Mike Morath was appointed Texas Commissioner of Education by Gov. Greg Abbott and began serving on Jan. 4, 2016. As Commissioner, he heads the Texas Education Agency, which oversees pre-kindergarten through high school education for more than five million students enrolled in both traditional public schools and charter schools.
Commissioner Morath previously served on the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) board of trustees. In his more than four years on the board, the district saw two bond ratings upgrades, a $200 million increase in fund balance and major improvements in auditing. But his focus was on academic improvements, and it showed in the results. By his final year, DISD had seen a 13 percentage point rise in kindergarten readiness, a nine percentage point gain in fourth-grade math proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an 11 percentage point increase in graduation rates, and minority student performance on Advanced Placement tests that outpaced all large urban districts in the country.
While serving on the DISD board, Commissioner Morath served as chairman of Morath Investments, managing a small portfolio of investments. Prior to that, he served as president and chief operating officer of Minute Menu Systems, a company that provided information systems to help manage a $2.5 billion federal child nutrition program. His company made government more efficient – reducing costs by 13 percent to agencies administering that federal program – improved the quality of nutrition offered, and helped feed roughly one million children a day at the time he sold his interest in it.
A strong advocate of public education, Commissioner Morath graduated from Garland High School in the Garland Independent School District. Thanks to a great public school education, he earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree, summa cum laude, from George Washington University in two-and-a-half years.
While starting his first company, Commissioner Morath was asked to teach an advanced computer science class at his high school alma mater after the previous teacher resigned suddenly. He taught through the school year until a permanent teacher was hired and remains amazed at how difficult it is to teach.
With a belief system that continually calls him to serve others, Commissioner Morath has participated in numerous volunteer activities, including his church’s Missions Team, in schools and juvenile justice facilities and as a mentor Big Brother. He helped organize a trip to orphanages in southern India to set up clean running water systems, and he volunteered at an eye clinic in rural Mexico, where he met another volunteer, Dr. Laura Vondra, who is now his wife. They are the proud parents of a daughter and son.
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The report is sponsored by the Dana Foundation Arts and Cognition Consortium. It is a collaboration of studies conducted by neuroscientists representing seven universities from across the United States pertaining to the association of arts training and higher academic performance. The consortium’s findings provide an understanding of the possible causal relationships between arts training and the ability of the brain to learn in other cognitive domains. The results of the studies should be helpful to students, parents, educators, and the general public in policy-making decisions as related to the importance of high quality arts education in our schools.
A Harvard-based study has found that children who study a musical instrument for at least three years outperform children with no instrumental training – not only in tests of auditory discrimination and finger dexterity (skills honed by the study of a musical instrument), but also on tests measuring verbal ability and visual pattern completion (skills not normally associated with music).
While these results are correlational only, the strong predictive effect of training duration suggests that instrumental music training may enhance auditory discrimination, fine motor skills, vocabulary, and nonverbal reasoning. Alternative explanations for these results are discussed.
Children exposed to a multi-year program of music instruction involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers, according to a study published in the journal Psychology of Music. According to authors Joseph M. Piro and Camilo Ortiz from Long Island University, data from this study will help to clarify the role of music study on cognition and shed light on the question of the potential of music to enhance school performance in language and literacy.