Abbott Expands Ed Platform for At-Risk Elementary Schools

Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Texas GOP gubernatorial candidate, unveiled the second phase of his four-part Educating Texans plan at Houston's Northbrook High School on April 25. 

The main focus was governance and a top priority of returning genuine control to Texas school districts while empowering parents rather bureaucrats.

Abbott discussed his vision for Texas' education system, saying, "As governor, I will return control of our schools to the districts and the communities they serve. I will improve parental involvement by giving parents more information and ways to engage. And, I will help teachers be more effective by providing more training to help them succeed. To do this means setting expectations of excellence for our children, our teachers, our principals and our parents, and then giving educators the flexibility to achieve them."

Abbott said that the state's role in education should be to set high standards, provide the tools for student success and then, get out of the way, noting that today's public education is too centralized with a top down one-size-fits-all approach.

"We have too many unnecessary, unfunded mandates from Austin that tie educators’ hands and limit parents’ choices. We need to reorder priorities. That starts with putting trust in those who make the biggest difference – parents, teachers and principals," he added.

In the 27 page Educating Texans Phase 2 recommendations, Abbott outlined empowered governance. One proposal to create this was the Achievement School District (ASD).  This would assist the bottom 15 elementary schools over a three year period and provide them with the kind of flexibility they'd need "to make the changes necessary from being trapped in a failing school." 

The report highlighted that the ASD focus is on elementary schools because it is "during the early phase of education when a child's foundation for learning is first laid. K-5 play(s) a critical role in a child's educational development. Education policies and practices must strengthen the emphasis placed on this pivotal stage of a child's development in a way that recognizes needs in order to optimize academic learning.”

Breitbart Texas covered Abbott's pre-kindergarten (PK) to grade 3 Phase 1 plan which focused on building a strong foundation from the time children enter the classroom, ensuring that they read and do math at grade level by third grade. In Houston, Abbott linked PK-3 literacy goals to Phase 2.

Abbott unveiled Reading to Learn Academies for the fourth and fifth grades. During his announcement, Abbott said, "These academies will focus on teaching strategies to improve reading comprehension skills." Phase 2 recommends scholarships to pay for the course and a stipend after completion ways to encourage teachers to participate.

Other Phase 2 report recommendations centered on teacher training and incentives in secondary education that reached across the academic achievement spectrum with bonuses for effective teaching efforts. From $50 to $2,000 a year, the plan explained how a bonus could be applied to teachers on the pre-collegiate Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate dual credit bearing course track and on the low-performing school side. 

Transparency was a predominant them in the Phase 2 report, which advised that schools be required to list current capacity for every campus as a "tool to inform parents about their local schools, in general, or when parents are considering transferring a child to a school."

Likewise, enhanced transparency would be helpful to all taxpayers--parents and voters--to make more informed choices on bond elections. The report stated, "As it stands today, voters might issue new bond debt with no way of knowing whether standing facilities would be sufficient."

Other points covered in the report include parental involvement, school of choice, an understandable A-F school rating system, and the creation of a campus report card to make information about a school more readily understood by parents.

During his Houston remarks, Abbott said, "We can--and will--provide educators with tools for success and build the best education system in America."

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom


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