Written by Patricia Hawke for www.schoolsk-12.com

Happy Days in Texas Schools
Texas school districts are enjoying a revival, and how!  In recent years, the state’s schools are finding increased success meeting all the measures of a school’s success- motivated well performing students, and schools and teachers who set the bar higher for themselves.  More tellingly, these high achievement levels of Texas schools cover students across all racial and linguistic divides, a happy state of affairs in a system where educational proficiency differences between ethnic groups are still marked.  It’s not perfect, but look at the results so far.
Enhanced Student Performance at Texas Schools
According to 2005 education statistics, nine out of ten children in Texas schools passed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills Test.  This challenging test aims at gauging proficiency levels before graduation.  This increased proficiency has long term benefits in other areas as well.  Many students in Texas schools are now opting for AP (Advanced Placement) courses, and many of them are enjoying successful results in these exams.  In fact in 2004-05, nearly 99,429 students taking the AP tests were graded at 3 or higher on a scale of 1 to 5.  Compare this to the 28,331 students who placed at the same grade in 1996. 
Increasing Program Options at Texas Schools
Yet another measure of a school’s functioning is the kind of opportunities that it can offer its students, and it appears Texas schools are doing just that.  In many Texas schools, foreign language studies are required to be undertaken for a minimum of two years in order to be eligible for graduation.  Hiring qualified foreign language teachers has proven to be a problem in the past, but the Texas schools have found a way of circumventing this problem by making use of distance learning techniques and video conferencing equipment.  This approach coupled with innovative teaching methodologies has proven to be a great success.  In fact, it’s been so popular that the program is now being expanded to include courses in other languages, economics, and psychology. 
Challenges of Distance Learning in Texas Schools
The success of this distance learning mechanism in some Texas schools has prompted the expansion of this program to many other schools in the state.  The system, although successful, isn’t without its challenges. Often teachers provide distance instruction in more than one school, and that creates problems when it comes to adjusting dates.  School days and breaks may differ between districts, and this creates challenges for teachers who have to resort to some really expert juggling to reach all the Texas schools they serve.  However, these are relatively minor issues, and nothing that can’t be aided by using some good old fashioned determination. And new-fashioned technology. By using cutting edge equipment to smooth out the distance learning mechanism these districts are showing the way to other schools around the country.