Tag Archives: graduation

House Public Education Committee convenes first meeting

HPE02-21-17

The House Public Education Committee met at the Texas State Capitol on Feb. 21, 2017. The committee heard invited testimony only.

The House Public Education Committee held its first meeting of the 2017 legislative session today, Feb. 21. Newly-appointed chair Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood) began the hearing by appointing state Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) chair of the Subcommittee on Educator Quality, where he is joined by Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston) as vice-chair and Reps. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas), and Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston).

Chairman Huberty kicked off the hearing by noting the committee’s efforts to address school finance during the interim. After the Texas Supreme Court ruled the current system “lawful but awful,” according to Huberty, the committee spent much of 2016 working on fixes under the leadership of then-outgoing Public Education Committee chair Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) and Appropriations chair John Otto (R-Dayton).

Notably, Huberty vowed the committee would get to work on school finance early, and suggested the topic would be the focus of hearings during the next two to three weeks.

Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath briefed the committee on agency operations and priorities. The agency currently serves roughly 5.3 million students and oversees $56 billion in funds. About 348,000 teachers are employed across 8,685 campuses. Texas boasts an 88 percent high school graduation rate, despite serving a student body that is almost 60 percent economically disadvantaged.

Morath highlighted a brief list of priority initiatives, including an agency “lesson study” initiative – a professional development tool used to develop best approaches to individual Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) components – as well as high-quality pre-kindergarten, math innovation zones, and rolling out the “A through F” accountability system.

Chairman Huberty pressed the commissioner on several areas of recent interest, beginning with informal “caps” on special education enrollment unveiled by a Houston Chronicle investigation. Morath told the chairman the special education performance indicator at issue had “outlived its usefulness.” House Bill 363 filed this session by Huberty would require TEA to cease using the indicator. Morath assured the chair, “If for some reason it doesn’t pass, we’re going to do it anyway.”

Chairman Huberty also asked the commissioner about TEA’s interaction with testing vendor Educational Testing Service (ETS) over faulty STAAR tests. Morath said the agency has imposed financial penalties on ETS. Continuing on the testing subject, Huberty prodded Morath on efforts to shorten the STAAR test as required by Huberty’s House Bill 743 from the 2015 legislative session. Morath indicated the process of creating a shorter test has cost the agency more than anticipated, and teachers may not have been provided adequate practice time with testing changes.

In response to Huberty’s inquiry regarding Districts of Innovation (DOI), Commissioner Morath testified that 105 districts have applied for DOI status thus far. According to the commissioner, the most popular exemptions are from teacher certification requirements, the first day of instruction, and class-size limits.

With regard to charter schools, Morath told the committee the state currently hosts 178 public charter entities, which operate a total of 603 campuses and serve roughly 245,000 students – about five percent of the total student population. A total of 22 entities have had their charters revoked, and seven have been non-renewed.

Chairman Huberty pointed out the state has not reached the charter cap and is not in danger of doing so. Rep. VanDeaver, a former superintendent, noted that in districts forced to pay recapture such as Houston ISD, the state pays more to educate a student in a charter school than in a public school.

Finally, the committee received a briefing from Comal ISD Superintendent Andrew Kim, who chaired the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. The 15-member commission was convened as a result of House Bill 2804 in 2015, and delivered a report to the legislature in August 2016, which included nine final recommendations for new systems of student assessment and public school accountability. You can read the commission’s full report here.

Chairman Huberty concluded today’s hearing by announcing that the committee will begin school finance discussions at the next meeting. The committee will hear from school districts when it meets again next Tuesday, and school finance bills will be posted for hearing the following week. Once those bills are voted out, Huberty said the committee will take up accountability issues, including A through F.

Dan_Huberty_HD127_2016pic

Rep. Dan Huberty

Related: House Public Education Committee Chairman Rep. Dan Huberty will be one of our legislative panelists for ATPE at the Capitol, our upcoming political involvement training event exclusively for ATPE members on March 5, 2017.

 

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Jan. 13, 2017

The 85th legislative session began this week. Here are highlights from the week:


Tuesday marked the opening of the 85th legislative session. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter provided a report on the first day’s activities, including the unanimous election of Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) to a record-tying fifth term as Speaker of the House. Over on the Senate side, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) will preside once again and is actively pursuing a number of controversial priorities he wants lawmakers to enact this session. Patrick’s 2017 wish list includes private school vouchers, naturally, and politically motivated bills to ban educators from using payroll deduction for their association dues.

