Spring 2017

ATPE News is the official publication of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the largest educator association in Texas. The magazine addresses the most important issues affecting public education in the state. Learn more at

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 18 of 43

ATPE NEWS 19 Recent metrics from Education Magazine place our educational system as 42nd in the country. On top of that, Texas students rank 47th in SAT scores. For a state with so much heart and pride, we know we can do better. With a statewide graduation rate of 88 percent, Texas boasts enormous academic success and po- tential. Most of the recent gains in graduation rates are enjoyed by minority students, who tradition- ally encounter the most obstacles throughout their ed- ucation. We want to improve the experience of students across the state, ensuring the vast resources Texas has to offer can impact every classroom and student. However, the Texas legislature and individually elect- ed school boards retain almost exclusive control over education policy in Texas, and in recent years, we have seen little improvement. Currently, there is no way for local-level ideas to transcend these policy barriers and transform classrooms across the state. At the Rather Prize, an education competition for a $10,000 grant, this is what we seek to change. The Rather Prize was established in 2015 in response to what the Rather family saw as a weak point in Texas ed- ucation—the ability for local-level ideas to be celebrated. "When we created the Prize, which was all my grandson Martin's idea, we aimed to celebrate the educators who helped to shape all of us into who we are today, and the student who thinks critically and effectively about how to improve the system around them," said Dan Rather, who is a product of Texas public schools. Martin Rather, a sophomore at Rice University, helped establish partnerships between the Rather Prize, SXSWedu, and Rice University's Center for Civic Leadership. Martin says, "I think that the strength of our contest is that we are nonpartisan, open to all in Texas education—we have received ideas from middle school students all the way up to retired educators—and we have fantastic partners who allow us to offer the platform of the nation's strongest education conference and all of the resources of Rice in order to help to implement the winning idea." The goals of the contest are to find the best ideas and help implement the winning proposal. So far, the Rather Prize has seen remarkable results. After Dr. Sanford Jeames of Austin's Eastside Memorial High School submitted his innovative proposal to connect underserved high school students with community men- tors, he saw his rising seniors flourish and demonstrate increased confidence in their post-high school plans. Dr. Jeames calls the program, the "STEP Up Challenge, be- cause we want to see our students step up to do better and accomplish more. And we are all about creating stronger outcomes for our students in terms of acceptance to col- lege and strong internships." For students who perceived higher education as an unfeasible goal, the role of community and professional mentors in shaping students' outcomes cannot be un- derstated. Dr. Caroline Quenemoen, an associate dean at Rice University who worked with the Rather Prize and Dr. Jeames on Eastside's pilot program, said, "The results of the program were outstanding, and I hope that other schools will look towards what Eastside is doing to see if they can adopt many of the same standards." Following Dr. Jeames's pilot program at Eastside Memorial, the school saw their college acceptance rates grow and stu- dents' perspectives broaden. Dr. Jeames is just one success story, and there are many more waiting in the wings. In this year's contest, we received ideas from more than 200 students and educators, and thousands of Texans have voted for their favorite. The ideas are as diverse as the state they came from. A student in Wharton ISD proposed connecting local news organizations with school districts so that students could learn how to use media to tell national news stories from their own perspectives, learning both commu- nication skills and the importance of writing the news. A teacher in Leander suggested a living history museum that would al- low students to explore and recreate continued on page 42 Photos courtesy of Ron Oliveira

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of ATPE News - Spring 2017