Tag Archives: mathematics

SBOE Wrap-Up: November 2016

SBOE logoFriday, Nov. 18, wrapped up a busy November meeting of the State Board of Education (SBOE), which returned to Austin to tackle a wide range of subjects before the holiday break. Here’s a brief rundown of the week’s action.

Mexican-American Studies

The board said “no thanks” to a controversial Mexican-American studies textbook that sparked protests over factual errors and complaints regarding the way Mexican-Americans are characterized in the text. After a morning dominated by demonstrations and a press conference held by opponents of the textbook, the board denied approval and asked for more submissions of ethnic studies materials. The Texas Tribune‘s Aliyya Swaby has a blow-by-blow of the drama that unfolded on Tuesday. Read more about the board’s decision and what it means for both textbook publishers and school districts teaching the elective course in this press release from the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

TEKS in the Crosshairs

Wednesday’s agenda focused primarily on updates to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (curriculum standards) for mathematics, science, English language arts, and reading. On the subject of math, board members heard exhaustive testimony regarding process standards, and whether less emphasis should be given to word problems and process questions both in the curriculum and on standardized tests. Members seemed to generally agree in a reduction in emphasis, but were concerned what the mathematics TEKS would be left with if process standards were done away with altogether.

The committee also heard reports from educator committees assigned to review the science TEKS in several areas, but most of the attention focused on biology. Reviewers recommended edits to the biology TEKS that included sections seen by some on the board as challenging the theory of evolution. In testimony, one biology teacher who sat on the review committee countered that the changes were made for streamlining purposes and preserved encouragement for instructors to engage in healthy debate of scientific theories. The Texas Tribune posted a summary of the arguments.

Bond Guarantees

On Thursday, the Committee on School Finance/Permanent School Fund delved into a question regarding the use of the fund to guarantee loans for new school buildings. When growing school districts want to build, for example, a new campus, they may not necessarily have the cash on hand to pay for it right away. To get things going, they can issue a bond – basically, a loan – which they can pay off, with interest, over time. Just like you, if a school district has better credit, it can get better financing and pay less interest, which can add up to millions of dollars for a big construction project. In order to get the best financing possible, public school districts with less-than-perfect credit can get the bond “guaranteed” by the $30 billion Texas Permanent School Fund (PSF). It’s a bit like your parents co-signing a loan: You get a better interest rate because they promise to pay the bank if you can’t keep up with your payments.

Dollar fanCharter schools can also take advantage of the Bond Guarantee Program, but on a limited basis. For qualifying charter holders, the amount available under the program is set by a capacity multiplier currently set at 3.25 percent. Charter holders complain the regime creates an annual rush to snap up limited resources. At Thursday’s hearing, they asked the committee to expand the multiplier to 3.5 percent, which would create several hundred million dollars in additional bond guarantees available to charters. Some on the board expressed concern over expanding the debt for which the PSF is liable to charters over which the state has less control. The board gave preliminary approval to raising the multiplier, while halting a related proposal by TEA staff to create additional academic criteria for charter holders to qualify for the program. The Austin American-Statesman‘s Julie Chang has a thorough write-up on the bond program discussion, complete with the following quote from ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter:

“The board’s first priority should always be to protect the fund so that it continues to be available to guarantee new bonding for facilities for all Texas students,” Exter said. “We agree with the commissioner on enhancing academic requirements to access the bond guarantee program. Some board members have expressed concerns about expansion by charter holders who have not utilized their current capacity. ATPE encourages those members to continue to ask those sorts of questions.”

SBEC Rules

Friday wrapped with the board taking up several rule proposals sent to them from the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). All SBEC rules must undergo final review by the SBOE board, which can vote to reject and send back proposals or take no action — which has the effect of approving the proposals. All the SBEC proposals received final approval. Learn more about those educator preparation and discipline proposals in this recent blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann.