Failing grade wrinkledOne thing that won’t be on the Senate’s agenda, according to Patrick, is repealing the “A through F” rating system that sparked outrage when school districts got a recent preview of how they might be graded when the system takes effect next year. In a pair of public speeches on Wednesday, the lieutenant governor insisted that A-F is “not going away” and seemed almost giddy about Ds and Fs being slapped on the same school districts that have “met standards” in the current accountability system. ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins has more about the reactions to A-F in today’s blog post.

The news from the state capitol wasn’t all negative this week. On Thursday, Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood) held a press conference to announce a bill, Senate Bill (SB) 463, to permanently extend the now temporary law on graduation committees. The committees create graduation pathways for students who cannot pass all STAAR tests but are otherwise qualified to move on post-secondary life. Seliger authored the original bill creating the committees in 2015, which ATPE strongly supported.

We encourage ATPE members who are interested in these issues to use our new grassroots tools on Advocacy Central to learn more about what’s at stake, follow related bills as the session continues, and send messages to their lawmakers.

Related: Check out ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey’s Jan. 12, 2017 editorial in the Austin American-Statesman about vouchers and why running public education like a business is a bad idea.

 


As one of the Texas’s largest areas of expenditure, the public education budget is frequently a target for possible budget cuts, and this session will be no exception, unfortunately.

On the eve of the 85th legislature’s first day in Austin, State Comptroller Glenn Hegar released the state’s biennial revenue estimate (BRE) Monday. The BRE reflects a forecast of future revenues and economic trends for the next two years, and it provides the budgeting framework within which lawmakers have to operate this legislative session. As ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins wrote for our blog on Monday, the $104.9 billion available for general revenue spending is less than we need and will force lawmakers to prioritize. The hard decisions on those priorities are a stark reminder that elections have consequences.

cutting budget with scissor on wooden backgroundEarlier this week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) was a featured speaker at a conference hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative advocacy group that has long supported education reforms like privatization, merit pay for teachers, deregulation, and limiting spending. In addition to boasting of the success of “A through F” accountability ratings as a means to a voucher end, Patrick pointed to healthcare and education as areas of the state budget that would be ripe for cuts. If talk of education budget cuts by the state’s second highest ranking elected official don’t alarm you already during this first week of the session, consider also that Patrick’s remark sparked a roomful of applause at the TPPF gathering.

As Mark stated in his blog post, “Get ready to tighten your belts.”

 


The United States Capitol building

The 115th Congress continued its second week of business this week, one that was originally slated to include the confirmation hearing for President-Elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee was scheduled to conduct the confirmation hearing for billionaire and alt-school-choice supporter Betsy DeVos on Wednesday, but announced late Monday that the hearing had been postponed for a week “at the request of the Senate leadership to accommodate the Senate schedule.” Calls for the postponement of confirmation hearings had surfaced after news broke that the Office of Government Ethics had not completed its ethics reviews for many of Trump’s cabinet picks, including DeVos. The hearing on her nomination to become U.S. Secretary of Education is now scheduled for Tuesday, January 17 at 4 PM CST.

Read more about the start of the 115th Congress and the DeVos hearing in ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann’s blog post from earlier this week. Kate’s post has been updated to include information on a letter that ATPE sent this week to the two newest members of the Texas Congressional Delegation. The letters welcome Congressmen Jodey Arrington (R) of Lubbock and Vicente Gonzalez (D) of McAllen to Congress and highlight ATPE’s top federal policy goals, namely the passage of Chairman Kevin Brady’s (R-TX) bill to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) for Social Security.

While the Department of Education (ED) awaits the appointment of a new boss, it is looking for qualified individuals to serve as peer reviewers of states’ Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans. The peer review process is required by law and serves to provide recommendations that will inform ED as it reviews states’ plans. ED is looking for teachers, principals or other school leaders, and specialized instructional support personnel, among other qualified educators to serve. Learn more about the peer review process, ED’s call for qualified reviewers, and how to apply here.

 


Monty testifying at a TEA hearingAs we have reported recently on Teach the Vote, Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath is proposing significant changes to the performance standards for STAAR tests. A public hearing was held today to give stakeholders another chance to weigh in on plans to accelerate a jump in the cut scores. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testified at today’s hearing with concerns about the proposal. He’ll have a blog post coming up soon with more on the proposed rules and why they are drawing negative reactions from parents, teachers, and school district officials.

 


17_web_Spotlight_ATC_RegistrationOpenATPE members still have a few weeks left to register for ATPE at the Capitol, our political involvement training and lobby day event set for March 5-6, 2017, in Austin, Texas. There is no registration fee to attend, and incentive funds are available to help defray travel costs. The deadline to register and reserve hotel rooms at our special group rate is Feb. 3. Visit Advocacy Central on the ATPE website (member login is required) to view all the details, including news about our speakers and panelists.

