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Educators Say Testing Isn’t the End-All, Be-All for College Readiness in Texas

Miguel Gutierrez Jr.

State education leaders want 60 percent of Texans 25 to 34 years old to have some kind of post-secondary certificate or degree by the year 2030. But to get there, students need to be ready to take college-level classes, and it can take leaders time to agree just who qualifies as prepared.

Depending on which test scores you look at, the percentage of students ready to do college work differs slightly.  

If you look at the students who take the SAT, it’s 32 percent. But only 27 percent of ACT test takers are college-ready. And according to Texas’ own college readiness test, the TSI, 30 percent can do college work. But, one thing is clear: The number of students prepared for college is lower than education officials want it to be.

"You’ll never hear me claim that universities are doing an excellent job of training teachers."

“Compare that number to the 60 percent we want to be college graduates, you have a very clear indication that we have a long way to go,” said Raymond Parades, the commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.  He spoke to the State Board of Education this week. Paredes said these benchmarks are a good indicator. But he and others agree they aren’t the only way to gauge college readiness.

“SAT and ACT isn’t the end-all, be-all. What you want is students who actually finish in their post-secondary environment. That’s a pretty good indicator that they were ready,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath when speaking to the State Board of Education.

“Our outcomes today are better than they’ve ever been as certainly is measured by apples-to-apples benchmarks in SAT and ACT," Morath said. "It just so happens that the demands of the economy are far more sophisticated than they were 20 and 30 years ago.”

Ninety percent of job sectors showing growth today require a post-secondary degrees—which takes us back to the 60 percent by 2030 goal: increasing the number of people who get post-secondary credentials and can get jobs.

One possible solution to increasing college readiness: better teacher preparation programs in colleges and universities – something Paredes admits could use improvement:

“You’ll never hear me claim that universities are doing an excellent job of training teachers. In fact, that’s a discussion I frequently have with university presidents, and there’s no doubt that we need to do a lot better. I also lament we haven’t shown much improvement in the time I’ve been here," Paredes says.

Still, he says, he’s seen more interest among university leaders to improve teacher training than in the past. 

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