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Live From Summit 2017: Driving Statewide Quality: Stories from TX, AZ, MA

This ‘third way’ session was moderated by Chris Gabrieli Chairman and CEO of Empower Schools. Joining him as panelists were:

  • Ventura Rodriguez from the State of MA Dept of Education
  • Julie Swerdlow Albino from Springfield Empowerment Zone, MA
  • Lea Marquez Peterson,  President/ CEO of Tuscon Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Adrian Ruiz from Espiritu Charter Schools
  • Joe Siedlecki, Senior Director of Quality School Options at The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation
  • Tyler Ream, Associate Superintendent for School Performance at Spring Branch Independent School District


The session explores how states are working to improve school quality.

“How are states working to improve school quality? Whether rethinking governance structures, creating innovation districts, or forging partnerships, they all have a common thread. Schools as the unit of change, and creating more autonomy for schools to achieve better outcomes for students.”

This session takes a look at what three states – Arizona, Massachusetts, and Texas – are doing to ensure all students have access to a high-quality school in their neighborhood:

  • Massachusetts:
    • District state receivership (2010 law in MA) five level accountability system. Commissioner appoints a superintendent/receiver. Three year turn around plan includes benchmarks.
    • All districts compensated by teacher evaluation system. Cutting policy structure and strict requirements increased results.
    • Incentives to do this model: how impossible the job of a Superintendent is. Break off pieces of the model, giving someone some responsibility makes it more manageable.
    • Tiny state that has over 400 districts. Access to data analysis is something that districts have not done.
    • State receivership gives opportunity for redesign.
  • Arizona:
    • Focus on highest performing schools serving lowest income level students. Focus on replication, growth, expansion, and helping other schools reach same level. Best impact increasing visibility of ‘A’ rated schools serving low income familes.
    • Leaders across the spectrum sharing best practices in convenings. 60% of schools have vacant teaching positions today. School of Excellence tours for decision makers controlling funding and policy for them to understand the good work that is happening. Leverage credit rating for state to get better interest rates for schools, to funnel money back into the classrooms. College and career ready aspects improvement.
    • Sometimes education gets pitted agains education which makes no sense. Having the chamber of commerce involved. Bringing different voices draws attention. Big impact to bring Hispanic voice on education issues.
    • State is going to tip to majority Latino in near future.
  • Texas:
    • How big is TX?: 1,207 school districts in Texas serving 3.5 million students.
    • Freedoms in state laws for charter schools, and for districts to design schools that are best for students. Seat time no longer mandated. Gives schools and leaders freedom. School redesign grant to turn around campuses with partners. Launching innovation zone, and replicating great options (similar to AZ).
    • Transcend cohort design work was a tremendous experience for Spring Branch. Personalizing learning. Core of work motto is: models trump a model. The state is going to be a partner for micro school next year. We need to be flexibile with the inputs that students come with that we cannot control, and be accountable for the outcome.
    • ESSA dollars being used encourage partnerships outside of the districts to bring fresh perspectives. Five districts in TX taken over by commissioner is not a big percentage for TX given how many districts there are.
    • The element of change is hard for adults, but not as difficult for children.
    • “We know we’re not serving large groups of students well. That’s a point of breaking, we have to go through. Once you can see that, then it’s no longer acceptable. We need partners to be able to rebuild.”

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