 


 

Guest Post: 239,517 Children Trapped in Political Rhetoric

Moak Casey logofrom Moak, Casey & Associates
Dec. 12, 2016

In an effort to solicit support for his voucher plan, the lieutenant governor recently told a group of education and business leaders in Dallas that 239,517 children attend a “failing public school in Texas.” (Source: The Dallas Morning News). Advocates of choice and vouchers often say that students are “trapped” in failing schools. The phrasing takes advantage of an accountability system that is designed to identify at least 5% of all schools in the state as “failing,” regardless of how well the schools, or the students enrolled in them, performed. Perhaps a better assessment is that students are trapped in the political rhetoric around school choice and/or school vouchers. (“School choice” is considered to be a broad term that subsumes vouchers and education savings grants, either or both of which take taxpayer dollars away from public schools and shifts them to the private sector.)

Education Commissioner Mike Morath recently told the TASA/TASB convention audience that, “We get beaten up for what we do, but our public schools are doing as well as they’ve ever done.” The same can be said for the parents and teachers of children in schools that have high educational risk factors. What do the numbers really tell us about Texas students and the accountability system that shadows their daily walk in Texas public schools?

  • During the 2015-16 school year, Texas public schools enrolled 5,284,252 students. That means that over 5 million (5,044,735 or 95%) students were enrolled in campuses that received a TEA rating of Met Standard.
  • In fact, 7,667 out of 8,673 or 88% of Texas public schools in 2015-16, inclusive of charter schools,received a Met Standard rating. When charters are excluded, the figure rises above 89%. (Source: TEA 2016 Preliminary Accountability System State Summary, as of September 14, 2016.)
  • The number of schools not meeting standards has declined each year since 2013, when the count stood at 768 Improvement Required (IR-rated) campuses compared to the most recent count of 467 IR-rated campuses — even as the accountability system has become more rigorous.

Those who indiscriminately cite the 239, 517 figure for shock value fail to tell the REST of the story. While it’s true that 239,517 students are enrolled at one of the 467 public and/or charter schools that received a TEA rating of Improvement Required for the 2015-16 school year, that does not mean that the students, or their schools, are “failing” as some voucher advocates state. Here are the numbers behind the rhetoric that tell the REST of the story.

  • Over half of the IR campuses (259 out of 467 or 55%) were rated IR for the first time. (Table 2)
  • Over half of the 239,517 students (52%) are enrolled in a campus that was rated Improvement Required (IR) for the first time. (Table 2) Historically, Year 1 IR campuses quickly improve and are removed from TEA’s IR list faster than other IR campuses.
  • 72% are enrolled at a Year 1 or Year 2 IR campus. (Table 2)
  • 51 campuses missed only one – out of four possible – index target. (Table 3)
  • Only 35 out of 8,673 campuses missed all 4 index targets. (Table 3)
  • 25,218 students are enrolled in one of the 68 charter schools with an IR rating. (Table 1) To our knowledge, no students are required to attend charter schools.
  • Out of the 467 schools rated in 2016 as Improvement Required, 102 graduated a total of 10,558 students in SY 2014-15. Of those, 8,349 or 79% of the graduates had completed rigorous programs of study, including Recommended High School Plan, Distinguished Plan, Foundation Plan with Endorsements, or Foundation Plan with Distinguished Level of Achievement.
  • The phrasing, “trapped in failing schools” paints a picture of “no way out.” In fact, all 399 IR-rated non-charter campuses were subject to Public Education Grant (PEG) requirements to offer choice options to each one of their enrolled students. Over 1,100 more schools that were not rated as Improvement Required in 2015 also were subject to PEG requirements, due to IR ratings in either of the prior two years and/or performance criteria distinct from state ratings. None of this takes into account any other forms of choice available within the districts right now.

And finally, those who disparage public schools fail to point out that in Texas, at least 5% of the schools will be designated by TEA as “failing” simply by virtue of the accountability system’s design.

  • The current accountability system (based largely on STAAR tests) is designed to identify at least 5% of schools as missing standards, or “failing” – because the targets it uses are built on a quota established in federal law.
  • That means that we can reasonably anticipate that at least 264,000 (5% of Texas enrollment) students will be enrolled in low performing campuses – even if their campuses performed better than they did the year before; and even if their local communities rate them as Exemplary, Recognized or Acceptable on the Family and Community Engagement Ratings that are required by state law.
  • The shift to an A-F rating system, in which both D’s and F’s are statutorily required to signify “unacceptable” performance, automatically ensures that more students will be enrolled in “failing schools” if the bottom 5% of campuses are given F’s and the next 10% are given D’s. This predetermined outcome will feed right into a fresh, new round of rhetoric from “school choice” advocates, even though the “increase” is simply a function of the system’s design.

