The untold story of public school systems

Published 8:13 am Saturday, March 4, 2017

Editorial by Rickie R. Harris


Public School education is a current hot topic of conversation throughout our nation. Of major discussion, both nationally and statewide, is school choice. If approved by our legislators, school choice could allow families to utilize public funds for enrollment in private and charter schools. Education stories regarding vouchers, funding, and testing are commonplace and tend to focus upon poor performance of the public school system. Unfortunately, positive stories about the achievements of schools are oftentimes lost in this midst of negativity or even left untold. It is particularly important that Texas public schools step forward now and promote our accomplishments.

I am glad to advocate for our public school systems.

First, ninety-eight percent of Texas public school systems earned the state’s highest rating for fiscal responsibility, including West Orange – Cove. The ratings are determined through the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST). The FIRST ratings are based on 15 financial indicators, such as administrative cost expenditures; the accuracy of a school’s financial information submitted to TEA; and any financial vulnerabilities or material weaknesses in internal controls as determined by an outside auditor.

Additionally, more than 95 percent of the school districts across Texas achieved the Texas Education Agency’s rating of Met Standard. To be specific, that is 983 of 1024 districts. Met Standard is the highest of the three possible ratings available: Met Standard, Met Alternative Standard, or Improvement Required. West Orange – Cove CISD earned a rating of Met Standard. In fact, all Orange County public schools “Met Standard.”

Graduation rates in Texas are rising. The Class of 2014 set a record high for the seventh consecutive year, reaching 88 percent. West Orange – Cove’s graduation rate is reflective of this trend, rising from 82 percent in 2011 to 87 percent in 2015. Everyone is working on moving this number even higher. It is important to note that our state consistently has one of the top graduation percentage rates in the nation.

Schools are emphasizing academic rigor. More West Orange – Stark High School students are graduating on the distinguished or recommended plan. In 2011, only 69 percent of our students earned the achievement; while in 2015, 89 percent of our graduates did so. Also, the number of our students completing dual enrollment courses has almost doubled in that same timeframe, moving from 11 to 20 percent.

The 2016 state average for students completing a coherent sequence of courses offered in a designated career cluster for a specific program was 47 percent. The West Orange – Stark High School Career and Technology Education average exceeds that number by five percent.

All of our campuses have focused on attendance. Students cannot learn if they are not in the classroom. In 2011, our average attendance rate was 92 percent. In the 2015-2016 school year, our average attendance rate was 94.2 percent. Our goal this year is 95 percent.

These are only a few examples of the goods news regarding public schools. There are many, many more.

In the midst of ever changing standards and student populations, there is a constant. Our public school systems are constantly rising to meet every challenge and continuously improve. Our public school systems welcome everyone. Texas schools provide an outstanding education.

We are empowering lives through excellence every day!


Rickie R. Harris is the Superintendent at West Orange – Cove CISD