With the 85th Legislature underway, it’s time for state lawmakers to make a commitment to the parents and children of Texas — a commitment that recognizes that the path to a brighter future for our beloved state is through a quality education for our children. The state needs a commitment that puts policies over politics, seeks results over rhetoric, and unites us in a determination to succeed.
Educators, parents, business leaders and elected officials from both sides of the aisle must find common ground on how we can prepare students for success after they leave Texas public schools. We must find common ground on how we can place greater emphasis on quality classroom instruction and supporting educators. We must find common ground on how we can encourage all schools to be laboratories of innovations where students thrive.
Student success should be the guiding principle of public education in Texas. That’s why holding every student to rigorous standards is so important — because every student can achieve. Furthermore, we must do everything in our power to make sure what we’re measuring matters. To that end, we should shift our high school assessments to align with the skills our graduates will need in the real world.
Teachers have more impact on student outcomes than any other in-school factor. Unfortunately, Texas has many holes in its teaching force, provides inadequate development opportunities for existing teachers, and often loses some of its best and brightest teachers far too soon. That’s why it will be invaluable to take a good, long look at the strategies our schools are using to recruit, develop, and retain teachers. Only then can we take thoughtful action about how to combat these complex issues.
Texas’ schools must provide a dynamic environment in which teaching and learning take place, but many have room to improve. To turn the tide on school quality, we must first be honest in reporting and then addressing areas of weakness. We need to make changes to our state’s accountability system so we can begin to support schools in a way that encourages improvement. We need to foster collaboration between our state’s charter schools and our traditional public schools. We need to find ways to make sure Texas charter schools put more money into classrooms.
Texas Aspires is committed to Texas children and Texas’ future. That’s why our agenda for the 85th legislative session is focused on finding areas where we can agree — so we can make policy changes that impact our students, teachers and schools in a meaningful and positive way. We believe the following six priorities are a good place to start building consensus in order to achieve Texas’ ambitious goals:
Replace high school end-of-course exams with the Texas Success Initiative Assessment for accountability and graduation purposes;
Create a process for locally developed teacher-quality plans that highlight strategies for recruiting, developing and retaining effective educators;
Implement and improve the A-F campus and district rating system;
Facilitate statewide conditions that encourage and incentivize district-charter partnerships; and
Provide facilities funding for charter schools.
These priorities are the beginning of the conversation about how we can come together to make public policy work for Texas students. We look forward to working with those interested in the success of public education to ensure students are held to high standards and are supported in their quest to meet them.
This legislative session holds immense promise for Texas students. But it will take commitment from advocates, policymakers and communities alike to find common ground to make that promise a reality. Texas Aspires is committed to the task. Ask your legislators if they are committed as well.
Courtney Boswell is executive director of Texas Aspires, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization for improving education in the state.
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