In order to meet the needs of Texas’ changing demographics and ensure that our five million students are prepared for today’s dynamic, global marketplace, the state’s leaders from PreK-12, higher education, workforce development, and philanthropy must work together both at the state and regional levels to impact student success.
Since its founding in 2004, Educate Texas, a public-private initiative of Communities Foundation of Texas, has collaborated with a broad stakeholder base of partners including the Governor’s Office, Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Texas Legislature, Texas Workforce Commission, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Greater Texas Foundation, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and The Meadows Foundation. Together we have directed more than $400 million towards piloting, proving, and replicating effective practices in classrooms and school districts across the state.
Educate Texas believes the public-private framework can be used to more effectively identify and establish policies and practices that can generate the systems change required across our education to workforce pipeline. Over the past ten years, we have effectively used public and private resources to identify innovative school models and deliver meaningful results for thousands of underserved, low-income students.
Educate Texas’ Texas-Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (T-STEM) Initiative is one such model. Today, Texas is home to 70 T-STEM Academies and seven blended T-STEM/Early College High Schools serving more than 40,000 students across the state.
While increasing the number of students entering postsecondary studies and careers in science, technology, and engineering is certainly a priority, Educate Texas believes the rigor and project-based-learning strategies supported by the T-STEM model can bolster the learning aptitude of students across all subjects. T-STEM students are engaged in hands-on learning and develop critical thinking skills that enhance their aptitude for success not only in the classroom but also within a career of their choice.
T-STEM students, 76 percent of which are from historically under-represented ethnicities and 73 percent economically disadvantaged, are overcoming significant obstacles and outperforming their peers. In fact, T-STEM students are completing advanced course, dual credit classes at a rate two times greater than the state average and graduate college-ready at a rate nearly ten percent higher. After high school, T-STEM students are enrolling in college at a rate 14 percent higher than the rest of the state. Undoubtedly, the rigor and exposure afforded through T-STEM Academies is making a difference in our students’ lives and ultimately the success of our state as a national and global workforce competitor.
Public and private stakeholders must elevate education and talent development as our highest state priority and identify key areas that will help strengthen our state and local systems. Immediate opportunities include addressing teacher recruitment, compensation and evaluation strategies as well as the need to identify new and innovative school models and programs that could be piloted across districts. Within our college access and higher education systems, policies and practices are beginning to emerge that need to be tested and proven. Together, we must invest in these high-impact areas to support our students and help them cross the finish line.
Educate Texas is confident this public-private model can be leveraged to accelerate student success across the state. Multi-sector collaboration and thought-leadership among education and business stakeholders is essential to the success of our students. Together we can and should do more. Together we can “Educate Texas.”
John Fitzpatrick is the Executive Director of Educate Texas and has served as Executive Director of the Capital Area Training Foundation, Vice-President for Education and Workforce Development for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and an elected member of the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees.
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