Legislative Recommendations

The board also approved its 2017 legislative recommendations, which include a prohibition on vouchers, increased appropriations for TEA staff to adequately oversee and support the TEKS process, support for federal E-Rate support funding, an elimination of TEA’s arbitrary limit on students receiving special education services, and improved student data privacy, among others.

Farewells

This week’s SBOE meeting was the final one for two outgoing board members, Martha Dominguez (D) from SBOE District 1 and Thomas Ratliff (R) from SBOE District 9. Dominguez is an educator and current ATPE member; many of the board members referred to her as the heart or conscience of the board.

Thomas Ratliff

Thomas Ratliff

Ratliff, son of former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, came onto the board eight years ago, after winning a primary election to replace the former board chair and a divisive figure in curriculum battles, Don McLeroy (R). During his tenure, Ratliff helped usher in one of the most productive and cooperative periods in the history of the SBOE.

Both of these members will be greatly missed, and ATPE thanks them for their service. After Dominguez and Ratliff decided not to run for re-election this year, their respective replacements were determined through this year’s elections to be Georgina Perez (D) and Keven Ellis (R). Perez and Ellis will begin their four-year terms in January

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Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Nov. 11, 2016

Here is your Veterans Day edition of our weekly wrap-up, featuring post-election news and more from this week:

 


Election resultsThe 2016 election came to a close this week. At the national level, voters chose the presidential candidate who is expected to bring change to Washington, but in Texas, things look pretty similar to how they looked going into the last legislative session. There were only a handful of Texas House seats where the incumbent or incumbent party lost reelection, and no seats altered in the Senate, leaving the balance of power in the Texas Legislature largely the same. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter provided more analysis on the outcome of the election state-wide here.

A state election story that the education community and policymakers were watching on election night dealt with the outcome of a school finance measure on some Houston voters’ ballots. The measure asked voters to authorize or not authorize the city’s first recapture payment under a provision in Texas school finance law commonly referred to as “Robin Hood.” Voters ultimately decided to not authorize the $162 billion payment, which would have been used to equalize funding for property-poor districts throughout the state. ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins has more on this complex decision made by Houston voters and the effects it could have on the upcoming legislative session.

ThinkstockPhotos-523002181_IVotedAt the federal level, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann penned some initial thoughts on how public education will fare under a Trump presidency here. While his broad plans for education are still fairly uncertain, President-elect Trump has made it clear that he will push for a national voucher program for Title I funds and will seek to significantly reduce the role the federal government plays in education. He also appears to be in the same camp as education reformers. In fact, it was reported late this week that two education reformers working for the American Federation for Children confirmed that they have been contacted by President-elect Trump’s transition team regarding their interest in the Secretary of Education post. The American Federation for Children, which supports school choice, advised President-elect Trump during his candidacy.

 


The State Board of Education holds its next regular meeting starting on Tuesday, Nov. 15. The full agenda can be viewed here for the four-day meeting running through next Friday. It will be the last meeting for two of the board’s members who did not seek re-election this year: Martha Dominguez (D) and Thomas Ratliff (R). ATPE thanks them both for their service.

On Tuesday the board will decide on the amount of money it will move from the Permanent School Fund to the Available School Fund, making it available for the legislature to appropriate to the instructional materials allotment. They will also continue to discuss the board’s long range plan for education and the board’s upcoming legislative priorities. On Wednesday the board will hear from the Commissioner of Education at 9 a.m., and then the board will discuss a range of curriculum items for the remainder of the day. Those will include revision of the ELAR TEKS, continued monitoring and feedback of the new Math TEKS, and the streamlining of the Science TEKS. On Thursday, the board will break into subcommittees. Of particular note the Committee on School Initiatives will consider ratifying six chapters of amended SBEC regulations, which cover educator preparation, educator certification, and educator disciplinary rules.

Anyone wishing to sign up to testify on one of these topics can do so here. If you would like to turn in written testimony, please feel free to contact the ATPE lobby team for further assistance. Stay tuned next week for updates on the SBOE’s actions.

