Not one. The annual award which “…celebrates high-performing schools and schools with a high percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds that significantly improve whole-school test scores and student subgroup test scores,” according to the Department of Education website, did not select a single school in Texas out of 286 nationwide winners.
In past years, Texas schools have fared well in the two Blue Ribbon categories of “Exemplary High Performing” and “Exemplary Improving.” But according to the Texas Education Commissioner’s Office, no Texas schools were selected this year for the federal government’s highest K-12 honor because House Bill 5, the new education law that uses the STAAR test meant to readjust the measurements by which students at Texas schools are judged, did not adequately provide a way for the State of Texas or Department of Education to rank schools in Texas; accordingly, no schools were put forth by the Texas Education Agency for review.
School applications are sent to the federal government by the highest ranking education official of each state (Commissioner Michael L. Williams in Texas), at which point schools are tested on a number of metrics to determine their performance. While Texas schools have certainly faced economic, demographic, and policy challenges across a wide education landscape in the past, historically Texas has placed a high number of schools on the illustrious Blue Ribbon list.
While the administrative and political speed bump did no favors in helping recognize the schools in Texas that are performing well, it certainly does create some questions as to what direction the Texas education system is moving. Undoubtedly, many Texas schools – both in the categories of highly achieved and highly improved – performed exceptionally well last year (or over the last 5 years as “improving” schools are judged) and will not be recognized this year. That being said, where have those schools been over the last several years and where will they be in the next ten? Texas appears to be moving against the current when it comes to national education, but are these actions more voluntary or involuntary? Ironically, the misstep that has ended up disqualifying all Texas schools from the Blue Ribbon competition seems fitting with Texas’ recent No Child Left Behind waiver (a national program started in Texas) and its refusal to enter into the national Common Core standards.
In a multi-part series coming over the next few weeks, Thesis Magazine will look into Texas education and why it is moving in what appears to be a unilateral direction. Examining the issue through changing demographics and geographical areas, both successful and failed initiatives, as well as current economic challenges, Thesis will attempt to map out the future of Texas education and what it could mean for the next generation of rising Texans.