AUSTIN – The Texas Association of Business has announced the formation of an arm of the organization that will challenge the state’s education system to better equip Texas students for a highly competitive global economy.  

The Texas Institute for a Competitive Workforce will call on state leaders to adopt an accountability system that is an honest representation of how public schools are doing in providing a well-rounded education to Texas children. According to TICW, Texas public education is not measuring up.  

The first goal of TICW is to address the adoption of an accountability system that is an honest representation of how public schools are doing in providing a solid education to Texas children. Concerns about the dropout rate were raised because public schools are not providing honest figures on success and failure.

“It’s absolutely imperative that we be honest about the dropout rate in Texas,” said Bill Hammond, TAB president and CEO. “State leaders cannot fix our failing system, until our school’s shortcomings are completely disclosed. Educators should no longer be able to hide behind failed accountability measures.”

Hammond said the biggest frustration with too many kids dropping out is the state’s failure to accurately portray the problem. The Texas Education Agency reports that the drop-out rate for high school students is at 3.7 percent, while national figures estimate Texas dropout rates close to one-third of all students.

Current testing standards, specifically with respect to the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, also contribute to the lack of preparation among Texas students, he said.

At a press conference, Hammond pointed out that the standards for achievement set by school districts are not high enough to ensure success as students become adults. Currently, school districts consider students successful on the TAKS, even when three-fifths fail the exam.  

Additionally, TAB supports any changes in the TAKS test that would randomize the questions on each student’s test sheet, making it more difficult for students to cheat or for teachers to provide correct answers.

Texas considers 97 percent of schools in the state to be “academically acceptable” or better. In order to be acceptable this is all that is required:

•Only 45 percent of students must pass the math section of the TAKS test.

•Only 40 percent must pass the science section.  

•Only 65 percent of students are required to pass the reading, writing and social studies portion of the test.

“The TICW plan recommends that absolutely no less than sixty percent of students should pass the exam before we can begin to consider the students or the TAKS to be a success,” Hammond said.

The secondary goal of TICW began last week as TAB engaged several local chambers of commerce to take a lead role in raising the education bar. TAB shared with more than 20 chambers in three cities the TICW plan, encouraging all to become critical friends of their local school districts.

“Education reform starts at the local level,” Hammond said, “and we believe that local chambers, if given the appropriate tools, can aggressively push for reform, while TAB fights at the state level.”

During the statewide meetings, TAB began by explaining local educational shortcomings and then provided chambers the informational tools necessary for developing a plan that best fits their local needs. Consistently, TAB found a common goal among all Texas communities to be ensuring that students are literate by the time they reach the ninth grade.

“We all want to give Texas students the future they deserve,” said Hammond. “TAB is excited to initiate an endeavor that will build upon the successes of this state and challenge our students.”

Founded in 1922, the Texas Association of Business is a broad-based, bipartisan organization representing more than 140,000 small and large Texas employers and 200 local chambers of commerce.