Abbott’s second education plan: school governance

From the release of Texas Attorney General Abbott’s education plan release

Greg Abbott’s Educating Texans Plan: School Governance

HOUSTON – Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott today unveiled the second phase of his “Educating Texans” policy plan in Houston. In remarks delivered at Northbrook High School, Abbott emphasized the importance of genuine local control. Abbott offered reforms that will return control of schools to the local districts, encourage parental engagement through transparency and empowerment, help teachers and principals to become more effective through professional development, and ensure that all students have access to an education that helps them succeed.
In the included remarks, Abbott discussed his vision for Texas’ education system, saying, “As governor, I will return control of our schools to the districts and the communities they serve. I will improve parental involvement by giving parents more information and ways to engage. And, I will help teachers be more effective by providing more training to help them succeed. To do this means setting expectations of excellence for our children, our teachers, our principals and our parents, and then giving educators the flexibility to achieve them.”
You can find phase two of Abbott’s “Educating Texans” plan at Townhall254.GregAbbott.com.
Educating Texans Phase 2 Policy Speech:
*Greg Abbott often deviates from prepared remarks. The following has been condensed for purposes of brevity.
I’m proud to be with Principal Adami and the Northbrook High School Raiders to talk about the future of education in Texas.
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My wife, Cecilia, is a former teacher and principal, and my daughter a student in high school. I have seen first hand how education can transform the lives of children. We must ensure that all students have access to an education that helps them achieve their dreams. To do that, we must build a better education system in Texas.
[…]
To improve education, I’m rolling out the second phase of my four-part education plan. My first plan focused on establishing a strong foundation for education by ensuring that children will be doing math and reading at grade level by third grade. This plan focuses on returning genuine local control in education. The state should set high standards, provide the tools for success and then get out of the way. Our public education system is too centralized with one-size-fits-all solutions being pushed down from the top. We have too many unnecessary, unfunded mandates from Austin that tie educators’ hands and limit parents’ choices. We need to reorder priorities. That starts with putting trust in those who make the biggest difference – parents, teachers and principals.
[…]
Another cornerstone to better education is more parental involvement. Parental involvement is enhanced when they have more information. Information is power and parents should have that power as an active partner in their child’s education. As governor, I will ensure that parents have better access to more information.
First, during the legislative session, a new “A” through “F” rating system was approved for school districts. This familiar letter grade is easier to understand than the previous system, but it still falls short. Our children are taught in schools – not districts. We should extend the “A-F” rating system to the campus level so parents know how well their own school is performing.
Second, because we know that early reading and math skills are essential to building a strong education foundation, elementary campuses should make available the percent of their students who are performing at or above grade level in reading and math.
Third, parents should also know how productively their school uses the money that is allocated to it. Per-student spending for each campus should be provided to parents so they can compare their school to others.
Fourth, parents should be able to list their top three campus preferences in their school district. This will help open-enrollment districts to better assign families. Or, at a minimum, districts can use parental preference as information about which campuses are excelling and which need improvement.

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Parental engagement is critical. No child should be stuck in an under-performing school and no parent should be powerless to improve their child’s future. As governor, I will strengthen parents’ ability to petition the Commissioner of Education to place a failing campus under new management. A parent shouldn’t have to wait five years for an underperforming school to change. Their child will have moved on to the next school, having already fallen behind. If a school is rated ‘F’ for two consecutive years, parents should have the power to immediately demand action.
Another tool to help failing schools turn around quicker is the creation of a Texas Achievement School District. Under this program, the worst 15 elementary schools would be moved into the Achievement School District for three years. The leadership of this ASD would have the flexibility to make the changes necessary to prevent students from being trapped in a failing school.
One of the best ways to help schools succeed in the first place is to help schools have the very best teachers. The first phase of my Educating Texans Plan focused on helping K-3 teachers become expert literacy teachers. We want every child to learn to read by third grade. But in fourth and fifth grade, children must begin to read to learn. That’s why I will create Reading to Learn Academies for fourth and fifth grade teachers – and their principals. These Academies will focus on teaching strategies to improve reading comprehension skills. Scholarships to pay for the course – and a stipend after completion – will be offered to encourage teachers to participate.
To ensure we have more teachers who are prepared to educate students for one million new STEM-related jobs, I will increase support for the UTeach program, which prepares talented math and science majors for teaching careers.
I will also increase support for the Teach for America program, which recruits high-achieving college graduates to teach in underserved communities.
[…]
As governor, I will return control of our schools to the districts and the communities they serve. I will improve parental involvement by giving parents more information and ways to engage. And, I will help teachers be more effective by providing more training to help them succeed. Those teachers will be led by the most effective principals. To do this means setting expectations of excellence for our children, our teachers, our principals and our parents, and then giving educators the flexibility to achieve them.
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We can – and will – provide educators with tools for success and build the best education system in America.“

 
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