Abbott-O-Meter

Launch school principals leadership training program

"To improve campus leadership, the state should offer financial support that enables public school principals and others in leadership positions to receive optional advanced leadership training."


Updates

Agency carries out Greg Abbott vow to improve training of principals

Back when he was campaigning to be governor of Texas, Greg Abbott called for training school principals to be better leaders.

Legislative proposals to get such trainings off the ground floundered, however, leading us to rate this Abbott vow a Promise Broken.

But that was before the Texas Education Agency alerted us to other efforts focused on bolstering school leaders.

We decided to look afresh at progress on this promise.

Abbott's 2013 promise

Abbott's 2013 campaign compendium, his "Bicentennial Blueprint, Greg Abbott's Working Texans Plan," pitched for a "public education campus leadership program to train principals and other campus leadership staff."

Abbott declared that the effort should ensure that campus leaders have the skills to spearhead reforms stressing character development and infusing campuses with a focus on college preparation and graduation, parental involvement and students learning to achieve as individuals and learning to work collaboratively.

Abbott specified the state should offer financial support enabling school principals and others in leadership positions to receive optional advanced leadership training through partnerships with organizations such as KIPP and Rice University.

When we inquired about progress last year, we didn't hear back from Abbott or the education agency.

Legislative records otherwise showed that Democratic legislators filed proposals in March 2015 in the spirit of Abbott's call. Senate Bill 1036 by Sen. José  Rodriguez of El Paso didn't draw a hearing. House Bill 2224, by Rep. Joe Deshotel of Beaumont was heard in April 2015 by the House Public Education Committee where it drew the support of school groups, the Texas PTA and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce before dying without further action.

Deshotel's proposal directed the state education commissioner to develop and award grants to school districts, regional education service centers, nonprofit groups and colleges and universities to create and provide advanced leadership training to principals and other administrators, with a focus on improving student achievement.

To our inquiry, Rodriguez said in a statement conveyed by his district director that he filed SB 1036 at the request of Abbott's office but it didn't get a hearing, he said, likely because it would have required state spending.

Deshotel told us by phone that Abbott's office asked him to file the "good bill" and said he suspects the House education panel didn't move to send the legislation to the full House because it imposed costs at a time there wasn't money available.

HB 2224's fiscal note, prepared by Legislative Budget Board staff, says the legislation would entail $1.5 million in first-year spending to develop training programs--one for administrators in small school districts, another for urban counterparts and one open to any school administrator. Once launched, the note says, the programs together would annually cost $750,000 to operate.

Education agency initiatives

In January 2018, after we found this Abbott vow to be broken, a spokeswoman for the education agency, Lauren Callahan, told us by email that the agency had committed millions of dollars to provide leadership training to select principals and other campus leaders as a "direct result," she said, of discussions between Abbott and Mike Morath, the governor's  appointee as state education commissioner.

By phone, Tim Regal, TEA's director of instructional leadership, said the agency in spring 2017 started initiatives devoting more than $17 million in state and federal education aid to training more than 800 principals and other campus leaders through the 2018-19 school year--and, Regal said, the agency was trying to prepare workers in the state's 20 regional Education Service Centers to offer trainings to leaders across the state's 8,500 campuses going forward.

An agency timeline provided by Callahan shows the initial trainings being developed and delivered from March 2017 through August 2019. Through the 2017-18 school year, Callahan specified, 325 educators from 62 campuses were participating in trainings in the Houston, Kilgore/Mount Pleasant and Fort Worth areas--with another area to be designated by spring 2018 when some 500 additional individuals are to be trained.

Some perspective: Texas schools in 2016-17 allocated nearly 20,500 full-time positions to administrators including principals and assistant principals, Callahan said.

Callahan identified the initial training providers as Dallas-based Teaching Trust, which says it has focused on training school employees in the Dallas-Fort Worth area; New York-based New Leaders, which says it's "prepared 3,200 outstanding education leaders who reach nearly 500,000 students" in more than 30 U.S. cities; and the Relay Graduate School of Education, which lists offices in 15 cities including San Antonio, Houston and Dallas.

