Education in Texas has become something of a "touchstone" for both left and right.
Texas is amongst the minority of US states that actually believes in standardized testing
- the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills
) - with good and bad results.
The good results are that Texas youngsters "score" above, usually well above, the national average when it comes to enrollment in the top 100 universities. The not so good is that too many schools "teach the tests" which many people believe produces less that really "well educated" graduates.
Texas has some interesting innovations for bright students, things like TAMS (Texas Academy of Maths and Sciences
) and similar programmes for other interests.
As everywhere, but perhaps more pronounced, Texas school quality varies widely with income. It may be because a lot of school funding comes from local property taxes (there are no state income taxes in TX) so the general lack of "respect for learning" which is too often coincident with low incomes is exacerbated by a lack of resources. It's probably not surprising that the highest ranked schools in Texas are in the North Dallas suburbs where many, many very well educated and quite well paid Asian born Americans (employed in the technology sector) live. Higher than average incomes and an absolutely ferocious respect for education conspire to produce youngsters who excel at academics.
hate Texas because it is seen to be rewarding already "privileged" middle class children at the expense of poor, underprivileged African-Americans and Hispanics. Conservatives
love it because it stresses achievement over entitlement. There is some merit in both cases. Look at the faces of the students on the TAMS website; they are, as a Texas university professor told me, "Harvard's worst admissions nightmare" - disproportionately hard working, socially conservative, high achieving, Asian kids who just want to be rich. In fact, although TAMS graduates do get into America's best universities, those top universities have quotas, which infuriate conservative
Texans, that ensure that a certain percentage of less than really well academically qualified African-America, Hispanic and White students get a "fair share" of places. Texas own top tier schools (Rice, Texas A&M and UT Austin) are defiantly "unfair" in that, despite having generous financial aid packages, all admit students based solely on academic performance, except for star athletes.