Wednesday, December 1, 2010

TEXAS Grant to give priority to students demonstrating academic merit

New premium on college readiness

The Texas Association of Business is supporting a proposal by Texas Higher Coordinating Board  to give priority to fund the college education of students who have demonstrated academic merit in high school. Since, Texas businesses see education as being intricately tied to the state's economic well being, the proposal is also being backed by the Governor's Business Council. Coordinating Board Commissioner Raymund Paredes spoke at a recent event before several education and business groups. According to Paredes, there is a renewed focus on increasing the percentage of college students who actually graduate. It is a well known fact that college graduates overall have greater earnings than non graduates. This impacts our states economy and thus the effort to bring about a positive change.

The new approach of giving funding preference to those students who are more likely to succeed is seen by some as controversial. Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini urges those who support this initiative to work closely with those who oppose it. One perceived problem is that it may discourage students who might not have done well in highschool from continuing on to college. This is especially true in Laredo, where many highschool graduates are not "college ready" and need  to take developmental classes. According to the report by Paredes, many of these students do not stay enrolled in these developmental classes, much less graduate. William Lutz, reporting for the puts it more bluntly: "There are significant questions about whether people who are put in these courses actually belong there and whether the courses do any good at all." Luntz goes on to report:

With respect to providing priority based on academic achievement for TEXAS Grant recipients, Paredes proposed giving priority to students who have achieved two of four measures that are highly correlated with completing a college degree: 1. Graduating with a B average or in the top third of one’s high school class. 2. Taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or other college-level classes in high school (or completing the state’s Distinguished Achievement Diploma). 3. Scoring at college-ready levels on any of a number of standardized tests. 4. Taking a math class above Algebra II. 
Under Paredes’s proposal, the grants are still limited only to students with financial need, and the need criteria will not change. Nor will the allocation of grant money to individual institutions change. The proposal merely gives priority to those who achieve two of the four measures, only one of which involves testing.
This new direction by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will no doubt play a big role in influencing our school districts. They will now have to work even harder to ensure they our local highscholls graduate a high percentage of students who are deemed to be "college ready".

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