion

— Private school students.

— Students who leave Texas after 8thgrade before finishing high school.

— Students who come to Texas after 8thgrade and finish high school.

— Texas high school graduates who go to college out of state.

— Texas high school graduates who get their degree or certificate more than 6 years after high school.

Put it all together, and around 40% of Texas 8th graders eventually get a degree. Count all the degrees and the state jumps nearly halfway to meeting its 60x30TX goal.

Why emphasize a misleading statistic that makes a worthy state goal sound even more difficult than it really is?

Young Texans

Why pose the problem of workforce education only in terms of Texas schools and colleges when nearly half the Texas workforce comes from out of state?

A Plan

Achieving the goals of 60x30TX is not easy. Once they are clearly defined, a path forward becomes visible. The last few years were lost.

It’s time to start.

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