 


U.S. Dept of Education LogoThis week was the final opportunity to submit comments on the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) rule proposal pertaining to a federal funding provision under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The provision, referred to as “supplement, not supplant,” is aimed at ensuring Title I schools receive their fair share of state and federal funding. While “supplement, not supplant” is nothing new to federal education law, the language did change slightly under ESSA, and as we have reported, ED’s interpretation of that new language is controversial.

Many comments submitted raise concern over how the rule proposal would realistically affect states and districts, but some express support for rules they believe will help ensure the highest-need and most undeserved students get the resources they deserve. Congressional Republicans again expressed their concern over the rule proposal’s “broad and inaccurate conclusions” with regard to Congress’s intent, this time in a letter signed by 25 Republican Members of Congress, including the education committee chairs in both chambers. The Democratic education committee leaders submitted their own letter, expressing concern over some unintended consequences, but calling the proposal a “step in the right direction.” The concern is not a totally partisan one, however; last week a bipartisan Congressional letter was sent to President Obama regarding the undue state burdens created by the provision and ED’s poor interpretation of Congressional intent. Read more about that letter and ED’s rule proposal in this informative article published by the the Washington Post.

One yet-to-be-determined affect of the election, is how President-elect Trump will approach ESSA regulations made by the Obama administration. It’s safe to predict that these regulations pertaining to “supplement, not supplant,” if finalized, would be altered, at the very least.

Related: You still have one week left to share input with the Texas Education Agency on how our state should implement ESSA-related policies at the state level. TEA’s ESSA Public Input Survey remains open through 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18.

 


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) shared information this week on the call for nominations for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Administered by the National Science Foundation in conjunction with the White House, the PAEMST is the highest honor for math and science teachers in the country.

A student and teacher working together in a classroomTeachers of grades 7-12 math or science, including computer science, will be recognized in all 50 states. Some high school CTE and tech apps teachers are also eligible to apply. The nomination deadline is April 1, 2017, and applications are due by May 1, 2017. Eligible teachers who submit a completed application will earn 25 continuing professional education (CPE) credit hours, too.

Recipients of the award receive $10,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C. to be formally recognized. Additional information on PAEMST eligibility criteria and the award process can be found here.

 


Thank you, Veterans, for your service to our country!

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.

SBOE asks commissioner for accountability relief during implementation of new math curriculum standards

The State Board of Education (SBOE) is concerned that the implementation of new curriculum standards for mathematics this year may cause unintended headaches for some schools, educators, and students, and several board members are hoping the commissioner of education will offer assistance.

The board revised the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for math in grades 3-8 in 2012, and those new TEKS are being implemented in schools this year. Some SBOE members fear negative consequences for students, teachers, and schools that have not yet had sufficient time for professional development, incorporating new instructional materials aligned with the TEKS, and adjusting to the new standards, which in some cases require skills to be taught at different grade levels than they were under the prior math standards.

Today, 14 members of the board wrote a letter to Commissioner of Education Michael Williams asking him to consider a temporary “hold harmless” provision in state accountability requirements for campuses and school districts during the initial implementation period. They also asked for additional support from the Texas Education Agency through professional development resources. Board members stated in the letter, “We believe our math standards are important and worth supporting without the counterproductive pressure for students and teachers during the transition.”

The SBOE met for several days this week to swear in newly elected members, appoint board members to serve on particular committees, and elect officers. The board re-elected Thomas Ratliff as its vice-chair and tapped Ruben Cortez to serve as board secretary. (The chairman of the board, Barbara Cargill, is selected by the governor and confirmed by the Texas Senate.) Sue Melton-Malone, who is also a former state president of ATPE, was elected by her fellow members to chair the SBOE’s Committee on Instruction, for which she previously served as vice-chair. SBOE member Patricia “Pat” Hardy will continue in her role as chair of the Committee on School Finance and the Permanent School Fund. Board members also elected Marty Rowley to serve as chair of the Committee on School Initiatives, with Martha Dominguez as his vice-chair. ATPE congratulates all the newly elected members and officers.

