Texas Needs Focus on Achievement Gaps, Report Says

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

A newly-released report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities states that Texas needs to be doing more in order to help students in the state reach their full potential, especially concerning closing existing racial gaps.

The report, “State of Texas Children 2016: Race and Equity,” says the state is consistently ranked 41st in terms of child well-being, adding that nothing can be done about this until the state takes a closer look at how children of color are doing.  The authors say racial and ethnic gaps in health, education, and financial security can typically be traced to policies that created barriers for certain families, and the current policies that continue to do so.

The authors go on to say that closing the existing racial and ethnic gaps is necessary in order to create sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the state.  They believe that offering more opportunities to students will in turn allow the state to increase its strengths, which are listed as its diversity, capacity for growth, and enterprising spirit.

According to report findings, the state’s population is currently changing.  The authors found around 7 million children living in Texas, representing one in ten children living in the entire country.  Of those, 50% are Hispanic or Latino, 33% are White, 11% are Black, and 6% are Asian, multiracial, or a different race. The projected population for 2050 is expected to be 61% Hispanic, 22% White, 9% Black, and 8% Asian as a result of lower birth and immigration rates among White and Black citizens in comparison to Hispanics.

The authors suggest that racial-ethnic data is collected and analyzed in order to allow for the creation of programs, policies and services that are more responsive to better serve children in the state.  They add that a racial impact analysis could help to evaluate and refine policies meant to increase child well-being in Texas.

The report also states that as a result of policies that create unequal opportunities in the state, disparities in child welfare was found throughout race, ethnicity, and family type.   One in four children in Texas was found to live in poverty, with Black and Latino children three times as likely to live in poverty as their White peers.

In order to combat this, the authors suggest offering access to opportunity-rich environments for children, in addition to providing support to parents as well as ways to help them get out of poverty.

They also suggest an expansion of the school-based child nutrition programs, including AfterSchool Meals, Summer Nutrition, and School Breakfast in order to offer those in poverty access to additional meals throughout the year, as well as an increase in access to health insurance.

Black and Hispanic students were also found to face greater barriers to educational achievement than White students in Texas.  While 52% of public school students are Latino and 13% Black, these two groups are routinely underrepresented in Advanced Placement courses.  In addition, while 93% of White students complete high school within four years; only 86% of Hispanic students and 84% of Black students do the same.

In order to change this, the authors suggest educational opportunities should be provided for all children in Texas, and equity be made a priority when it comes to a students’ ability to access educational resources and services.