The original intent of our state’s accountability system was to foster, inform and support continuous improvement efforts in teaching and learning. That seemed to be a universally accepted premise. Having a predetermined failure threshold in the current system seems to 1) subvert that original, positive intent, 2) reinforce a biased narrative about the state of public education, and 3) perpetuate the notion that schools must be punished before improvements will take place. At best, it seems unwise to put faith in a system that generates predetermined results with regard to “failing” schools. Before any school is labeled as a “failure,” we need to critically reconsider the rhetoric (and the hidden agenda) of voucher advocates in using an accountability system to create a certain margin of schools as “failing” the students, parents and communities that they serve.


This article originally appeared at http://www.moakcasey.com/articles/viewarticledoc.aspx?AID=16390&DID=12732 and was reprinted with permission from Moak, Casey & Associates. 

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Sept. 9, 2016

Happy Friday! Here are stories making education news in Texas this week:


Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath has adopted final rules to implement a 2015 law allowing for Districts of Innovation (DOIs), which are acceptably-rated school districts that opt to exempt themselves from some education-related laws in the Texas statutes. ATPE opposed the legislation last year granting school districts the right to those regulatory exemptions and allowing them to operate in a similar manner as charter schools. We submitted formal input to the commissioner on his proposed rules, urging for more safeguards to protect students, parents, and district staff from unforeseen and harmful consequences of broad exemptions.

Monty at DOI hearing

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testified at a hearing on proposed rules for Districts of Innovation.

One of ATPE’s foremost concerns about the DOI law was the potential for educators to lose their immunity protections in state law, particularly if a district opts to exempt itself from all available statutes under the new law as one large school district has already attempted to do. We are grateful that the commissioner and his staff listened to our concerns and added language to the final rules to prohibit districts from waiving educators’ immunity rights. While the DOI law remains highly problematic in many respects, the commissioner’s final rules will at least curtail the likelihood of costly litigation to determine what types of liability might attach to certain DOIs that have adopted blanket waivers.

Read more about the rules in this week’s blog post, and also peruse ATPE’s DOI resource page to learn more about the procedures and timeline for a school district to become a DOI, what types of laws can be exempted in those districts, and how educators and parents can have a voice in the DOI process locally.

 


Last week we reported that the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability (TCONGAA) had finalized its report with recommendations to the Texas Legislature on testing and accountability. On the blog this week, ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter breaks down each of the nine recommendations. Read his analysis here.

 


Today is the final day to submit comments on the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) rules pertaining to assessment provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ATPE is pleased that a form of our previous input to Congress and ED is included in the rule proposal covering the newly created innovative assessment pilot.

As we state in our new round of comments submitted to ED, ATPE has encouraged policymakers to consider using “a scientifically valid sample of the student population to assess students and report disaggregated state-level data” in an effort to reduce “the time, emphasis, and expense placed on standardized testing.” The proposed rules will allow states to consider piloting a limited form of this testing structure at the district- and, potentially, state-level (up to seven states have the option to consider several types of innovative assessment systems and would have to submit an application for consideration by the department).

Still, it is not lost on ATPE that states’ ability to press the boundary is limited in the area where true innovation is needed. Our comments encourage the department to “look for opportunities to address the harmful nature of overusing standardized assessments as high-stakes and ineffective measures of success.” We’ve shared previous input with ED and Congress that highlights these concerns, and we remain committed to advocating for a reverse of the trend to increasingly use standardized tests as a high-stakes measure of success in public education.

The department released its proposed rules on the rule administering assessments, which were drafted by education stakeholders and professionals under a process referred to as negotiated rulemaking, and the rule pertaining to the newly created innovative assessment pilot in July. ED has released a series of draft ESSA rules over the past year and just last week released a highly anticipated proposal covering the controversial issue of supplement-not-supplant.