House committees look at student ticketing, math courses and testing

The House Committee on Public Education met twice this week to review the implementation of several bills passed last year. The first was a joint hearing with the House Committee on Corrections to discuss school discipline and the implementation of Senate Bills (SB) 393 and 1114 related to student ticketing. In a separate meeting, the education committee had ongoing discussions about the implementation of House Bill (HB) 5, the bill that made sweeping changes to the state’s graduation requirements and testing requirements.

SB 393 and SB 1114 were passed in 2013 in an attempt to reduce the issuance of criminal tickets to students for minor school offenses. This week’s joint committee meeting revealed that since the implementation of those bills in September of last year, the number of court filings resulting from the issuance of class C misdemeanor tickets for school offenses has dropped by 90,000. That number represents an 83 percent decrease. During the same period, the number of school arrests, suspensions and referrals to alternative campuses has remained stable or decreased slightly. According to testimony at the hearing, this suggests that the drop in student ticketing has not had a negative impact on the campus environment with regard to discipline.

While SB 393 and SB 1114 did not cut off the ability to use the criminal justice system as a deterrent and tool to maintain school discipline, the goal of the bills was to decriminalize school offenses in most situations. Advocates on all side of this issue want to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline, and in doing so, ATPE also wants to ensure that educators feel supported and in fact are supported in their efforts to maintain discipline in their classrooms.

We want to know what you think about student ticketing. Please post your comments on our blog and let us know what your experience has been at the campus level since the passage of SB 393 and SB 1114.

During the subsequent meeting on Oct. 8, the House Committee on Public Education heard from Texas Education Agency (TEA) officials and experts about new courses being developed in response to HB 5 to serve as equivalently rigorous alternatives to Algebra II. According to testimony at the hearing, the new Non-AP Statistics course being developed is on track to be completed soon. The Algebraic Reasoning course is proving to be more difficult. Many advocates of that course, including some legislators, envision Algebraic Reasoning as an applications-style course for Algebra II. However, that type of course is proving more challenging to develop because any course based on the existing Algebra II TEKS that would require a teacher to use applications would likely cross the line into specifying a method of teaching, which is illegal in Texas.

Despite the difficulties, Dr. Uri Treisman of the University of Texas’ Dana Center, a mathematics think tank, applauded the state on the efforts being made and informed the committee that what they are striving for is in alignment with where higher education has been moving. According to Dr. Treisman, institutions of higher education have for several years been moving away from a single college math pathway based on Algebra, favoring multiple pathways instead. Such pathways include the traditional Algebra route as well as pathways based on Statistics and Quantitative Modeling.

In addition to the receiving the update on new math courses, committee members raised several questions about the state’s testing and accountability system. The committee voiced considerable concern about the removal of the STAAR Modified test and the impact of that change on schools and students with disabilities. TEA representatives also caused a stir among the committee when they relayed that TEA had kicked out sample STAAR test items based on the percentage of students who answered the question correctly. According to TEA, if more than 90-95 percent or less than 25 percent of tests takers answered an item correctly, it was removed. The committee noted that it seemed patently unfair to remove a question that tested basic TEKS merely because all or nearly all students answered the question correctly. A public witness who testified later during the hearing noted that by removing questions in that manner, TEA had essentially converted what was supposed to be a criterion-referenced assessment into a normative assessment. Many education experts believe that normative assessments should never be used for high stakes or accountability purposes.

At one point during the hearing, Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble) announced that he was seriously considering filing a bill in the next session to do away with state-mandated standardized testing altogether. A representative of Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment (TAMSA) shared with the committee that more than 35 states do not use standardized testing as a graduation requirement and implored the committee to consider changing state law to make any statewide testing system diagnostic only. ATPE member Cynthia Ruiz, an English teacher from Pflugerville ISD, eloquently testified about the problem of teaching to the test and the failings of the STAAR writing test. Several committee members thanked her for her testimony.

