Gov. Perry: Texas Can Be Proud of Educational Gains
Credits Reforms, Teachers with Successes Over Past 7 Years
AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry today told business and education leaders and legislators that no other state can measure up to the successes Texas has seen in improving education.
"The analogy for Texas education is a simple one: We have climbed further up the mountain than most states, and further than most expected," Perry said. "But we're by no means near the summit. And the hardest climbing is always at the highest altitudes. What worked below will only get you so far. To get to the top takes additional rigor, innovation and discipline. That's why reform should be central to the education funding debate going forward."
The governor's remarks were delivered at the Texas Business and Education Coalition's "Education for a 21st Century Economy" seminar and represent the most comprehensive review ever presented of the state's education reforms and successes over the past seven years. His remarks focused on Texas' efforts to provide a seamless, quality education from the time a student steps into the classroom until the student steps into the workplace.
Perry noted that it remains to be seen whether new education reforms can be accomplished during the upcoming 30-day special session on tax reform, but said there is no doubt that education reform will be central to the debate of the next 15 months.
"Our record in education is one that all Texans can be proud of, and much of the credit goes to those members of the reform movement who spent years - decades, in some cases - faithfully fighting for higher standards, stronger accountability, and a renewed focus on the fundamentals of learning," Perry said.
Perry noted that Texas faces unique challenges that few other states do, including the fact that nearly 55 percent of students in public schools are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. More than 630,000 Texas students speak English as a second language, and many are immigrants from other countries who arrive in Texas classrooms performing below their grade level.
Despite these challenges, Perry said, Texas schools have made "tremendous gains" from the pre-kindergarten level through high school.
Results of successful education reforms include:
* Scores on national assessments have gone up in every age group, ethnicity and subject area.
* Texas leads the nation in the number of students taking advanced math courses and total dollars invested in and number of students enrolled in pre-K education.
* Texas fourth graders ranked in the top 10 nationally in reading and the top two in math, when compared by ethnic peer groups. Texas eighth graders outpaced their peers in other states in reading, and ranked in the top three in math.
* Texas is the first state to make a college prep curriculum the standard coursework in high school, to provide study guides for struggling students, and to tailor individualized graduation plans for students at risk of dropping out.
* Texas is also the first state to implement personalized study guides for students at risk of dropping out, resulting in a 19 point increase 11th grade students passing the TAKS test in just one year's time. Other states are using the Texas model for their own study guides.
* Texas also has been a pioneer in improving early childhood education, particularly through the Texas Early Education Model. This program provides teachers at more than 1,000 pre-K programs throughout the state with new professional skills to help our youngest students gain pre-literacy and language acquisition skills.
"And we have placed a greater emphasis on the core building blocks of education like reading and math," Perry said. "This year alone, Texas will provide more than $53 million to help elementary school students overcome dyslexia and other reading disabilities and millions more dollars to educators certified as Master Teachers through our math and reading initiatives."
As a result of early education reform more children are being prepared for success in high school, where they are being challenged like never before.
"When it comes to high school reform, chief among our concerns must be the children who quit school before graduation, because a child that drops out of high school drops out on his or her future," Perry said.
Texas joined several charitable foundations in establishing the $260 million Texas High School Project, which is helping more children stay in school through early intervention efforts and helping create more productive learning environments at dozens of schools across the state.
Texas also has worked to expand advanced placement programs that allow high school students to earn college credit before they receive their diploma. Today, students in four of every five Texas high schools - an increase of 50 percent over the last decade - can start earning college credits before they receive their diploma.
To better prepare students for college, last year Texas launched a $71 million expansion of the Texas High School Project to establish 35 new science and math academies around the state. These academies will eventually enroll 25,000 economically disadvantaged students each year who will benefit from better trained teachers, a more rigorous and engaging technology curriculum, and an education system that prepares them for high-end achievement in college and success in the workplace.
"What Texas has proven with high school reform is this: When you raise expectations, student performance follows," Perry said.
Perry added that most of the credit for education successes go to Texas teachers.
"Educators do much more than teach students how to read, write and multiply." He said. "They inspire children to strive for new heights, they encourage them to realize their fullest potential, and they provide a positive role model young Texans can look up to each and every day. That is why it is critically important that we do all we can to attract and retain good teachers."
To keep our best teachers in the classroom, Perry recently directed one of the first statewide merit pay systems in America.
"Two hundred years of experience with the American free market system says that when you reward high performers, you get more high performers," Perry said. "That is not to say we shouldn't raise pay for all teachers. We should. But if simply raising teacher pay across-the-board will give us even better results, then that would already be the case today. That's because a teacher that has remained in the classroom full-time since 1999 is making an average of $11,700 more a year than six years ago."
Perry said the education funding debate should not exclude taxpayers. "Let us not gloss over this point, and let us all agree, it is not merely how much we spend that matters, but how we spend it," he added.
Perry urged business leaders, educators and legislators to hold firm on strong accountability measures and to take pride in Texas' educational accomplishments.
"To my friends in the legislature that have supported education reforms that have produced results, I say there is no need to defend what you have done in education, you should proclaim it from the mountaintops," Perry said. "More children are succeeding because we have devoted more resources to early learning, focused on improving instruction in reading and math, provided additional resources for students that struggle, challenged students to attain a higher standard of excellence, and strengthened our system of accountability."