In recent years, Texas has introduced a number of cutting-edge and comprehensive reforms aimed at improving underperforming schools. One important initiative is the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) System of Great Schools (SGS). Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan network of state and district education leaders from across the nation, today issued a report outlining the SGS approach, which is designed to foster systemic change at the district level by creating more high-quality school options for families. The report also explains how members of Chiefs for Change are participating in the SGS and provides recommendations for other states interested in implementing the model.
The SGS strategy is designed to increase the number of students in high-performing schools, while reducing the number in low-performing schools. Texas leverages federal funds to help school districts in the SGS network reinvent themselves, moving from a traditional focus on operating schools—whether successfully or not—to a coordinated, dynamic cycle of continuous improvement that seeks to empower well-developed and coherent schools or networks of schools to deliver great outcomes for students. Under the SGS, the TEA dedicates a part of the state’s federal school improvement funds to districts that are working to launch new schools, consolidate campuses, empower school leaders, and engage expert partners to oversee daily operations.
The approach is not unique, having been adopted in one form or another in cities such as Denver and Indianapolis, based on community input. Unlike in those cities, however, the SGS approach in Texas is supported by the state and funded in part through school improvement dollars that flow from the federal government under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
In addition, the state enacted three pieces of legislation that help facilitate key elements of the SGS model. Those measures promote transparency in school quality ratings; provide flexibility for local accountability systems and solutions; and incentivize partnerships between districts and charter operators, other nonprofits, and colleges and universities. While the actions do not guarantee quick results, there is cause for optimism: as reported by the TEA, the first cohort of SGS districts generated a 47 percent increase in the number of high-performing campuses and a 34 percent reduction in the number of low-performing campuses since joining the network.
Two Texas-based members of Chiefs for Change—Pedro Martinez, superintendent of San Antonio Independent School District and Orlando Riddick, superintendent of Midland Independent School District—are using the SGS strategy as part of their larger efforts to improve student achievement.
More information is included in the report, which calls the SGS a “different approach to managing a school system, one that seeks to systematically create opportunities for all students to enjoy the benefits of a high-quality education.” View the multimedia edition of the report here and the full print edition here.
About Chiefs for Change
Chiefs for Change is a nonprofit, bipartisan network of diverse state and district education chiefs dedicated to preparing all students for today’s world and tomorrow’s through deeply committed leadership. Chiefs for Change advocates for policies and practices that are making a difference today for students, and builds a pipeline of talented, diverse Future Chiefs ready to lead major school systems.