 


SBOE logoNext week will be a busy one for education policy stakeholders with several major hearings on the calendar. First, on Monday, Sept. 12, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and State Board of Education (SBOE) are hosting a free public event in Austin called “Learning Roundtable – Educating the Children of Poverty.” The day-long conference will feature presentations by state and national education researchers on the challenges of turning high-poverty schools into high-achieving schools. Texas has experienced a sharp increase in the number of economically disadvantaged students, which creates greater challenges for ensuring that they have opportunities to excel in school. ATPE will be attending the event and will report on it next week. Learn more about the event here.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, the Senate Education Committee will conduct an interim hearing to evaluate digital learning opportunities and broadband access for schools and students. The committee will also monitor the implementation of a bill that allowed for students to use alternative measures to satisfy high school graduation requirements. ATPE strongly supported the bill creating graduation committees to evaluate certain students who had failed required STAAR exams. That bill is set to expire next year unless extended by the legislature in 2017. The Select Committee on State and Federal Power and Responsibility will also meet that same day to hear testimony on the extent to which state regulations are influenced by mandates attached to federal funding.

Also on the schedule for Tuesday are some high-profile SBOE meetings: SBOE’s Committee of the Full Board will begin with a morning work session on the curriculum standards for mathematics, followed by a public hearing on instructional materials submitted in response to Proclamation 2017. The hearing will be focused on a proposed new Mexican-American studies textbook that has generated controversy and national media attention. The textbook was developed by a publishing company headed up by Cynthia Dunbar, a former member of the SBOE. It is the only textbook of its kind being offered for the SBOE’s consideration at both its September and November meetings. A group of Texas educators and experts have reviewed the book and released a new report describing its content as offensive, biased, and filled with errors. A group called the Responsible Ethnic Studies Textbook Coalition plans to hold a rally to protest the book outside the TEA headquarters at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Sept. 14, SBOE meetings continue with its regular hearing by the Committee of the Full Board. Meanwhile, over at the Capitol there are two hearings of interest taking place that morning. First, the Senate Committee on State Affairs will discuss one of its interim charges to “examine the practice of using public funds and employees for the payment processing of union dues” and “make recommendations on whether Texas should end this practice.” ATPE has fought to protect educators’ rights to have access to payroll deduction for payment of their voluntary dues to our association, which is not affiliated with a union, and we will continue our work to educate lawmakers on the realities of this practice, which does not require any expenditure of public funds.

NO VOUCHERS

At the same time, the Senate Education Committee will hold another interim hearing on Wednesday, this one focused on vouchers and other “school choice programs,” such as the use of education savings accounts or tax credit “scholarships.” The committee will also monitor the implementation of recent legislation that changed the minimum instructional requirements for students from days to minutes and House Bill 1842, which changed accountability sanctions and interventions and created the means for school districts to become Districts of Innovation.

Thursday, Sept. 15 has the Senate Finance Committee looking at property tax relief and other topics. SBOE meetings continue that day with agendas for the board’s Committees on School Initiatives, Instruction, and School Finance/Permanent School Fund.

The SBOE will wrap up its week of hearings on Friday, Sept. 16, with its regular board meeting. Review agendas and times/locations for all of next week’s SBOE-related meetings here. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on these hearings from the ATPE lobby team next week.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-470725623_voteYou’ve probably heard about a little election that is scheduled to take place in November. Much is at stake in the general election for those with an interest in public education. Remember that you still have about a month left to register to vote if you or someone you know is not yet registered. Register by Oct. 11 in order to make sure your vote is counted in November. It’s important!

 


 

A message to educators from Friends of Texas Public Schools

Open Letter to the Terrific Teachers of Texas
Message from Friends of Texas Public Schools Founders, Scott and Leslie Milder

MildersCongratulations on your amazing success on behalf of your students as evidenced by Texas students achieving the highest graduation rates in America! You are doing the Lord’s work and Texans are grateful for your work and dedication. Click here to read more about graduation rates.

We have a critical calendar year ahead of us for the future of public education in Texas. The Texas Legislature has been working against you and your schools for decades and will continue to do what it can to undermine your ability to do your jobs in the classroom. While some of our elected representatives and senators are friendly toward public education, many are not. Their campaign contributors want vouchers and charters so they can profit from the billions invested annually in our public schools. They also want to attack your benefits such as TRS and your health insurance. That’s the simple and ugly truth.

Although your vote alone may not have great influence, if combined with your 600,000+ peers across Texas, public school educators would own the outcome of virtually any election. Why is this important to you? Currently, the education profession has very low voter turnout, which means elected officials do not listen to educators. They listen to those who vote and those who contribute. While educators are not known for their wealth and ability to contribute, they can show up at the polls in great numbers and elect education-friendly candidates! That is what we need to do next month.

