Well, what do you know? A real, live idea has emerged in our governor's race. Instead of the hourly whack-the-opponent press releases that come from each side, Gov. Rick Perry announced Thursday his plan to increase the number of T-Stem academies in Texas.
T-Stem is a program aimed at getting more students interested in technology, science, engineering and math. And since we often discuss the importance of those subjects here, I won't go into great detail about why that matters. Rather, here's why the governor is right:
There is a growing body of evidence that shows these academies, which can operate as schools within a school, are producing desirable results. Here in North Texas, we have at least four examples.
Berkner High School in Richardson has a T-Stem academy, and, among other things, the school touts one of its students as having won a prestigious statewide math contest. At least part of that success is due to the project focus that Berkner uses in getting students to have a hands-on feel for science, math, technology and engineering. And the teaching at Berkner is drawing notice. Texas Instruments recently inducted a Berkner T-Stem teacher into its academy for recognized math and science teachers.
R.L. Turner High School also has a T-Stem academy. Like Berkner, the METSA program there uses project-based learning. And it draws heavily from first-year teachers, who come to these subjects fresh.
That's probably one reason Gov. Perry also is proposing more money be invested in recruiting young science and math teachers, including through the U-Teach program. UT started that as a way to get college students into math and science teaching.
Conrad High School in Dallas has an academy, too. What caught my eye with it is the fact that 97 percent of Conrad's students are Latino or African-American. And the academy is showing impressive results, including having 95 percent of its 9th graders pass Algebra I.
Williams Prep in northwest Dallas serves a similar population. And the charter school's T-Stem academy is working with nearby UT-Southwestern to engage its students in these subjects.
To me, Williams' collaboration is a perfect example of how T-Stem academies are trying to open students to the possibilities of these fields. And, as the governor noted in his proposal for putting $160 million into them in the next Legislature, they are succeeding. The state has given about 90 percent of T-Stem schools either an exemplary or recognized rating, which are the top two ratings the state awards.
Score one for the governor for introducing a serious idea into the campaign. And score an even bigger one for T-Stem academies. They deserve this boost.