Thank you, Brad [Willingham, President TCTA].
I appreciate the chance to be with a group that plays such an important role in the lives of so many young Texans.
Outside of parents, our teachers are the most important people in the most important responsibility that any community has preparing our children for the rigors of tomorrow's workplace.
Teachers not only teach facts and figures you are leaders in the formation of our young people helping to shape their character and work ethic as you equip them for the next challenges in life.
It's not easy work and I know that from guiding my own children through school.
I also remember exasperating a few teachers at Paint Creek High School, but that's a conversation for another time.
Bottom line, you are continually shaping the next generation. Talking to teachers all across the state, I have heard stories of schooldays jam-packed with lessons, planning and meetings after-school hours spent volunteering in special programs and more teacher meetings than you'd care to recall.
Throw in the late-night phone calls from worried parents and the long weekends spent setting up classrooms or fine-tuning lesson plans and you set a very high standard.
The good news is that your dedication and hard work are paying off for the children of Texas.
We've seen improved TAKS scores in every subject and every grade for the 2008-2009 school year and recognition for Texas as one of only four states closing the achievement gap in math.
Another indicator of our continued success can be found in Advanced Placement testing where student participation is up 170% over the last nine years and the number of passing scores went up 140%. Texas teachers are inspiring a love of learning that appears to be leading more students to pursue higher education.
Texas has one of the highest percentages of students taking the SAT in the nation with more first-generation college students taking the exam than the national average and the number of Hispanic students taking the SAT growing by nearly 105% since 1999.
Texas students are besting the national average in math in the ACT with scores across all demographics improving every year since "05.
However you measure success, Texas is pointed in the right direction.
That said, it won't surprise anyone in this room when I say we still have work to do as we prepare our children for the future.
Recently, I had the opportunity to lead a trade delegation to Asia visiting cities in China, Taiwan and South Korea.
As I spread the good word about the State of Texas our economy, our strength as a tourist destination, and our people I also heard my share about that region's growing strength.
I visited some bold companies and met some amazing individuals who work on the cutting edge of next-generation technology.
For example, in Seoul, I met with executives at Samsung to discuss their recent announcement of a $3.6 billion expansion of its semiconductor plant right here in Austin.
Talking to these folks drove the point home that we're no longer competing district vs. district or even state vs. state.
Our children will be competing against the best and brightest from all around the world and you can bet they're bringing their "A" game.
Everything we do in Austin, and in our classrooms across the state must focus on one key priority: ensuring young Texans no matter what their economic status graduate from our high schools career- and college-ready. They must be better prepared to handle the demands of the high-tech workplace, because other countries will be.
Our students' future and the future of our economy depend on it.
Besides our low taxes, predictable regulations and fair legal system the most important job attractor is a well-educated workforce equipped to meet the demands of a high tech economy.
That's why we must increase the teaching of the key subjects that will become increasingly important as the world continues to grow smaller.
I'm talking about subjects like Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
These STEM subjects feed directly into high-tech professions ranging from chip development to computer science to biotechnology.
Employers and government leaders across the state agree that the rapidly-growing demand for students in these fields exceeds the supply by a large margin. We have to meet these demands with everything we've got respecting our traditional approaches but expanding on promising new solutions like STEM academies.
That's why I have called for the doubling of the amount of STEM academies at Texas high schools from 46 to 92 thereby doubling the students receiving a STEM education.
To staff these new academies, I propose we expand our STEM-qualified teacher pool by doubling the size of our U-Teach program.
U-Teach has been very successful at luring college students with math and science concentrations into the teaching profession.
As we engage more high school students in the STEM fields, we should encourage them to continue their studies at the next level with a $100 million STEM Challenge Scholarship fund.
This effort will complement our existing incentive funding program which provides universities $80 million to increase the number of graduates particularly in STEM fields. Together, these initiatives will continue to provide young people an incentive to study in the STEM fields and take their rightful place in the Texas workforce.
We also need to keep challenging students to aim higher by expanding our Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program by adding 50 additional high schools by 2015.
This program, which targets large, urban school districts has dramatically increased the number of traditionally under-represented students taking AP exams and earning college credit.
Next week, we'll continue this conversation on improving public education in Texas with the introduction of another initiative.
When you combine these initiatives, you end up with a strategy that will accelerate the pace of our high-tech education expand opportunity for young Texans and strengthen our state's workforce of the future.
As we consider ways to keep improving public education in Texas, teachers must have a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation.
Raising your voice in the classroom gets a student's attention, but your opinions carry weight in the forum of public debate.
Your support helped pass legislation that keeps school districts from forcing you to assign minimum grades to students.
I was very happy when our shared embrace of student accountability was recently upheld by the courts.
I sincerely appreciate TCTA's support when I declined participation in the federal Race to the Top program.
You and I both knew it would have gutted the high standards we have created together and passed control of our schools to Washington in exchange for dollars that equaled about two percent of our state's annual education budget.
I want you to know that I hear your voice on other issues.
I agree that Washington needs to take another look at the regulations that cost teachers social security benefits if they have a state pension.
I also agree that safe learning environments must be a priority.
Teachers and students alike deserve safe, secure classrooms where teachers can maintain discipline with the support of administrators, parents and the community."
I look forward to working with you on those priorities and tackling the other issues that will keep us moving forward on our key, shared goal a better future for young Texans.
Together, we have created a system of educational standards and accountability that has earned Texas praise as a national leader.
We were one of the first states to make a college-ready curriculum the standard.
We have increased transparency, making officials more accountable.
We have offered troubled schools and districts the tools they need to turn themselves around.
We have taken significant steps toward the day when every student regardless of background can find success.
Our classroom teachers are the ones whose dedication and hard work will make that day a reality and because of your dedication and hard work, I believe that day is closer than ever.
Together, we can experience that victory and bless our children.
Thank you for all you do for the students of the Lone Star State and the lives you change every day.
May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.