scott-van-beckDr. Scott Van Beck, Executive Director of Houston A+ Challenge, offered the following testimony to the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Education in Spring, 2014. Chairman Aycock and members of the House Committee – My name is Scott Van Beck and I am the Executive Director of the Houston A+ Challenge.  We are an educational non-profit that works to improve public schooling throughout the Houston region. Let me begin by agreeing with a statement from Representative Farney.  Earlier in the hearing, she said that six years was too long to fix a school.  What I would like to point out, based on my 25 years in the Houston Independent School District, is that some schools are broken much longer than six years.  School districts work hard to intervene to get their schools off “the bad list,” but often times that same school ended up on the same “bad list” the next year or the year after.  The real question here is how we get a school strong enough to stay off “the list” indefinitely.  I would be interested in seeing data on the number of schools that appear and disappear and then appear again on the “not meeting standards, unacceptable, or low-performing” lists over the duration of our state’s school accountability process. Twenty years ago I had the professional pleasure of turning around a middle school with a group of dedicated teachers, parents, and, most importantly, students.  I agree with Representative Huberty’s earlier comment on the important of leadership and teaching.  Facilitative leadership and great classroom teaching mattered back then, and it still matters today.  But, innovative practices need to be added to that list, too.  This past year, Houston A+ launched a laboratory school in the Houston Museum District called A+UP.  Based on MobyMax, an on-line mathematic assessment program, 18 of 34 students showed at least two years of growth in the first semester of the school.  Only six of 34 did not grow a year in the first semester, but they are making impressive progress also.  Facilitative leadership, great teaching, and smart use of technology made this happen. I think Representative Dutton and Senator West introduced an intriguing idea last session.  Whether the school district or state owns it, is it time to create a zone to lift low-performing schools out of their current condition to allow great leadership, teaching, and innovation to take hold of student learning?  As always, Houston A+ Challenge stands ready to assist anyway we can.  Thanks for listening, and thanks for your leadership.
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