Skip to main content

Schools in the USABecause the state of Texas sometimes seems to work like a separate country, with its own way of doing business, we thought we'd break out a bit of extra information about curriculum and acccreditation standards.

It can be a bit arcane, but important when you're trying to interpret the the state's or city's or school's standards, and want to know who to call for information and who's accountable.


The Texas state-mandated curriculum, broad-based like all US curriculum, is called TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) and is controlled by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and governed by the Texas State Commissioner of Education.  The TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) is the associated testing system upon which all public schools are graded and given a rating of either Exemplary, Recognised, Academically Acceptable or Academically Unacceptable; some will have ‘Not Rated’ for obvious reasons. (NB unlike in the UK, a ‘public’ school is a state school. A ‘private’ school is an independent, fee paying school, and in the US is usually non-profit)

This rating system is referred to as the Texas Public School Accountability System.  Each Independent School District (ISD) is also given a rating based on the average ratings of its schools. While some ISDs can boast that well over half of their schools are either Exemplary or Recognised and have an overall rating of Recognised, none currently has an overall Exemplary status. Most school districts (ISDs) in Houston are rated Academically Acceptable which, let’s face it, is not that much to boast about. [NB For more about ISDs and how they work, boundaries, which ones have the best schools etc, go to the Houston Education Overview]

Rating and ranking the private schools is a more difficult task as they are not required to be included in the TAKS testing system. Most (if not all) private schools, though, do participate in some form of standardised testing of their students and results of those can be discussed directly with each school.

Some ISDs in Houston maintain a Magnet Programme within their schools. This is often an advanced learning program for children who can sustain a faster learning speed than is typical for their grade. Places are limited so entry exams, references and interviews are conducted to determine entry and once in, the child must keep up with the class to retain his/her place.

Accreditation in Texas

Accreditation of schools is an arcane subject at best, but in Texas, it gets downright eye-crossing. But it does matter, and the more you know about it, the more you know what questions to ask and the better you can check to see if a school dodgy or really is properly accredited. Take a deep breath...

For many years, the state of Texas accredited private schools as well as public schools.  Limited resources, however, forced the Texas Education Agency to stop performing this service for private schools.  The Texas Association of Non-Public Schools (TANS), wishing to maintain the benefits of state accreditation, worked out an agreement with the State Commissioner of Education to form a private accreditation commission that would recognise appropriate accrediting organisations.  This new commission was named the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC), and it began operating in 1986. 

The State Commissioner of Education (and therefore the Texas Education Agency (TEA)) recognises TEPSAC and its accreditation responsibilities to its affiliated non-public schools.  After the establishment of TEPSAC, direct accreditation of non-public schools by the TEA was phased out and was discontinued by 1989.

TEPSAC recognises the Texas Alliance of Accredited Private Schools (TAAPS), the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS), the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and Texas Council on Accreditation and School Improvement, amongst others, as legitimate accreditation bodies. Of those, only SACS is recognised by the US Department of Education, which in turn recognises TAAPS.

TAAPS requires all member schools to comply with the State Board of Education curricula guidelines which are the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). Member schools have to be able to demonstrate standards equivalent to or above that of State schools in order to allow students to transfer into the public system.

So...all avenues lead back to the State Commissioner of Education who recognises both the state authority (TEA) and the private authority (TEPSAC) governing accreditation of schools in Texas. 

It would appear that if a school is recognised by one of these two authorities, then they are legitimate in the eyes of the State of Texas. This leads us back to the million dollar question; 'How good is Texas compared to the rest of the United States?'  

According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, it seems clear that Texas students are not at the same educational level as the US average, and more Texas students will struggle and take extra classes to catch up. Thus far, we haven't found a league table which gives results of each state or Independent School District but a report compiled by provides pretty damning evidence. Sourced from the 2000 US Census Bureau, Texas rates 51st (that’s last!) for the percentage of the population over 25 years old with a High School Diploma or higher.

Resources:  – Houston Chronicle  – StateMaster – Texas Alliance of Accredited Private Schools – Texas Private School Accreditation Commission  - Texas Education Agency


Related articles

  • Special educational needs

    Some special needs are easy to spot, others are only determined once a child has experienced considerable difficulties, frustrations or social and emotional problems.  Over the years, diagnosis of and provision for SEN have improved, but both can still be a minefield. Identifying different kinds of special educational needs Few children fit a condition perfectly – if they do, we tend to say they are a ‘classic’ case. Most will not be straightforward: perhaps a dyslexic with dyspraxia and a touch of ADD, or a child with ASD who also has Down’s syndrome. Just as special needs are hard to…

  • The Good Schools Guide online subscription

    Find the best school for your child. One month subscription - £0.49 per day Three month subscription - £0.41 per day Six month subscription - £0.33 per day One year subscription - £0.29 per day Register for instant access to: ☑ Search for more than 30,000 schools in our parent friendly interactive directory. ☑ Create and save lists of schools via My Schools. ☑ Use our comparison grid to get an exam results overview of schools you are interested in. ☑ Find comprehensive advice on state and independent schools, tutors and special needs. ☑ Receive our monthly newsletter. For further…

  • Finding a state grammar school

    Counties such as Kent or Buckinghamshire are ‘selective authorities’ and most families will have at least one grammar school close to where they live. Elsewhere, for example in Reading or Kingston-on-Thames, there are just one or two grammar schools and competition for places at these is ferocious. How to find a state grammar school Grammar schools are located in 36 English local authorities. Almost half of these are considered 'selective authorities' (eg Kent and Buckinghamshire), where around one in five local children are selected for grammar school entry based on ability. The others are areas such as Barnet or Kingston,…

  • Schools for children with performing arts talents

    As proud parents, we all know our children are unique. They're smarter than anyone else's, funnier, certainly more attractive, better behaved and above all bursting with the kind of talent that would leave Daniel Radcliffe, Jamie Bell and Charlotte Church standing. And for some extraordinary - though totally understandable - reason, everyone but us seems blind to our offspring's God-given artistic gifts.

  • Education Consultants

    The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants advise parents on everything to do with children and their education  Our service is a personal one-to-one service. You tell us what you want and we tell you how we can help. And then we do! Our education consultants are our most experienced writers. They have visited countless schools. All are parents. You will have your own personal advisor who has the benefit of the combined experience and expertise of the entire team to draw on. All our consultants work as hard for the children of their clients as they do for their own.…

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews, data and catchment:

30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory.
 School exam results by subject and performance GCSE, A level or equivalent.
 Which schools pupils come from and go onto.
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools.
Comprehensive catchment maps for English state schools by year of entry.
School data comparison by results, relative success and popularity.
 Independent tutor company reviews.

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

**For a limited time get one month's Good Schools Guide subscription free with any purchase of The Good Schools Guide to Boarding Schools.**

The Good Schools Guide subscription

 GSG Blog >    In the news >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

New year, new career


For a limited time get one month's Good Schools Guide subscription free with any purchase of The Good Schools Guide to Boarding Schools.