New Abbott education emphasizes digital learning

Texas Attorney General sent out this release in his run for governor, the 3rd education plan plank.

Greg Abbott’s Educating Texans Plan: Digital Learning

TYLER – Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott today unveiled the third phase of his “Educating Texans” policy plan in Tyler. In remarks delivered at Dr. Bryan C. Jack Elementary, Abbott laid out a series of recommendations to put Texas on a path to be at the forefront of digital learning.
In the included remarks, Abbott discussed his vision for Texas’ education system, stating that his digital learning plan “casts a vision to the future and focuses on learning without limits. Learning is no longer bound by bricks and mortar – it is expanded exponentially by bytes and bandwidth…For Texas to continue to grow and prosper, we must prepare our children for the jobs of tomorrow.”
Greg Abbott’s digital learning plan will:
Create a grant program to expand access to technologies that are necessary to improve access to high-quality digital learning at campuses with D or F ratings.

Improve student access to courses provided through the Texas Virtual School Network.

Provide online tutoring services for students preparing for end-of-course exams to increase passage rates on state assessments.

Create “innovation grants” to encourage school districts to develop/implement blended virtual education models.

Fund professional development for teachers at schools wishing to implement individualized, blended learning classes.
You can find phase three of Abbott’s “Educating Texans” plan at Townhall254.GregAbbott.com.
Educating Texans Digital Learning 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 Shauna Hittle and Superintendent Gary Mooring today at Jack Elementary.
The website shows your school motto, “Where the Best keeps Getting Better.”
The goal of my education plan is to help you achieve your motto.
The first part of my Educating Texans plan focuses on building a foundation of education excellence in Pre-K through third grade. The second part centers on returning genuine local control to our schools. Today, I’m announcing my third plan, which casts a vision to the future and focuses on learning without limits. Learning is no longer bound by bricks and mortar - it is expanded exponentially by bytes and bandwidth.
[…]
Technology is more than an educational tool. It’s an essential job skill. Proficiency with technology is now required in every field of work. To keep Texas growing, we must prepare students not only for the next generation of STEM-related jobs – jobs at Apple, Dell, Google, Facebook and technology we haven’t even heard of – but also for high-paying, skilled, technical jobs.
[…]
From fracking to farming, from energy to exporting, and from high tech industry to high school teaching, there’s a growing need for high-tech skills. Expanding technology in the classroom helps our teachers build that pipeline of qualified graduates. And it helps our students learn without limits.
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Why should our children be limited to learning as we did or as our parents and grandparents did? More digital learning means students in any school can learn from the best teachers – not just in their school – but from the best teacher for that subject in any school district in Texas. Students can work at their own pace to reinforce skills or to accelerate learning when they find a subject that excites them. Students in any school – even in the most rural districts in Texas – can take career or industry courses, college preparatory, dual enrollment and AP courses that are not available in their school. And students at risk of dropping out can take classes online with scheduling flexibility. High-quality digital learning does not replace our teachers. It places virtual teaching assistants in the classroom to help our teachers accomplish even more.
[…]
We must do more to provide students with even greater access to digital learning. In addition to expanding technology and bandwidth, Texas needs to provide more online classes for our students. Currently, digital learning is offered through the Texas Virtual School Network for students in grades 8 – 12. State-approved courses, aligned with the required curriculum, are available online through the network. Generally, each course is a semester long class taught daily by a Texas certified teacher. Some of the courses can even be taken for college credit offered by Texas colleges and universities. The problem is that access is limited. Districts can deny a student’s enrollment in an online course if a similar course is offered in the classroom. And students are limited in their choices because the state will only pay for three online courses per student, per year.
As Governor, I will improve every student’s ability to learn without limits. Students in grades 8 – 12 will be permitted to take any state-approved course offered through the Texas Virtual School Network, regardless of whether their own school offers that course. And if a student attends a campus with a “D” or “F” rating, there should be no limit to the number of courses the student can take from the Texas Virtual School Network. This gives every student every chance to succeed in high school.
As Governor, I will also recommend that digital learning courses be expanded to include tutoring modules to help our students prepare for end-of-course exams – particularly, those required for high school graduation. Students will be able to log into the Texas Virtual School Network on their own time – at school or at home – to complete the optional tutoring modules at no cost and at their individual learning pace. Parents will also be given the option of logging in to help tutor their student or track their progress. This gives the students the added support they need, while freeing teachers to focus on more than “teaching to the test.”
To encourage school districts to adopt digital learning tools that complement classroom teaching, I’ll create “innovation grants” to be awarded on a competitive basis. Districts will be encouraged to develop a blended education plan to help their students advance even faster. Grants between $250,000 and $650,000 will be available to each winning grantee.
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To empower teachers to engage students in digital learning, I’m recommending added funding for professional development for teachers at schools that adopt blended learning models.
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It’s time to reimagine education and the tools we use to prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow. We must ensure that every school in Texas has access to high speed broadband with sufficient bandwidth so that every student can learn in an interactive and information-rich environment. Some districts have already developed partnerships with tech companies and the private sector to expand student access to the technology and tools required for students to succeed in the 21st century. As just one example, Plano ISD and Texas Instruments work together to give students access to TI’s latest products and onsite access to TI staff. That is part of Plano ISD’s larger strategy to use corporate partnerships to create an enriched learning environment that prepares students for the global workforce.
[…]
I will also create a technology grant program to improve access to the technologies needed to expand high-quality digital learning opportunities at campuses rated “D” or “F”. Adding innovative approaches to learning in underperforming schools can help close the gap in achievement. This puts more technology in the hands of students who are less likely to have access to these tools at home. And this means more students will be prepared to succeed in high-paying technical jobs or continuing education at the college level.
Creating opportunities for unlimited learning will require new tools, new mindsets and new ways of thinking. If Texas doesn’t take the lead in expanding access to learning without limits, the jobs will go to the states that do. That won’t happen on my watch. As Governor, I will lead Texas to a future with unlimited learning opportunities.

 
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