Video of the Joint Committee hearing on school discipline and student ticketing can be viewed here. Video of the House Public Education Committee’s HB 5 hearing can be viewed here.

SBOE committee discusses curriculum standards

The State Board of Education (SBOE) continues to meet this week in Austin. The SBOE’s Committee on Instruction, which includes ATPE member Martha Dominguez and ATPE past state president Sue Melton-Malone, took up two discussion items including invited testimony Thursday morning. The committee met two hours earlier than usual so that other members of the board could hear and participate in a discussion of the new graduation equivalency program and the process for adoption and revision of the state’s curriculum standards known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

Board members heard from Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff and a representative from testing vendor Pierson Education about the transition from the current GED program to a new fully-computerized battery of high school equivalency tests. The panel asked questions about logistics, access and expense. The committee will continue to discuss this issue in upcoming meetings as they contemplate putting forth a competitive bid to ensure that the state is getting the most bang for its buck on this program.

Next, the committee continued its discussion looking into issues concerning the number of TEKS and the TEKS review process. The board continues to grapple with issues such as how to define “essential” and drawing a line between defining standards, which the SBOE is required to set by statute, and curriculum issues like pacing, which the board is forbidden to address by law.

There is a general consensus that the SBOE, and perhaps moreover TEA, has turned a corner with the mathematics TEKS and is heading in the right direction toward narrowing the scope and deepening the ability to reach mastery of the TEKS. A subgroup of board members, all of whom have extensive experience at the campus or classroom level in public schools, has been tasked with bringing their perspective and the perspective of other educators to this issue. The group includes Patricia “Pat” Hardy, Melton-Malone and Dominguez.

View archived footage of Thursday morning’s meeting of the SBOE Committee on Instruction here.

Preview of this week’s SBOE meeting

The State Board of Education (SBOE) is meeting in Austin this week, with several hearings scheduled today through Friday, April 11. Many of the agenda items relate to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the state’s curriculum standards.

Topics for discussion include giving Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff members direction on the creation or potential creation of new TEKS-based courses. These include advanced math courses such as Statistics and Algebraic Reasoning, which have been discussed as options for students to take under new graduation requirements passed by the Legislature last year via House Bill (HB) 5. SBOE will also talk about a possible new course in Mexican American Studies that is being sought by some board members.

The board also plans to update the list of courses that school districts are required to offer students. This list is separate from the list of courses a student must take in order to graduate, although there are many overlaps between the two lists.

Additionally, the SBOE Committee on Instruction will continue its work toward revising the process by which TEKS are adopted or modified.

You can you view streaming video of this week’s meetings of the board and its subcommittees here. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on actions taken by the board.

House Public Education Committee discusses HB 5 implementation

Today, the House Public Education Committee is meeting to discuss issues related to House Bill (HB) 5, the bill from the 83rd legislative session that made sweeping changes to high school graduation requirements and student testing. The committee’s interim charges being discussed today include monitoring the implementation of HB 5, working to ensure the creation of additional rigorous math and science courses, reviewing the broad scope and breadth of the curriculum standards (TEKS) and considering possible ways to alleviate testing in grades 3-8.

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter will be testifying at today’s hearing. His comments will focus on the need to maintain college and career readiness, TEKS redesign and the creation of new math courses. You can watch today’s proceedings live or stay tuned for a recap of today’s hearing, which will be posted to this blog.

TEA OKs use of calculator apps on 8th grade STAAR exam

In February, Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams informed superintendents that every Texas school would be required to provide graphing calculators to all students taking the 8th grade STAAR mathematics exam.

Yesterday, Williams announced that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) will allow schools to use graphing calculator applications available on electronic tablets in order to satisfy the new requirement. The option to use calculator applications will be on a pilot basis for the 2014–15 school year. If successful, Williams will consider extending the option and possibly expanding it to include the use of other technology such as smart phones. The move is meant to provide some flexibility and less expensive options for schools as they try to meet the new requirement.

Read the full press release.