Regardless of Who is to Blame, Accountability and Merit Pay are Taking Some Heat in Texas

By 10/05/2011

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Sandy Kress played a major role in fashioning the federal accountability law, No Child Left Behind, a landmark piece of legislation that has lifted the test performance of minority and disadvantaged students in the years since its passage.  For all the criticism that law has received—and there is no doubt that the law needs to be improved when Congress gets around to its re-authorization–  the law, and especially its accountability provisions, have been, in general, of great benefit to the country’s schoolchildren.

For that reason, one must give a great deal of respect to Sandy Kress’s opinions.  And so I am encouraged when he tells me that the moves away from accountability and merit pay that have taken place recently in Texas were forced upon Governor Rick Perry and Robert Scott, the state’s education commissioner, by legislative pressures beyond their control.

But the fact of the matter remains:  Texas is backing away from education reform under its current political leadership. That is a shame, because Texas has historically led the way, not least because of Sandy Kress’s own commitment to the cause and effective leadership skills.

There are still good things that can be said about Texan schools. As I said in my original blog post, students within each ethnic group in Texas—white, Hispanic, and African American—are among the nation’s top performers, in some cases surpassing even the levels achieved in Massachusetts. Let’s hope the Texas political leadership can resist the anti-accountability forces in the months and years to come.

-Paul E. Peterson

Comment on this article
  • william says:

    You have got to be kidding me! We are fed up with corporate reform in education. It’s time we kill standardized testing in Texas. Parents, opt out of the test. Go to

  • Smith says:

    Mr. Peterson,

    I’m sorry to say that your article (as well as the original article it references) demonstrates that you don’t know much about Texas school accountability. The state waiver process you are talking about involves a small group of 20 districts that are doing exceptionally well academically. They’ve simply asked that their shackles be loosened a little bit.

    Texas continues to have one of the most rigorous (and I don’t mean that in a positive way) accountability systems in the United States. Texas Senator Florence Shapiro made sure our students were handcuffed with the 4×4 and TWELVE end of course exams before she retired last month. Unfortunately, she won’t be around to witness the thousands of students who will inevitably drop out of high school as a result of the testing, testing, testing environment in Texas schools.

    I am completely supportive of quality assessments to determine how our students and teachers are performing. But, as everyone knows, we do everything BIG in Texas.

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