College and Career Readiness
Today’s Texas high school graduates compete in the global workforce not just with students from Cleveland and Sacramento, but also with students from Copenhagen and Singapore. We must do all that we can to prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.
The State Board of Education must put educational excellence ahead of politics. That means making Texas a leader in math and science education. That means listening to teachers and school boards and other educational partners—not to partisan attack dogs—when it comes to setting curriculum standards and adopting textbooks. And it means giving schools and school districts the flexibility to innovate and define the highest standards for college preparation and career training.
Texas must be in the business of promoting the highest educational standards, not watering down the curriculum by “teaching to the test.” Recently the Texas legislature made important strides in reforming the high-stakes TAKS test regime that too often dominates the public school curriculum. Even so, much work remains to be done to promote the appropriate use of standardized tests in Texas schools.
The State Board of Education must work closely with teachers’ groups, local school boards, and the Texas legislature to extend standardized testing reforms to elementary and middle school grades and to promote the diagnostic use of standardized tests.
High School Dropout Crisis and Teen Pregnancy Epidemic
Only 72.5% of Texas students obtained a high school diploma according to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Texas ranks a disappointing 35th out of the 50 states in dropout rates. At present there are 119,000 Texas teens—a population roughly the size of McAllen—who are not in school and who are not working. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Texas ranks an alarming 48th out of the 50 states in teen pregnancy rates and Texas has the highest rate of repeat teen pregnancies in the nation.
The State Board of Education must address these crises with the urgency that they demand. That means insisting on credible dropout reporting data. That means working with school districts and with the Texas legislature to close the school achievement gap. That means building upon the 4×4 curriculum to offer Texas students multiple, inspiring pathways to success. And school districts must be granted the option to deliver a comprehensive, abstinence-plus health curriculum.
Permanent School Fund
The Permanent School Fund, a multi-billion dollar endowment for the purchase of schoolbooks, is an important tool in achieving educational excellence throughout all parts of Texas. Like all similarly-sized endowments, the Fund suffered setbacks during the recent economic downturn, but it weathered the storm better than most. As Texas makes the inevitable transition toward the digital transmission of school curricula, State Board of Education oversight of the Permanent School Fund is more important than ever.
The State Board of Education must insist that professional fund managers—including Texas Education Agency staff and external investment counselors—perform their duties with absolute openness and honesty. Most important, the State Board of Education must avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest in its management of the Permanent School Fund.
Service on the State Board of Education should be considered a special privilege, not an opportunity to pursue a crass political agenda or personal gain.
The State Board of Education must serve Texas children and schools with honor to rebuild public trust and support. I pledge not to accept gifts from individuals or entities pursuing business with the State Board of Education, and I will push for internal and statutory reforms that hold Board members to the highest possible ethical standards.