James Lanich, Ph.D.
Public Education in California and Texas - a Tale of Two States: ERP Talks to The Economist
The Economist recently published a special report comparing and contrasting public education in the two states where many of the nation’s students live: California and Texas. Coincidentally, these are the two states in which Educational Results Partnership has focused much of its national work and where we have formed strong partnerships with school systems and educational champions. Our work together aims to accelerate the success of the largest numbers of ethnically diverse and socio-economically disadvantaged students—our future workforce. We are proud to have been included in the research and mentioned in the report.
The author, Alexandra Suich Bass, is to be commended for her detailed reporting and thought-provoking analysis. As the article points out, these two states share many of the same demographic traits and educate nearly one-quarter of the country’s public school students. Because these students are tomorrow’s workers, education in both states has deep implications for the economic growth and development of the nation as a whole. While the report underscores the many profound challenges confronting students and educators in California and Texas, it also identifies powerful bright spots and data-driven initiatives that can advance student achievement and improve employment outcomes for students in both states.
Because these students are tomorrow’s workers, education in both states has deep implications for the economic growth and development of the nation as a whole.
I had the opportunity to accompany Ms. Bass to southern Texas’ Rio Grande Valley to meet with Daniel King, Superintendent of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD). With its predominantly Hispanic and socio-economically disadvantaged student population, PSJA ISD was among the first in the nation to offer college-level courses for high school students, giving them a chance to earn college credits before they enter college. ERP partnered with PSJA ISD to provide data research and analytics to verify the validity of the program. As Daniel told the reporter, “Young people who start college work in high school are more likely to enroll in college and graduate with less debt,” and the pre-college program “changes how [low-income and minority students] see themselves and what they can be.” Both states should be investing in similar programs, the article notes, and the PSJA ISD model provides a clear blueprint.
The article also sheds light on unnecessary remedial education in college as an institutional barrier to student success. As I told the reporter, high school students who enroll in community college or a university in either state can spend months taking remedial courses before their coursework counts towards a degree. Indeed, our research has found that such remedial coursework in college is actually a profound disincentive to degree completion. ERP has been actively engaged in initiatives throughout the nation to transform systems that may hold many students back on the basis of a single college placement test score. ERP has worked collaboratively with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to implement a multiple-measures college placement process that leverages data analytics to better predict a student’s true capacity to excel in future college-level work, thereby reducing the burden of avoidable remedial coursework.
As I told the reporter, high school students who enroll in community college or a university in either state can spend months taking remedial courses before their coursework counts towards a degree.
Finally, the report draws attention to the critical role of business leaders in demanding better results from school systems to ensure a large and well qualified pool of skilled workers. As Texan Margaret Spellings, former Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush, told the author, “We’re not going to have a workforce without doing a vast amount better with the students that are in poor and minority districts.” The larger report also quotes Tom Luce, Chairperson of Texas 2036, a statewide initiative that employs data analytics to drive strategies that address, among other issues, the state’s skilled worker supply and economic competitiveness.
The Economist report leaves little doubt that there is much work to be done, and we heartily agree. What’s encouraging is the growing recognition that data sciences are playing a pivotal role in identifying solutions in two influential states and advancing opportunities for their historically underserved students, with implications for other states. There are success stories out there. They simply need to be told.
What’s encouraging is the growing recognition that data sciences are playing a pivotal role in identifying solutions in two influential states and advancing opportunities for their historically underserved students, with implications for other states.
James Lanich, Ph.D., is the founder, president and CEO of Educational Results Partnership (ERP), a nonprofit organization committed to improving equity and educational outcomes through the application of data analytics. Our work focuses on identifying successful systems, practices, programs, and pathways in public education that improve college and career readiness. Additionally, we foster collaboration across academia and business to align educational curriculum with workforce needs.