Introduction

Education means knowledge gain. Education gives people knowledge of the world, and it develops required skills to understand and live in it. Academic education is the mean to earn such knowledge. Therefore, there are millions of academic centers around the globe, such as universities, colleges, and high schools seeking to provide knowledge that improves the student’s performance in life. In Texas, state schools are considered to be at the bottom list of the USA. Texas students are, therefore, less likely to compete with the other graduates, who spend the same amount of time at a classroom. The paper will study causes and premises of low performance of the Texas students, focusing on financial, regulation, and social issues. Importance of the high quality education will be emphasized, and ways to improve the situation will be suggested.

Financial Problems

The Foundation school fund of Texas receives its revenues from general taxes, and funds education in the state. The purpose of these revenues is to pay teachers, constructors, and administration. The funding of education is done through a three tiered system where funding is directly influenced by the district’s contribution to the state budget. Funding from the state is inversely related to the wealth of a district. There are great disparities in the finance allocations of various school districts. Some school districts spend per pupil more than twice than others do. Consequently, if a school has more in funding than it can afford to provide its students with the necessary education; this, in turn, leads to bettering of their performance. Unfortunately, when the state aggregates the performance of all schools then the poorly performing ones pull the final aggregate down. To gap the disparities between the poor and the rich districts, the Robin Hood system is used. The Robin Hood system, just as the tale goes, is a system where the government takes the excess money from the rich districts and uses the money to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor districts. This system, however, does not completely eliminate the disparity; it keeps the poorer districts from stretching their minimal resources.

In 1999, the government funded a pay rise for teachers in the state of Texas; at the time, the raise was good enough; however, it has failed to keep up with the national rate, at which the teachers’ salaries were raised nationwide. In the 2006 financial year, the state of Texas experienced a sudden influx of students due to hurricane Katrina. The sudden influx required the state to make budgetary allocations to accommodate the new students. In addition, it is estimated that the student enrollment will increase to seventy to eighty thousand students per year. This, of course, requires additional funding. According to the law, the federal impact aid fund will cover this cost; however, this will be achieved in the 2006 financial year only. Further costs will be given by the local and state governments. By law, the education agencies are not required to fulfill “matching requirements,” like other human services agencies do; nonetheless, they are required to fulfill “maintenance of effort requirements”.

Low funding minimizes students’ chances to receive education of high-quality. Lack of space and required materials makes the education process less effective.

Regulation Issues

In the state of Texas, the limit quorum per teacher is twenty-two students. The school administrators view this as a hindrance to cost effective budgeting.

Counselors in schools are overstretched; therefore, they do not have adequate time to research on the available up-to-date information and materials. Despite the fact that schools have the necessary resources to hire more staff, the state laws do not allow this. This is because the Texas law does not recognize hiring of counselors as an institutional expense.

Social Issues

Many high school graduates do not know of alternative forms of education, such as distance learning. This prevents potential students from acquiring a post secondary education, and, consequently, the benefits associated with it. This creates a vicious cycle. A study conducted in 2003, established that of the13803 students interviewed, a majority did not know of the community colleges option. This occurs because community colleges do not have adequate resource to inform people on the programs that they offer; hence, those who cannot afford college will not get any post secondary education at all. Such a trend would be costly to the economy of the state, because research indicates that students with post secondary education earn 38% more than those without it. Poverty rate in Texas is the highest among the six largest states in the United States. In 2010, Texas had a poverty rate of 18.4%. In 2005, around 29000 pupils dropped out of high school, and thus, failed to acquire a high school diploma. Consequently, they are likely to contribute to the increase in poverty levels in the future.

Texas has one of the highest levels of poverty among the large states in America. This means that many students have parents, who have two jobs and hardly have time to participate actively in their children’s education process, except when there are serious troubles. Other students also have busy schedules as they try to provide for their families. Parental involvement depends on the stage of the educational ladder. In the elementary schooling, parental involvement is the most intensive. Epstein (2008) notes that those students, whose parents are actively involved in their education, have higher average point. It is important for parents to realize that direct involvement in their child’s education has a significant impact on their children’s welfare. Long (2007) asserts that if parents were involved, it would be possible to create a network where the teachers, students, and parents can discuss the performance by use of student information systems. Parental participation may take two dimensions: motivation or pressure. Parents need to be keen and realize that putting a lot of pressure on the students does not encourage them to study, but instead pushes them towards rebellion. Motivation, on the other hand, improves their self-confidence and gives them incentive to take up extra courses to earn more credits. Children, whose parents are illiterate, are put at a disadvantage at the early levels of school, because they cannot receive extra support and help in the elementary school.

Attrition Rate

Teaching is a noble but also a very demanding profession. Many of the newly graduated teachers find it difficult to cope with the large workload and many quit with as little as five years experience on the job (Jalongo, and Heider 2006) The revolving door system that has heavily afflicted the education system has left the school districts with an increasing budget allocation to hiring teachers. The large turnover of teachers not only leads to budget increment but also leaves students at a disadvantage. According to Anhorn (2008), some of the reasons why new teachers quit soon after employment are the heavy workload, role conflict, and the challenge that is the reality on the ground. New teachers are expected to take up extracurricular activities with the students, which make their already strained schedules even busier.

Reading Proficiency

This is a particular to the Texas state problem; it does affect education in Texas. Boling and Evans (2008) conducted a study that estimated that seven thousand American students drop out of schools because they cannot meet the reading expectations required of them. Many teachers also assume that students, who read well in class, understand the content sadly; however, this is not true. Reading and comprehending are two very different concepts.

