Education
7:28 pm
Thu January 24, 2013

Sen. Patrick Backs New Group Seeking School Overhauls

A new group promoting charter schools and other overhauls to public education has the backing of State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), the powerful chair of the Senate Education Committee. Patrick stood with leaders of the new organization -- Texans Deserve Great Schools (TDGS) -- as they outlined their goals, which included more stringent teacher and principal evaluations, more punitive policies for failing schools and a removal of the cap on Texas charter schools.

Caprice Young of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, one of foundations involved with TDGS, also said public education needs to move toward computer-mediated learning in classrooms. One such policy change she suggests is widening the access of fully online course loads, which she says is currently limited to 13,000 students.

In addition to online learning, the group views charter schools as integral to education. Texas law caps the number of open-enrollment charter schools to 215 across the state. But if it were up to TDGS, this cap would be eliminated. Young says Texas should have as many charter schools as there are entrepreneurs and educators to create them.

Young called for reducing the number of years a school can fail to meet state academic benchmarks before it is closed.

"Right now, it takes six or seven years before a failing school even gets any attention," she said. "We think that needs to happen much faster. That failing schools need to be fixed in no more than two years of failing. And then we’re going to see some real change for kids.”

That assertion was challenged by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). "Given the requirements in the federal No Child Left Behind Act and our state accountability system, no low-performing school goes even one year without getting noticed," the association said in a statement.

Texas law requires a state intervention after a campus has been ranked academically unacceptable for two years in a row.