Remember that politics is local and is more complicated than red vs. blue. Now, when you do go vote you’ll want your vote to count. As a result of gerrymandering, most state elections (90%) are decided in the primaries, which are in February and March of this year. Please consider this assignment. Determine the following: (1) Do I reside in a Texas House or Senate District that routinely elects a Republican or Democratic candidate? (2) Which candidate in that party is the most helpful to public education?

Let’s send a message to Austin that public education is important by voting early-on the first day of early voting, Tuesday, February 16. We urge you to vote in the primary election that typically determines the Texas Senate or House member where you reside.

The winners of the Democratic primary and the winners of the Republican primary face off against each other in the November general election. In many parts of Texas, most Democrats don’t stand a chance in the general election because Texans are largely Republican voters. Therefore, whoever wins the Republic Primary in March is likely to win the general election in November.

For those of you inclined to vote in the Democratic primary to support your presidential candidate of choice, please know your vote would be less meaningful than if you vote in the Republican Primary for the reasons noted in the previous paragraphs. Most elections in Texas are decided in the Republican Primary. You’ll be able to vote for the Democrat or Republican presidential candidate in the November general election.

What’s the takeaway of this message? Register to vote, VOTE, and vote in the Republican Primary during early voting February 16-26, or on the Primary Election Day, March 1. Need help determining who are the most education-friendly candidates? We always check in on who the Texas Parent PAC has endorsed. They will post their slate of candidates online at www.txparentpac.com.

Wondering if your voter registration is current? You can check by visiting Am I Registered to Vote. You may also register to vote at this same link. The last date to register to vote is Monday, February 1, 2016.

God bless you for choosing to serve in the public schools of Texas!

–Scott and Leslie

P.S. If you are a school principal or superintendent, we encourage you to make this message available to your teachers and staff. Download a PDF copy here

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Oct. 23, 2015

From elections to TRS, here are the Texas education stories you may have missed this week:


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released its final set of financial accountability ratings for school districts and charter schools today. The agency reports that nearly 98 percent of the state’s districts and charters achieved successful ratings for the 2014-15 year under what’s known as the School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST). View TEA’s press release about the ratings here.

In other news from TEA, a new evaluation report was shared this week on implementation of a major academic accountability overhaul by the legislature in 2013. House Bill 5 (2013) carried by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) made sweeping changes to the state’s curriculum and graduation requirements, including creating new endorsement areas for high school students. The new report outlines the extent to which school districts have offered the new endorsements and how schools have communicated information about the graduation requirements to students and their parents. Read more in TEA’s press release from Oct. 21.


Early voting has begun for the Nov. 3 election and will continue through next Friday, Oct. 30. Registered voters statewide have the opportunity to weigh in on seven proposed constitutional amendments, and many voters have bond proposals and other local matters on their ballots. In the San Antonio area, voters in House District 118 are choosing a new state representative to replace Rep. Joe Farias (D), who is retiring. Read more in our blog post from earlier this week, and if you live in HD 118, be sure to check out our new profiles of the special election candidates on our Resources page.


The Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board of Trustees held a town hall meeting yesterday, Oct. 22, to discuss healthcare concerns for active and retired educators. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson sat on one of the panels for the day-long, interactive event and wrote this report for Teach the Vote.


Don’t forget to follow Teach the VoteATPE, and members of our ATPE lobby team on Twitter for breaking news and other updates such as these:

 

 

State Board of Education discusses testing, graduation requirements

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) met this week, Sept. 9-11, in Austin.

The meeting started off with a lively exchange between SBOE board members and Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. The conversation ranged from implementation of new laws affecting the length of tests (HB 748 by Rep. Dan Huberty) to the graduation rate and how the Texas Education Agency calculates it, scores on STAAR tests covering the new math standards, and SAT/ACT scores and participation.

As part of its three-day agenda, the board also discussed graduation requirements, alignment of the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), potential funding for a long-range state education plan, and the process for the newest charter school applicants.

You can view the SBOE’s complete agenda for this week’s meetings here. Within the next several days, a link should be posted here, through which you may view archived footage of the meetings.

For any questions about the SBOE or the policies the board impacts, please contact the ATPE Governmental Relations department at government@atpe.org.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Aug. 28, 2015

Happy Friday to all the Texas educators and students who successfully kicked off the 2015-16 school year! Here are a few things you may have missed during this busy first week back to school.

Number of Texas students taking ACT sets new mark

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released numbers this week showing that more Texas students took the ACT college admission test than ever before, and for the second year in a row, Texas Hispanic students participated at a higher rate than any other student demographic. Read more about the high participation rates in this Teach the Vote post by ATPE Governmental Relations Manager Jennifer Canaday, published earlier this week.

