Spellings on State of Education

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is in Houston. She's here to talk about No Child Left Behind. She's also highlighting the need for reform in higher education. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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The No Child Left Behind act requires every state to participate in the National Education Report Card. It's how the government sets the national learning standard. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings says Texas, compared to other states, could be more rigorous in its standards.

"Now that also has to recognize, and this is what state policy makers have to think about, the current context. The number of new arrivals, the diversity of the student body, resources invested etc. to try to find that right calibration. But I think if I were in the Texas Legislature working for the governor I would think about have we set the bar high enough, how are we going to continue to raise the bar."

Spellings compared Texas to Louisiana and South Carolina. Both those states have higher standards.
And higher failure rates. But she says state policy makers shouldn't be afraid of failure rates.
Instead, Spellings thinks curriculum should be designed to prepare children for higher education.

"Just half of our African-American and our Hispanic students graduate from high school on time, in a day and time when 90 percent of the fastest growing jobs -- these jobs that haven't been invented yet, the jobs of the future -- require at least two years of college."

Spellings spoke to members of the Greater Houston Partnership about this disparity. She says in Texas just ten percent of Hispanics earn a bachelor's degree by the age of 29.

"Many institutions are beginning to look at their financial aid policies and try to make school more affordable. But I think without overarching sort of federal policy it's kind of the cul-de-sac approach. We've got little islands of activity going on and that's good and it's showing us the way. But we need an overarching policy around transparency, cost, and affordability issues."

Congress is considering a Higher Education Act Reauthorization this session. That act funds the federal government's financial aid programs. This is the first time it's been reevaluated in a decade.

Laurie Johnson. Houston Public Radio News.


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