Texas Test Backlash May Be Bad News

Teachers and the labor unions that represent them don’t like the trend toward more and more reliance on standardized tests in education, and Abby Rapaport is eager to tell us that they’re now being joined by cranky rural white people in Texas. Kevin Drum says that this is fitting. After all, “It was George W. Bush’s Texas that led the way in the testing craze, and it would be appropriate if it were Texas that led the way in reining it in.”


And maybe so. But I’m worried. Because here’s the thing. Texas led the way in the testing craze and it seems to be working out well for Texas. As I wrote on Tuesday, African-American and Latino students in Texas perform better than the national average on the 8th grade NAEP reading test. The white and low-income subgroups perform at an average level. In 8th grade math, Texas is above-average overall as well as in the white, black, Latino, and low-income sub-groups. Those are pretty good results! Are they the best in America? No, probably not. But when you consider that Texas is unusually stingy in its funding of public schools and does relatively little to provide non-education social services to low-income children, I think you’d have to say that the teachers and administrators of Texas public schools are doing an excellent job with the resources available to them. I wouldn’t say that it’s a model for the nation, exactly, but it’s certainly a model of efficiency. What Texas ought to be doing is stepping up and investing more money in its kids—take the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion, make sure districts have enough money to hire the teachers they need to keep pace with a rapidly growing population, etc. All that good stuff.

But in school management terms, Texas is going a good job. Backing off from what they’ve been doing sounds like a mistake to me.