The state of Texas is prone to this problem because of the mix of cultures. This, coupled with economically disadvantaged groups, could hinder reading proficiency. 26.1% of children between the ages of five to seventeen live in poverty or near poverty environments. This leads to several undesirable social outcomes, such as teen pregnancy, drugs, dropping out of school, and hunger. In school, they are looked down upon by teachers as underachievers. This usually leads to their poor performance.

Violence in Schools

Violence is another problem that is particular to schools in Texas. In most cases, crime and poverty go hand in hand. Students would not prioritize learning in a crime prevalent school. Many students will fail to come to school due to fear of intimidation, fights, and humiliation. Another problem that succeeds that of crime is drugs abuse. Students, who take drugs, become a threat to themselves, to the teachers, and society as a whole. This creates unfavorable conditions for creation of a proper learning environment, and few teachers are willing to work at such schools.

Benefits of Education to a Texan Student

The intensive growth of urban areas, development of knowledge industries and continues use of technology are some of the factors that have made education so important. The Texan population is one of the largest in the United States; in fact, it is the second largest one. The employment growth rate is likely to outdo that of the nation as a whole; therefore, every student is privileged to be a part of a furiously growing economy. However, to benefit from its growth fully, a student needs to be a part of the largest labor force. The Texas workforce commission (TWC) gives the following five industries as the fastest growing ones in the state, in 2012: Management, Scientific and Technical Consultancy services, Motor Vehicle manufacturing, Home Health Care services, Educational Support services, Computer Systems Design & related services. From the above data, it is clear that a high school education is not sufficient to ensure a well paid and permanent job. A post secondary education will not only guarantee a job in Texas but in any state or country. A post secondary education ensures that the student can be competitive in the ever-changing global market.

Achieving a good education enables a student to think innovatively, which is crucial for any growing economy. Having been born and bred in the state of Texas, a student is better placed to understand the problems of Texans and come up with viable solutions, however, my ability to make a contribution to this economy does depend largely but not solely on my education.

Solutions

In addition to increased funding, the state should not supplement to the federal budget with its own resources; instead, it should use those resources to increase the state budget.

Review Regulation

The Texas higher education coordinating committee has already started an awareness campaign dubbed College for all Texans. This campaign uses Go centers and online websites to inform high school graduates on the available post secondary opportunities.

Recommendations that Schools Administrators May Adopt to Improve Performance

Schools should use the FAST reporting tool as a standard of measurement of schools’ performance. However, for this tool to produce effective results then the schools should be of equal size and other demographic factors. Administrators can use social media to create an interactive forum where they would share ideas on cost cutting and ways to improve the student performance. Academicians and the concerned stakeholders should come together regularly to discuss the ways, in which the level of education can be improved in the district. Policy makers should always review the means and ways of achieving objectives efficiently, in order to choose the most cost effective method given the circumstances. The state comptroller should work hand in hand with school officials, in order to oversee the running of schools and to put in a rewarding system for top achievers. The Texas education agency faces a lot of pressure to conform to regulations that come from the federal government, as well as some compliance and audit checks. These checks are used to ensure that the agency is fully compliant; however, on the other hand, it distracts the employees from their main objective, which is to improve academic performance of students.

In order to decrease the teacher’s attrition rate, proper systems should be put in place in the form of support group and mentorship programs. Fresh undergraduates should undergo a teaching practice semester where they are exposed to the real classroom environment but under supervision.

Allow Easy Access to Be Well Educated

Distance learning is one way to bring education to those who cannot easily access it. Distance learning is a mode of education where the modules and the course work are sent over the Internet. The physical meeting between a teacher and a student only takes place during the examination period. Distance learning would ensure that those with busy schedules, but still have a desire to learn, access education. Many students, who cannot afford higher education, are inadequately informed about financial aid. Right from middle school, students should have open group discussion with college students, to give them firsthand information on college programs, community colleges and financial aid.

According to Bird (2006), student information systems are of great importance. With these systems, parents would not have to restructure their schedules or make long commutes to their children’s schools; nonetheless, they would keep track of the child’s performance via these systems.

Inculcating a reading culture should not be a task that is left to the teachers alone, but should be a concerted effort between the parent, student, and teacher. Parents, at home, should give their children reading material to practice. Teachers, on the other hand, should pay extra attention to those, who have difficulty with reading. Reading problems take many forms, and it takes a well-trained teacher to spot the problem. Therefore, from their college days, potential teachers should be taught on the various aspects, to look out for in a student who is experiencing trouble with reading.

School-Community Boards

Introduction of school-community boards will ensure that the realistic expectations that the community has about the school are implemented. The Board members can explain to the community why certain decisions have to be made, and, at the same time, seek support for some of the programs that the school is undertaking.

Charter Schools

Public schools have their regulations coming from a higher power and have less autonomy than the charter schools. Charter schools, on the other hand, are more independent in their operations. This means that they are free to try new and innovative methods of teaching. The solution here is not to turn all public schools into charter schools but to allow them a greater autonomy in decision making, especially where improvement of performance is concerned.

Conclusion

Education is crucial for any society that intends to grow in leaps and bounds. The unique thing about education is that educating a child today will influence the generations to come. A properly educated child will adequately compete in the career world and, as a result, provide for his or her family. The cycle is continuous. The state of Texas is faced with many challenges in educating its children; however, only with proper policies and increased state funding, improvements are possible. A proper education in any society is a responsibility not of the administrations but the entire community. The sooner parents realize this and take up some of the burden the better for their children. The state should continue its campaign of affordable college education. However, its efforts should not end at this stage but should go a step further in making it realizable to every Texan through financial aid and scholarships. This will ensure that the end product of Texan education can compete in the ever changing and very demanding global market. Teachers are the most significant part of education. Therefore, proper support systems should be put in place to save them from the harsh realities of teaching. 

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