Team effort rejuvenates Sam Houston Math, Science and Technology Center and improves Texas education
Thank you, [REP] Armando [Walle] for that kind introduction.
I also want to thank Principal Crump and the team here at the Sam Houston Math, Science and Technology Center for having us here, and congratulations on the remarkable work you have done to turn this school around.
Sam Houston is an example of what happens when everyone gets together to tackle a tough situation with accountability, resources and leadership then stays focused on what's best for the children.
It was not that long ago, that the prognosis for this school was bleak. Test scores were well below acceptable levels, drop out levels were far too high, and efforts to improve these measures were consistently falling short.
This created an urgent situation, because the students' future was at stake as it is at any struggling school.
The problems that Sam Houston faced are not new, as we have worked diligently for many years, to keep our trust with Texas students and improve struggling campuses.
Your leaders here at this Center, at Houston ISD, at TEA, and in the Capitol have been focused on a key goal: preparing our young people to compete in the global economy.
The core elements of that effort are an emphasis on the basics, holding schools accountable for student success, ensuring our standards, curricula and textbooks are college-ready, and implementing a teacher incentive program, designed to get our best teachers into the hardest-to-staff classrooms.
This biennium, the state will spend more than $395 million on a teacher incentive program that is the largest in the country.
Our overall goal is for young Texans, no matter what their economic status, to graduate from our high schools career- and college-ready.
We are working to equip them with the essential knowledge and learning skills that will allow them to tackle what's next, and reduce the need for expensive remedial help.
During this past legislative session, your leaders in Austin took our educational improvements to the next level, by passing House Bill 3, championed by REP Rob Eissler and supported by leaders like SEN Gallegos.
That landmark legislation has its roots in the findings of a select committee that got out of the office after the 2007 session, and traversed the state, seeking input.
This group talked to educators, parents and members of the community, gathering their thoughts on public education, and getting their recommendations on how to improve the state's accountability system.
HB3 is a great example of what happens when we set out a clear goal, involve Texans in the planning, and trust leaders to craft a winning strategy.
Education Week Magazine recently recognized Texas for being one of the first states in the nation to hold schools directly accountablem, for ensuring our students graduate college- and career-ready, with four years of math, science, social studies, and English on their transcript.
It also gives students more flexibility in choosing their other courses, so they can deepen their understanding of areas that interest them, enriching their education and future, and maybe even staying in school longer.
At the same time, this bill makes schools more accountable to parents by enabling them to access vital information on their children's progress.
It also makes districts more accountable to taxpayers by requiring them to post their budgets online and directs the Comptroller to assess and rank districts based on their financial efficiency.
Two months into the fall semester, schools across the state are executing that strategy on behalf of our students, improving their chances to graduate college- and career-ready, and make their mark on the world.
TAKS scores for 2008-09 were up in every subject and every grade, and Texas was recently recognized as one of only four states to close the achievement gap in math, so I believe we're on the right track.
However, some schools are still struggling to make the grade and we won't give up on them, or the students they serve.
Students affiliated with chronically low-performing campuses struggle to develop the skills they need to succeed at the next level and are more likely to drop out.
Those dropouts are not only on track to earn $9,200 less per year on average than their graduating peers, they are at much higher risk for unemployment, extended time on public assistance, and even prison.
That's why I take the issue of failing schools so seriously: because we're talking about the lives of our young people and the very future of our state.
Sam Houston is proof that positive change is possible.
After six years of underperformance, this school has not only met state standards, it is now a recognized campus.
In two years, scores on the Reading TAKS went from 73% to 83%. The number of students meeting the standards for math jumped 22%.
Improvement like that didn't happen by accident. Instead, it is the product of a shared effort, starting with the hard work of the students and teachers at this campus, the support of the community, the guidance of HISD and the Texas Education Agency, and the involvement of leaders working in the capitol.
We are here today to celebrate the remarkable progress at the Sam Houston Math, Science & Technology Center, to commend those individuals who have worked so hard to make a difference, and to offer a message of hope and encouragement to other Texas schools that are still struggling.
Their students and their families need to know that we are continually bringing resources to bear, to help them break the cycle of underachievement that has plagued their schools.
For example, we recently established a Turnaround Center to collect and share best practices, and passed legislation to map out multiple approaches for turning around low performing schools.
In the months and years to come, we will continue to invest in our students and offer new resources, as we work to offer every Texas student the support they deserve and the education they need, to pursue their dreams and support their families.