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Education in Texas facts for kids

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Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board headquarters

Texas has over 1,000 public school districts—all but one of the school districts in Texas are independent, separate from any form of municipal government. School districts may (and often do) cross city and county boundaries. Independent school districts have the power to tax their residents and to assert eminent domain over privately owned property. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) oversees these districts, providing supplemental funding, but its jurisdiction is limited mostly to intervening in poorly performing districts.

36 separate and distinct public universities exist in Texas, of which 32 belong to one of the six state university systems. The Carnegie Foundation classifies 11 of Texas's universities as research universities with very high research activity (Tier One status): Rice University, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas Tech University, University of Houston, University of North Texas, Texas A&M University, University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas at El Paso, University of Texas at Arlington, Baylor University, and University of Texas at San Antonio.

Medical research

Aerial of Texas Medical Center in Houston
See also: List of hospitals in Texas

Texas is home to several research medical centers. The state has eight medical schools, three dental schools, and two optometry schools. Texas has two Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) laboratories: one at The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, and the other at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio—the first privately owned BSL-4 lab in the United States.

The Texas Medical Center, in Houston, is the world's largest concentration of research and healthcare institutions, with 45 member institutions in the Texas Medical Center. More heart transplants are performed at Texas Medical Center than anywhere else in the world. San Antonio's South Texas Medical Center facilities rank sixth in clinical medicine research impact in the United States. The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center is one of the world’s highly regarded academic institutions devoted to cancer patient care, research, education and prevention.

Texas Digital Library

The Texas Digital Library is a consortium of institutions of higher education in the state of Texas. The consortium provides an infrastructure for scholarly activity of its members. Support currently includes an Electronic Theses and Dissertations system and Institutional Repository support.

Primary and secondary education

The main offices of the Texas Education Agency are located in the William B. Travis State Office Building in Austin
The entrance to the Lamar High School auditorium in Houston is decorated with a map of the state of Texas.

Texas has over 1,000 school districts—ranging in size from the gigantic Houston Independent School District to the Divide Independent School District in rural south Texas, which has had as few as eight students at one time in the district. All but one of the school districts in Texas are separate from any form of municipal government, hence they are called "independent school districts", or "ISD" for short. School districts may (and often do) cross city and county boundaries. School districts have the power to tax their residents and to use eminent domain. The sole exception to this rule is Stafford Municipal School District, which serves all of the city of Stafford.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has oversight of the public school systems as well as the charter schools. Because of the independent nature of the school districts the TEA's actual jurisdiction is limited. The TEA is divided into twenty Educational Service Center "regions" that serve the local school districts. The Robin Hood plan is a controversial tax redistribution system that provides court-mandated equitable school financing for all school districts in the state. Property tax revenue from property-wealthy school districts is distributed to those in property-poor districts, in an effort to equalize the financing of all districts throughout Texas.

Especially in the metropolitan areas, Texas also has numerous private schools of all types (non-sectarian, Catholic, and Protestant). The TEA has no authority over private school operations; private schools may or may not be accredited, and achievement tests are not required for private school graduating seniors. Many private schools will obtain accreditation and perform achievement tests as a means of encouraging future parents that the school is genuinely interested in educational performance.

It is generally considered to be among the least restrictive states in which to home school. Neither the TEA nor the local school district has authority to regulate home school activities; state law only requires that the curriculum 1 must teach "reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics and a study of good citizenship" (the latter interpreted to mean a course in civics) and 2) must be taught in a bona fide manner. There are no minimum number of days in a year, or hours in a day, that must be met, and achievement tests are not required for home school graduating seniors. The validity of home schooling was challenged in Texas, but a landmark case, Leeper v. Arlington ISD, ruled that home schooling was legal and that the state had little or no authority to regulate the practice.

As of 2010 49% of children enrolled in public Pre-K through 12 primary and secondary schools in Texas are classified as Hispanic. In the decade from the 1999-2000 school year to the 2009–2010 school year, Hispanics made up 91% of the growth in the state's public K-12 schools. The overall student body increased by 856,061 students, with 775,075 of those students being Hispanic.

Although unusual in the West, school corporal punishment is not uncommon in more conservative areas of the state, with 28,569 public school students paddled in Texas at least one time during the 2011–2012 school year, according to government data. The rate of school corporal punishment in Texas is surpassed only by Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas.

Textbooks and curriculum

The state curriculum in Texas is specified in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), which are updated and maintained Texas State Board of Education (SBOE). The state has never adopted the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The State Board of Education also selects the textbooks that are used in public schools; many other states also use textbooks developed in Texas.

Bias and accuracy

Social studies textbooks and curricula in Texas have often been criticized for having a conservative Christian bias and lack of factual accuracy with regards to history and religions, and for portraying Islam and conflicts in the Middle East in a negative manner. Notably, the curriculum for American history teaches that Moses was an important influence on the Founding Fathers. A 2014 report by the Texas Freedom Network also found, among other issues, that the then-proposed American history textbooks downplayed the role of conquest and slavery; gave an inadequate and unbalanced overview of LGBT people and Native Americans; and gave undue praise of laissez-faire capitalism. SBOE panels who select textbooks are rarely teachers or academics, and are chosen in elections with minimal turnout.

In 2021, the state legislature passed Texas House Bill 3979, which bans the teaching of critical race theory. The American Historical Association, among others, expressed concern that the bill's broad scope could lead to omission or whitewashing of controversial race or gender topics in social studies. The Carroll Independent School District school board came under fire for claiming that books about the Holocaust would have to be balanced with ones "that [have] other perspectives" under the new law, though education experts and the district's superintendent disagree that the law will affect the factual accuracy of educational material.

The science curriculum adopted in 2009 was the first to include a full overview of the theory of evolution, but faced backlash after the final version included a loophole that allowed schools to dismiss evolution in favor of creationism. The current 2017 science curriculum in Texas does not mandate the teaching of evolution over creationism, but removed language that was perceived to have discouraged the teaching of evolution.

Standardized tests

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) are a series of standardized tests used in Texas primary and secondary schools to assess students' attainment of reading, writing, math, science, and social studies skills required under Texas education standards. It is developed and scored by Pearson Educational Measurement with close supervision by the Texas Education Agency. Though created before the No Child Left Behind Act was passed, it complies with the law. It replaced the previous test, called the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills or TAKS, in 2003.

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