Failing public schools will mean failing businesses in Texas

By CHRIS TOMLINSON

   What do you expect from public school assessments? Should they determine how well the students are learning, or rank schools in comparison with others? Should the standards get tougher over time, or should they remain the same for generations?

Lastly, should the assessments help schools self-evaluate, or allow taxpayers to demand accountability?   

As employers complain more and more about the lack of qualified workers and the potential harm to the economy, how we do quality control on public education becomes increasingly important.   

The Texas Education Agency released school assessment results earlier this month that showed 84.9 percent of Texas schools either met the state’s standard, or an alternative, based on four criteria: student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps and post-secondary readiness.   

Only 8.7 percent of schools failed, the rest were not rated.   

The Texas Association of Business advocacy group responded with a billboard on Interstate 35 in downtown Austin that read: “THE STATE SAYS 85% OF TEXAS SCHOOLS MEETING STANDARDS. ARE THEY MEETING YOURS?”   

The association believes the Texas public education system is failing taxpayers, students and employers by not effectively preparing students for productive careers or higher education. The group has long advocated for a strong assessment system that monitors student progress and identifies problem schools quickly.   

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Area economy ‘has gotten juice again’ in job growth

Gains in employment numbers represent a year-over-year increase of 3.3 percent, commission says

June 20, 2014 | Updated: June 20, 2014 11:53pm

With energy and professional service firms leading the way, May was another strong month for job growth in Houston.

Employers across the region added 93,300 jobs over the past year, the Texas Workforce Commission reported Friday. The job gains between May 2013 and May 2014 represent a year-over-year increase of 3.3 percent.

The data are not seasonally adjusted to account for school schedules and major holidays that typically affect hiring in retail, recreation, hospitality and other sectors of the economy. However, Bill Gilmer, director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting at the University of Houston, seasonally adjusts the local employment data.

He reports Houston’s growth is even more impressive than the official numbers indicate.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, Gilmer said, the first five months of 2014 have created 49,900 new jobs. If that pace continued for the rest of the year, Houston would be on track to add 120,000 jobs in 2014, a gain of 4.5 percent.

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Houston boasts strong growth but still outpaced by suburbs

Census data show city outgained all but NYC, while lagging county

May 21, 2014 | Updated: May 22, 2014 12:01pm

Houston gained more residents last year than any American city except New York, but growth in the rest of Harris County continued to outpace that of its largest city, according to census data released Thursday.

While Houston’s growth was healthy, its population expanded at a slower pace in the past three years than those of Fort Worth, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin. The figures suggest that Houston continues to face challenges in its long effort to capture a greater share of regional growth.

Major Texas cities and their suburbs continued to enjoy robust growth. The state boasted seven of the 15 fastest-growing U.S. cities – including the booming Houston suburb of Pearland, whose population exceeded 100,000.

Experts said the Texas growth was fueled by employment gains in vibrant industries, especially in the energy, medical and technological sectors, and by a moderate cost of living and relatively low taxes.

Houston gained about 35,000 residents in the year ending July 1, 2013, second only to New York, boosting its total population to almost 2.2 million.

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Many homebuyers must wait in limbo – and in rentals

May 14, 2014 | Updated: May 14, 2014 11:12pm

With a new job in Meyerland, Jason Dobrolecki decided it was time to move his family from Katy to a neighborhood closer to work. Dobrolecki and his wife hoped to find a house in a neighborhood that was nearby and had good schools, as they planned for their toddler and 10-month-old’s education.

They put their house on the market and, to their surprise, had a contract within a week. In their suddenly speeded-up housing search, they made offers on multiple properties – at or above list price – but kept losing out to buyers willing to pay more or with all-cash bids.

Finally, as closing day approached, they decided to rent a house just a few minutes from Jason Dobrolecki’s office and hope that in a year they would have more options.

A year later, they are renting month to month and again looking for a house. This time, “the experience hasn’t been any different,” Dobrolecki said.

The Dobroleckis are among the Houstonians unable to catch a break in the local housing market, where demand for homes has continued to grow, depleting inventory and pushing prices to new highs.

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85,000 new jobs created by area employers in the past 12 months

Hot job market puts the squeeze on Houston-area employers

Demand for workers at 6-year high while local job creation up 3 percent

May 16, 2014 | Updated: May 16, 2014 8:43pm

Help wanted signs are popping up around town and many employers are struggling to find enough skilled workers in construction and other trades. The robustness of the economy – new data show local unemployment at its lowest level in six years – has put companies under increasing pressure to make job offers quickly lest they get beat by a competitor.

“It is absolutely a candidate’s market,” said Kathy Rapp, senior vice president of hrQ, a staffing firm that exclusively recruits human resource employees for permanent and contract positions.

Just a year ago, she said, a job candidate wasn’t likely to receive a counter offer from an existing employer or receive multiple job offers. Now, she estimates one in four receive either a counter-offer or offers from other companies.

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Housing expert sees prices still climbing

By Nancy Sarnoff

A national housing consultant predicted Tuesday that Houston-area home prices will continue to rise over the next several years before dipping when there’s a downturn in the national economy.

“At some point, there will be a hiccup,” said John Burns, CEO of Irvine, Calif.-based John Burns Real Estate Consulting, addressing 500 builders, developers and investors at a real estate conference at the Marriott Westchase.

Burns gave high marks to Houston’s residential property market, one that’s been fueled by a strong, energy-driven economy.

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