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In an effort to improve student achievement by reducing the number of failing schools, the Texas Education Agency is requiring officials from eleven school districts to attend a two-day training session where they will work to address their under-performing campuses.

Upon his appointment to the position by Gov. Greg Abbott, Education Commissioner Mike Morath expressed his strong commitment to empowering school districts in their efforts to improve student outcomes.

The districts chosen by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) are home to 42 individual schools that are considered “improvement required (IR)” by the state. They include Midland, Lubbock, Dallas, Houston, Brazosport, Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, Hearne, Nacogdoches, Tyler, and Waco.

It’s worth noting that Midland hosts the most severe IR school in the state – Crockett Elementary – which has been on the IR list for six consecutive years, the longest of any campus in Texas.

Every year, the TEA requires districts to draft a plan that outlines how they will address schools in their districts rated IR for two or more consecutive years. The plans are submitted in the spring, evaluated by the TEA and Education Commissioner in the summer, and are ideally implemented in the fall. However, according to the TEA, the plans submitted by the eleven districts chosen for the training were deemed insufficient in addressing the vast problems their IR campuses face, including poor college readiness and low graduation rates.

The 24-hour mandatory training serves as the first step for agency-appointees to coach district officials on improving their plans for schools in need of help.

While Midland ISD’s Interim Superintendent Rod Schroeder said he welcomes the TEAs involvement, officials in other districts don’t seem to be quite as receptive.

Joyce Foreman, a Dallas ISD Trustee, criticized the TEA for not giving districts more detailed information in the initial letter that requested their attendance at the trainings. She stated, “While I don’t have a problem with training, I do have a problem with a demand that I implement what it is we are going to be trained on, when I don’t even know what it is.”

Meanwhile, Houston Trustees disapproved of the TEA’s choice in timing, saying in a response letter that they feel this would not give them sufficient time to effectively change and implement a plan for the new year. The complaints have also been followed up with some district officials saying they don’t want or need the help.

Deputy Commissioner of Education A.J. Crabill, who has been corresponding with the districts about the training, stated in his letter that the sessions must be completed between November 9th and December 17th and gave the option of six different dates and locations, including El Paso, Ft. Worth, Houston, Kilgore, Midland and Waco.

Per state law, if the TEA Commissioner still finds a district’s improvement plan to be insufficient, he has the authority to replace the School Board and appoint a board of managers to govern the district, appoint alternative management of a campus, or close a campus entirely.

It is too early to tell whether the TEA’s appointment of new school boards may be necessary. But it’s troubling that some officials in Dallas and Houston are in denial about the need for serious improvement.