Evaluation of the Texas High School Project: Study of State Context for Policy Reform Final Report, State Policy Review


Keating, K., Cassidy, L., Tse, V. & Yee, K. (2008). Evaluation of the Texas High School Project: Study of the State Context for Policy Reform Final Report State Policy Review.


The evaluation of the Texas High School Project (THSP) is being conducted by SRI International with the overarching goal of discerning the impact of THSP on student outcomes.

The evaluation comprises six studies:

  1. Study of high school reform initiatives
  2. Study of district redesign
  3. Study of networks
  4. Study of other supports for high school reform (e.g., district leadership, human capital)
  5. Study of THSP management and coordination
  6. Study of the state context for high school reform

This report describes the process of and findings from the study on the state context for high school reform.

As evident in the THSP theory of change (see Appendix A), the initiatives that interact with
district, school, teacher, and student factors to influence student outcomes are embedded within
the state policy context. The state policy context can be a key lever for high school reform,
especially as it relates to academic standards, assessment, and accountability. During the last 5
years, Governor Rick Perry, the Legislature, and various regulatory agencies, such as the Texas
Education Agency (TEA), have made concerted efforts to create a policy environment that
supports high school reform in Texas. Hence, the intent of this particular study is to inform the
evaluation about the state context that led to the creation of THSP and to examine how policies
adopted since the creation of THSP in 2003 affect implementation of the reforms included within
the initiative. Specifically, this study examines the following research questions:

  • To what extent do state policies support high school reform initiatives?
  • What factors aid in effectively translating state policy into local practice?

To answer these research questions, SRI engaged in a two-pronged approach of extensive
document review and interviews with state and local respondents who are knowledgeable about
education policies. The first step of the process involved ascertaining the policies that are most
relevant to high school reform in Texas. To narrow the field of policies, we focused on those that
began with the work of the 78th Legislature and coincided with the creation of THSP. (See
Appendix B for a timeline of relevant policies, including those that predate THSP but
nonetheless influence it.) These policies were identified through interviews with a variety of staff
at TEA and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), legislative staff, and
representatives from the Governor’s office. The salient high school reform policies included in
this report are categorized into the following areas:

  • Accountability.
  • College readiness standards and curriculum.
  • P-16 Council.
  • Teacher quality and certification.
  • At-risk students and dropout prevention.
  • Charter schools.

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