(Orange, Texas)

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June 24, 2013

Test scores highlight ineffective school funding

AUSTIN, Texas — Students from low-income families who live in Texas' largest cities get outscored every year on standardized tests by their more affluent suburban neighbors, and 2013 was no different.

In Austin, 55 percent of test-takers passed a challenging ninth-grade writing exam, for example, while in the suburbs of Leander 74 percent passed.

That disparity points to what some say is a fundamental problem with the way Texas funds education: The state's efforts to get more funding to low-income students are outdated and ineffective.

It's also one of the core issues raised in an ongoing, hard-fought lawsuit over school funding.

"The data is telling us that our system is not working to get all of our kids, particularly low-income students, to the standards the state has set for all students," said David Thompson, a lawyer representing a group of school districts — among them Austin, Dallas and Houston — suing the state over public education funding.

Statewide, just 41 percent of economically disadvantaged students passed the English I writing test, compared with a 55-percent passing rate for all students.

After taking three stabs at the 2012 State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, end-of-course exams that students must pass to graduate from high school, 47 percent of the state's low-income students in the Class of 2015 are still failing at least one test and are off-track for graduation. Thirty percent of the low-income students have failed two or more of the tests.

This year's results are like déjà vu, Thompson said.

"If we're actually going to be guided by data, the kids who are off track are our low-income kids," Thompson told the Austin American-Statesman ( "There's no other way to interpret the data."

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