AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — An expert testified Wednesday that the percentage of Texas high school graduates who do well enough on the SAT and ACT to be considered ready for college has remained little-changed at about 27 percent in recent years, despite their rising scores on tougher statewide standardized tests.
James Kallison is an education consultant and former assistant commissioner at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board who serves as president of the school board for Eanes Independent School District in Austin.
He testified before Texas District Judge John Dietz at the state's school finance trial. He said 62.6 percent of graduates from the Class of 2010 took the ACT or SAT. Of that, 26.9 percent demonstrated they were at or above the criteria for college readiness.
Kallison said the percentage of students showing college readiness on both exams has stayed around 27 percent since 2006, when among that year's graduating class 65.8 percent of students took the SAT or ACT, with 27.1 percent scoring at or above college readiness benchmarks.
In the meantime, Texas has imposed more-strenuous state exams including updated versions of the TAKS test and a new test that began last year, STAAR.
Kallison said while students' scores have improved through the years on state tests, their SAT and ACT scores remain "relatively flat."
"Students improved on the TAKS, but that has not translated into better scores on the ACT or SAT," he said. "You would have expected to see some improvement on the ACT and SAT during that period."
Kallison said that on STAAR end-of-course exams this year, just 17 percent of students scored at Level III on the Algebra I test, while 8 percent scored at Level III in reading and 3 percent reached that level in writing. He said Level III measures college-level readiness, but also noted that because the exam is still new, students will have years to improve.
"I would expect to see improvement in the future, but there's a long way to go," Kallison said.
The state Legislature cut funding for public schools by $5.4 billion last year, leading to larger class sizes, teacher layoffs and the elimination of full-day pre-kindergarten in some schools districts.
Schools districts that educate three-fourths of Texas students have sued the state over the funding cuts, claiming the way Texas now funds its schools is inadequate and inequitable and violates state constitutional educational guarantees.
Texas does not have a statewide income or property tax, and relies on local property taxes and other state revenue to fund schools.
The districts claim the cuts have hit them especially hard since they came as the state increases academic accountability standards with STAAR and also as the public school enrollment statewide increases by 80,000 students annually because of Texas' booming population.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office counters that there is adequate funding for schools and that districts aren't always spending their resources wisely.