TEA issues guidance on new suicide prevention training

In another Teach the Vote post published this week, ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson discusses the statistics of teen suicide and ATPE’s involvement in a bill brought about by an ATPE member with a tragic personal connection to teen suicide. That bill, which requires suicide prevention training for educators, was signed into law, and this week the TEA issued guidance that included a list of best practice-based programs and guidelines for independent review of suicide prevention training materials. Read more here.

Pastors for Texas Children weighs in on school finance case

Pastors for Texas Children (PTC), a nonprofit organization of faith leaders supporting public education, educators, and the children they educate, issued a response to an amicus brief filed by a group of church-based private school providers in the pending school finance lawsuit that is set to begin oral arguments before the Texas Supreme Court on September 1. In response to the amicus brief, which advocates for vouchers in Texas, PTC says it is “dismayed to see some local church leaders push for the diversion of public funds for their private, religious schools.” Read the full press release here.

News coverage on laws affecting public education as students and educators head back to school

Early this week Governor Abbott stopped by an Austin elementary school to wish students well on their first day of classes. In a press conference following the visit, he spoke with reporters about some of the laws passed during the Texas legislative session and his education priorities as governor. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter and Executive Director Gary Godsey were interviewed on some of those news laws affecting public schools.

In a story by Time Warner Cable News, Exter discussed funding for pre-K and a new law that creates graduation committees for otherwise successful students who struggle to pass state standardized tests. The law would apply to students who fail no more than two end of course exams. “That sets up the ability for folks to have a broader look than just the end of course STAAR exams in order to graduate,” Exter said.

In a story with KVUE Austin, Godsey also discussed the graduation committees created by the 84th Texas Legislature. He said “They attend school. They pass their course exams. They are just not in many cases not good at the standardized testing, and once again we believe that shouldn’t be the only factor in determining whether a child passes or not.” Godsey also discussed the new suicide prevention training for educators and overall public education funding.

ATPE State Treasurer Byron Hildebrand mentioned all of these topics in a related story that aired on KSAT San Antonio. He also discussed a new law that decriminalizes truancy, saying that he feels the law will help students be better people.

From the Texas Education Agency: Number of Texas students taking ACT sets new mark

More Texas Hispanic students in the 2015 graduating class took the ACT college admission test than any other student demographic, according to a report released today by ACT. The strong numbers led the state in setting a new ACT participation mark.

Of the 124,764 Texas students in the 2015 graduating class taking the ACT college admission test, almost 40 percent (48,934) were Hispanic. It’s the second consecutive year where the number of Hispanic students represented the highest number of examinees of any racial ethnic group.

Since 2011, Texas has seen a 22.8 percent increase in ACT test-taking graduates among all student groups.

Year Total Hispanic White African-American Asian
2015 124,764 48,934 46,564 13,792 6,698
2014 116,547 45,717 44,418 12,947 5,785
2013 109,841 41,877 43,299 12,695 4,871
2012 110,180 40,827 44,502 13,290 4,746
2011 101,569 35,093 42,685 12,874 4,556

“As our state’s student demographics have changed, the expectations we have for each of our students in the public education system remain high,” said Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. “Over the past several years, increased ACT participation in our state has taken place across the board, which reflects student aspirations well beyond high school that strengthens the Texas of tomorrow.”

ACT tests are administered for a number of subject areas including English, math, reading, science and writing (optional). Texas scores (excluding the optional writing test) in 2015 are:

  • English – 19.8 (compared to 19.8 in 2014)
  • Math – 21.1 (compared to 21.4 in 2014)
  • Reading – 21.1 (compared to 21.1 in 2014)
  • Science – 21.0 (compared to 21.0 in 2014)
  • Composite – 20.9 (compared to 20.9 in 2014)

In addition, the 2015 average ACT scores for Texas students surpassed the national averages in mathematics and science.

Subject Texas National
Mathematics 21.1 20.8
Science 21.0 20.9
Reading 21.1 21.4
English 19.8 20.4
Composite 20.9 21.0

Additional highlights of the Texas ACT results for the Class of 2015 include:

  • The 2015 composite score of 23.3 for white students in Texas is .9 points higher than their national counterparts (22.4).
  • The 2015 composite score of 17.6 for African-American students in Texas is .5 points higher than their national counterparts (17.1).
  • The 2015 composite score of 25.1 for Asian students in Texas is 1.2 points higher than their national counterparts (23.9).
  • In 2015, ACT scores for African-American, Asian and white students in Texas were higher than the national scores in English, mathematics, reading and science.
  • The 2015 composite score of 18.7 for Hispanic/Latino students in Texas was .2 points lower than their national counterparts (18.9). However, the 2015 ACT scores for Hispanic students in Texas were higher than national scores in mathematics and science.
  • For the 2015 graduating class taking the ACT college admission test, 44 percent met the college readiness benchmark for mathematics (higher than the 42 percent national rate), and 38 percent met the college readiness benchmark in science (equaling the national rate).