Callahan wrote: "Participating districts and campuses bring principal supervisors, principals, assistant principals and teacher leaders to leadership development training. The trainings focus on personal leadership, team efficacy, coaching other educators, data-driven instruction and student culture." 

It looks like it could take a while before every current or potential Texas school leader gets a shot at the touted training. But we rate this vow an Abbott PROMISE KEPT.


Promise Kept — The original promise is mostly or completely fulfilled.

The Abbott-O-Meter update below was posted Jan. 4, 2018. It's eclipsed by the update above:

When he was campaigning to be governor of Texas, Greg Abbott called for training school principals to be better leaders.

But we've found that, with his first term entering its fourth year, the Republican governor has not brought this promise to fruition.

"I haven't seen that come down the pike," Mark Terry of the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association told us by phone.

Abbott's 2013 campaign compendium, his "Bicentennial Blueprint, Greg Abbott's Working Texans Plan," pitched for a "public education campus leadership program to train principals and other campus leadership staff."

Abbott declared that the effort should ensure that campus leaders have the skills to spearhead reforms stressing character development and infusing campuses with a focus on college preparation and graduation, parental involvement and students learning to achieve as individuals and learning to work collaboratively.

Abbott specified the state should offer financial support enabling school principals and others in leadership positions to receive optional advanced leadership training through partnerships with organizations such as KIPP and Rice University.

When we inquired last year, we didn't hear back from Abbott about progress on this promise.

Legislative records showed that Democratic legislators filed proposals in March 2015 in the spirit of Abbott's call. Senate Bill 1036 by Sen. José  Rodriguez of El Paso didn't draw a hearing. House Bill 2224, by Rep. Joe Deshotel of Beaumont was heard in April 2015 by the House Public Education Committee where it drew the support of school groups, the Texas PTA and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce before dying without further action.

Deshotel's proposal directed the state education commissioner to develop and award grants to school districts, regional education service centers, nonprofit groups and colleges and universities to create and provide advanced leadership training to principals and other administrators, with a focus on improving student achievement.

We heard back from each legislator. Rodriguez said in a statement conveyed by his district director that he filed SB 1036 at the request of Abbott's office but it didn't get a hearing, he said, likely because it would have required state spending.

Deshotel told us by phone that Abbott's office asked him to file the "good bill" and said he suspects the House education panel didn't move to send the legislation to the full House because it imposed costs at a time there wasn't money available.

HB 2224's fiscal note, prepared by Legislative Budget Board staff, says the legislation would entail $1.5 million in first-year spending to develop training programs--one for administrators in small school districts, another for urban counterparts and one open to any school administrator. Once launched, the note says, the programs together would annually cost $750,000 to operate.

Deshotel, asked why he didn't offer the proposal again during the 2017 legislative session, suggested that would have been futile. "Until we get some more money that we can appropriate, it doesn't make sense to file it," Deshotel said.

We rate this unfulfilled and previously unrated Abbott promise a PROMISE BROKEN.


Promise Broken  – The promise has not been fulfilled.

Sources:

Phone interview, Mark Terry, deputy executive director, Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association, Aug. 21, 2017

Legislation and related documents about advanced training for school principals, 2015 Legislature, Senate Bill 1036, House Bill 2224, Texas Capitol Online, and HB 2224's fiscal note, Legislative Budget Board, April 13, 2015 and witness list from hearing held on HB 2224 by House Committee on Public Education, April 14, 2015

Phone interview, Rep. Joe Deshotel, Aug. 21, 2017

Email providing a statement by Sen. José Rodriguez, Sito Negron, district director for Sen. Rodriguez, Aug. 21, 2017

Emails, Lauren Callahan, media relations and social media manager, Texas Education Agency, Jan. 8 and 10, 2018

Phone interview, Tim Regal, director of instructional leadership, TEA, Jan. 10, 2018