Gov. Rick Perry Unveils Proposals to Spur Educational Excellence
Would Link Incentive Funding to High Achievement by Students, Schools
SAN ANTONIO – Gov. Rick Perry today unveiled the first in a series of proposals to encourage Texas schools to set a new course for educational excellence, including financial incentives to spur schools and students toward the goal of maximum performance.
“I believe now is the time to usher in a new era of educational achievement in Texas that is not based on meeting minimum standards, but focused on maximum performance,” Perry said in a speech at the Texas High School Project Summit.
To help schools achieve excellence, Perry proposed a series of results-based performance incentives:
The High School Advancement Incentive would provide schools $100 more per student for each year they advance in high school, so long as the students pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) tests. In total, schools would receive an additional $600 for each student they keep in school between grades nine through 12.
The Commended Performance Incentive would reward all schools whose students score at least 90 percent on all TAKS tests taken. The Incentive would provide Texas schools $100 per student achieving Commended Performance and $200 for each at-risk student who scores that high. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) defines Commended Performance as a score of 90 percent or higher on all TAKS tests taken.
The Distinguished Achievement Incentive would reward Texas high schools at least $1,000 for each graduate who successfully completes the most academically challenging course of study Texas schools offer, the Distinguished Achievement Program. The reward would jump to $2,000 for each at-risk student who graduates under this plan.
“So far the school finance debate has been focused almost solely on tax trade-offs,” Perry said. “Today I want to emphasize the most important aspect of this debate, which has gone largely unmentioned – the quality of our schools and the achievement of our students.”
Perry said he wants to make it clear that if he calls a special session, “the subject will not be school finance, it will be educational excellence. School finance will be an integral part of a session on educational excellence because how we finance education is the pathway to educational excellence.”
The performance incentives, Perry added, will give “students and schools every reason to strive for greater educational excellence.”
“The High School Advancement Incentive provides just one more compelling reason for schools to develop the kind of student retention programs that will ensure fewer students fall behind and dropout,” Perry said. “Perhaps the most compelling reason is that the average income of a high school dropout is less than $15,000 a year.”
The Commended Performance Incentive ensures that while Texas schools continue to focus on the many students struggling to pass the TAKS test, they don’t lose sight of the hundreds of thousands of other students who have the potential to excel on the TAKS and achieve maximum academic performance.
The Distinguished Achievement Incentive is designed to encourage students and schools to set the highest academic goals.
Perry acknowledged that his incentives set ambitious standards and goals, but he noted they also work within programs that Texas schools already have and do not require schools to develop new programs.
“These three proposals will raise the bar of excellence in Texas schools and help to fundamentally shift the focus of our schools from minimum expectations to maximum performance,” Perry said. “And even better, my proposals are funded incentives, not unfunded mandates.”
Perry noted he is working with legislators in developing proposals and credited Sen. Florence Shapiro and Rep. Kent Grusendorf as the leaders who have championed the move to reward Texas teachers who produce high-achieving students.
The governor also cited successes Texas schools and children have achieved and said the results-based performance incentives would build on the strong academic foundation Texas schools have built over the past decade.
“We are succeeding for three fundamental reasons,” Perry said. “First, we have re-emphasized core subjects like reading, math and science. Second, we have developed a strong system of academic accountability, and third, Texas is home to some of the most dedicated, professional educators in America.”
Perry also said there should be no doubt about the state’s commitment to education, noting that $7.1 billion in new dollars have been dedicated to Texas public schools since 1999.
“No longer can we allow educational excellence to be the missing variable in the school finance equation,” he said. “We must decide on the final destination first, and then plot the journey. Educational excellence is the destination I am seeking, and it is where we must focus the most attention as a state.”
The governor’s speech at the Texas High School Summit is the first of three major education excellence speeches Perry will deliver this week. The other speeches will focus on additional ways to achieve educational excellence in Texas schools, including: help for students with limited English proficiency, a program to ensure more students master Algebra, and a proposal to provide merit-based pay for teachers who excel in the classroom.