The top 10 Texas universities (in descending order) receiving scores from Texas ACT test-takers were: Texas A&M University; University of Texas at Austin; Texas Tech University; Texas State University; Baylor University; University of Texas at San Antonio; University of North Texas; Sam Houston State University; University of Texas – Pan American; and University of Houston.

The entire ACT report – complete with national and state-by-state results – can be viewed at www.act.org/readiness/2015.

 

Originally published by the Texas Education Agency on Aug. 26, 2015.

Guest post: I’m Wondering Why—The Rhetoric about Public Schools Doesn’t Add Up

I’m Wondering Why
The Rhetoric about Public Schools Doesn’t Add Up

Andra Self

           Andra Self

by Andra Self

Lately, much of what is said by some state leaders about schools just doesn’t add up. Inconsistencies and conundrums in their statements are leading many Texans to ask questions. Here are a few examples.

Why Not Brag? 

We all know that Texas is a state that loves to brag. We brag about everything being bigger and better in Texas. We brag about how we compare to other states. But somehow, when it comes to schools, some state leaders don’t take the opportunity to brag, and I wonder why. Recently, U.S. News & World Report released its list of the best high schools in the nation. Of the top 10 high schools, four are public high schools in Texas. That is certainly brag-worthy!

For the past few years, Texas has been ranking in the top handful of states on graduation rates. In fact, Texas African American students rank first when compared to their peers in other states. Graduation rates for Hispanic students are also best in the nation. White students’ graduation rates are outdone by only one state. Texas graduation rates are something to brag about, and it seems odd that some state leaders aren’t bragging.

Why the Stance on Tests?

At the same time that state lawmakers are passing laws that allow a student to graduate without passing all the tests (Senate Bill 149), those same leaders are embracing test results to rate schools A through F (Senate Bill 6).

On one hand, the tests have lost support, while at the same time the tests are considered a reliable tool for ranking schools. It seems strange that the tests are suspect in one context, yet valid measures in another.

Why a New Bureaucracy? 

Some lawmakers are focused on what to do about “failing schools” and are creating a new statewide bureaucracy to take troubled schools away from their local districts. However, years of data from the Texas Education Agency show that local districts have a laudable track record on turning around schools that receive the lowest ranking.

In fact, districts move 80 percent of schools out of that category in the first year after receiving substandard rankings. A new bureaucracy is not needed.

Why Not Tell the Truth About Choice?

Some politicians push for “school choice”—but in truth, parents already have many choices and are exercising those choices: In addition to Texas public schools, parents can consider private schools, public charter schools, virtual schools, and homeschooling.

Furthermore, there are often many choices within the public school system: magnet schools, transfers within districts, and transfers to other districts. School choice already exists.

Why No Adequate Funding? 

The number of students in Texas is growing by approximately 80,000 each year. We topped 5 million students recently. Schools are caught in a squeeze between rising student numbers, increased daily costs (e.g., electricity, transportation, food, supplies), and unfunded mandates from state government.

However, the Legislature cut school funding by $5.4 billion in the session before last and now appears unresponsive to the judge’s ruling that public school funding should be improved. The state has plenty of dollars to fund schools, but some lawmakers seem inclined to withhold those much needed dollars.

Why Vouchers?

Vouchers are designed to allow students to attend private schools using public tax dollars, and some lawmakers are going through all sorts of gyrations to find ways to divert funding from public schools to private schools. They want to take dollars away from the many students who attend public schools (almost 94 percent) to pay for the few (about 7 percent) who attend private schools—schools that will have no accountability for tax dollars or academic achievement.

Why Not Support Public Schools?

As you see, much of the rhetoric simply does not add up. Texas public schools are doing better than ever before. They deserve our applause and support.

Some lawmakers are working hard to support public schools, and we deeply appreciate that. Others, however, are denigrating this state’s public schools with statements not based on facts or needs. As we move forward in the future, it’s critical that all Texas lawmakers work together to Stand Up for Texas Public Schools.

Andra Self, a Lufkin ISD trustee, is 2014-15 president of TASB.

Views and opinions expressed in guest posts are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of ATPE. Reprinted with permission from the July 2015 Texas Lone Star magazine, published by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). Copyright 2015 TASB. All rights reserved.