Texas Students Need Our Support – Not New Barriers – to Get an Excellent Education
Laurie Posner, MPA, Austin Chamber of Commerce News Conference, November 12, 2013

IDRA’s mission is to assure that all children have access to an excellent, equitable public education. We are pleased to join the Austin Chamber of Commerce and education, business, family and community leaders today to take a stand for high quality education for all students.

We are here today because we are concerned:

  • In a state that trails the nation in college degree attainment, we are reducing college readiness requirements.
  • In a state that now prepares just 6 percent of English language learners to be college ready in mathematics and English, we are widening loopholes, rather than closing gaps.
  • And, in a state that already institutionalizes funding inequity – where our wealthiest districts have $36,000 more per classroom to spend on teachers, books, technology tools, and supplies – we are institutionalizing curriculum inequality.
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While advocates of tracking argue that it benefits students; research tells a different story. Too often, the criteria used to track students have been flawed or misapplied. And, rather than improving instruction – these practices have tended to disproportionately direct low-income and minority student subgroups into low-ability tracks that diminish their post-secondary options.

Some say it is elitist to believe that all children should have the preparation they need to go to college. But isn’t the real elitism about opening doors to college for some – while encouraging others to use the service elevator? When you shortchange early childhood education, inequitably fund schools, cut means-based financial aid for college, and route 14-year olds toward divergent opportunities, isn’t that the real elitism?

IDRA recently released a policy note, “Tracking, Endorsements and Differentiated Diplomas – When ‘Different’ Really is Less,” that gives an overview of the recent policy changes for curriculum, tracking and graduation plans for Texas schools.

IDRA makes three key recommendations:

  1. Make sure the endorsements do not become a dead-end for students.
  2. Don’t water down math and science requirements.
  3. Learn from the history of tracking in this country. We will need transparent information and clear triggers so that the people of Texas can take action if the data show disproportionate routing of poor and minority students into non-rigorous endorsements and courses.

We are here on behalf of young people in Texas who need our support – not new barriers – to get the best education they can.

If something is actually a better choice, it should give students a better chance.