AUSTIN, Texas – Public school accreditation is a bargain that involves public trust and government assurance. People allow government to compel enrollment in, as well as exact financial support for, public schools; in return the state legislature assures educational quality.
“For many Texans, this trade is based on the presumption that state law sets a standard for academic outcomes – a standard that is broadly valued as sufficient and generates confidence that accredited schools will equip students with the skills necessary for success,” said Chris Patterson, research director at he Texas Public Policy Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan research institute based in Austin.
A recently released report, “Accreditation of Texas Public Schools: Increasing the Value,” concludes that the assumptions about the accreditation of Texas public schools merit closer examination.
“There is, in fact, no provision in state law specifically establishing academic quality as a component of accreditation,” says Chris Patterson, who authored the report. “Nor has the legislature set a level of academic quality as a minimum requirement for accrediting public schools.”
Other report findings show that over the past decade, Texas public schools have never been required to demonstrate that more than 55 percent of students – enrolled in the regular program of instruction – pass state assessments. Today, schools are accredited with passing rates of 25 percent in science, 35 percent in math, and 50 percent in reading, writing, and social studies.
“We must closely examine whether the legislature – via statutory requirements and state policy – is upholding its responsibility to ensure accreditation meets public expectations for academic quality, says Patterson.
This report assembles information about accreditation systems established by other states, as well as private school accreditation, and provides recommendations for improving the system here in Texas.
“By strengthening statutory requirements for the accreditation of public schools, we can both improve the academic quality of Texas public schools and increase public confidence in the value of public education.”