The Texas Education Agency (TEA) submitted Texas’s final plan to satisfy the new federal education law, the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), on Monday. Submission of the plan triggered a 120-day window for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to review Texas’s proposal, a process that includes conducting a peer review and an evaluation by ED staff, primarily to ensure our state’s compliance with statutory requirements.
ATPE weighed in with input on the draft Texas plan during the public comment period last month. The plan saw some changes prior to submission to ED, but is largely similar to the draft plan that received public comment. ESSA provided flexibility to states in terms of using federal money to foster innovative approaches to accountability and assessments, among other areas covered under the law. Texas’s plan takes advantage of only some of that flexibility.
More on the final Texas ESSA plan and additional information on ESSA in Texas can be found at TEA’s ESSA web page. All states were required to submit final plans to ED this month (both Alabama and Texas received a deadline extension due to timing of hurricanes and hurricane recovery efforts).
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released its draft plan Monday to satisfy requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal education law that replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Texas’s draft plan offers an initial look into how TEA intends to implement the federal policy and funding parameters involving accountability, educator effectiveness, struggling schools, and more. The public has through August 29 to submit feedback on the draft plan.
Since President Obama signed ESSA into law in December 2015, the U.S. Department of Education (ED), under the direction of both the Obama and Trump administrations, has spent time developing, altering, and in some cases even omitting the rules that govern the law. Now that they’ve been finalized, it is on states to submit a plan telling ED how they intend to implement the law at the state and local level. Like other states, Texas has until September 18 to finalize and submit its ESSA state plan, which will then go through a peer review process for approval.
Texas’s draft ESSA plan can be read in its entirety here; below are some initial takeaways:
ESSA removed adequate yearly progress (AYP) from federal law, instead giving states the task of establishing their own long-term, ambitious goals for academic achievement. Texas’s draft ESSA plan establishes an academic achievement (as measured by annual STAAR results in reading/language arts and mathematics) goal intended to align with the state’s 60X30 goal, which seeks to have 60% of Texans aged 25-34 possessing some form of post-secondary credential by 2030. To assist in accomplishing that, TEA sets a goal under ESSA of having 90% of all students and subgroups at the “approaches grade level” performance level by 2032.
Other long term goals include a four-year graduation rate of 96% and a 46% threshold for students making progress toward English language proficiency, all by 2032. The plan includes interim targets in five-year intervals. These are laid out in the chart in Appendix A, with some targets not yet identified.
Indicators defined under federal accountability requirements include an academic indicator, an indicator of achievement specific to schools other than high schools, a graduation rate indicator, an English language proficiency indicator, and a school quality or success indicator. Texas’s accountability system, which was altered as recently as this year during the 85th Texas Legislature under HB 22, now consists of three domains and indicators within indicators that can be used to satisfy federal indicator requirements.
Texas’s plan intends to utilize STAAR test results (both proficiency and growth), Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS) results, graduation rates, and post-secondary readiness rates to satisfy the first four federal indicator requirements. To weigh the school quality and success indicator, which is new under federal law, the draft plan suggests using STAAR results in elementary and middle schools and post-secondary readiness rates in high schools. More on these indicators are found in the table starting on page 17 of the draft ESSA plan.
The state draft plan highlights the state’s A-F system as a way of satisfying differentiation requirements under federal law, which says that states’ accountability systems must be able to “meaningfully differentiate” among all schools in the state.
Identifying and supporting struggling schools
TEA offers four options for identifying the 5% of Title I schools considered to be the most struggling and in need of comprehensive support and improvement: (1) all F rated schools, (2) all F rated schools and all schools rated D for multiple years, (3) all F and D schools, or (4) all schools existing in the bottom 5% when ranked chronologically. The options work so that if the first option does not constitute 5% of all schools, then the second option is triggered, and so on. Any campus that does meet a 67% 4-year graduation rate would also automatically be identified for comprehensive support and improvement.
For schools that remain in need of comprehensive support for five years, interventions including the following could be implemented: school closure, partnership with a charter school, charter school conversion to include independent governing board and leadership change, or oversight by a Conservator or state-appointed Board of Managers.
The Texas draft plan proposes reserving 7% of the state’s Title I funding for struggling schools, an unidentified portion to be delivered via formula funding and an unidentified portion for competitive grant funding. More on identifying and supporting struggling schools can be accessed beginning on page 21 of the draft plan.
The Texas plan highlights two ongoing strategies for spending educator effectiveness funding under Title II of ESSA: continued investment in the Texas Equity Toolkit and implementation of an instruction leadership initiative, which is “designed to provide to LEAs and schools that did not earn satisfactory ratings on the state accountability system with comprehensive instructional leadership training for principal supervisors, principals, assistant principals, and teacher leaders in an effort to build skills in coaching, growing, and developing educators.” TEA also intends to reserve 3% of the funding for district grants focused on improving principal practice, potentially through “principal residency programs.” The plan also highlights recent changes made to the certification structure for educators in Texas and ongoing efforts to change Texas’s principal preparation as improvements to educator effectiveness. The draft plan’s portion covering Tittle II of federal law begins on page 37.
Equitable access to educators
TEA identifies in its draft plan three “priority contributing factors” why schools with high concentrations of low-income and minority children have inequitable access to experienced and effective educators teaching within field. They center on insufficient training, support, and alignment between and within districts. For teacher training, the draft plan proposes addressing this through continued support and implementation of T-TESS, the Educator Excellence Innovation Program (a grant program supporting innovative retention, training and support within districts), the recent changes to teacher preparation rules, and Lesson Study (a professional development program). More beginning on on page 27 of the draft plan.
The state, at least currently, is poised to continue federal testing requirements that, in Texas, amount to annual STAAR assessments in reading and math in grades 3-8 plus three science assessments (in grades 5 and 8 plus once in high school). The new federal law does offer states some minimal flexibility to assess students and provides for a pilot program where states and districts can more meaningfully address alternate approaches to assessing students.
The public comment period is open now and runs through Tuesday, August 29. Comments on the draft plan can be submitted via email to email@example.com.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released the results of a survey the agency conducted to collect public input on the state’s plan to implement the Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA). Recognizing that the new law returns some decisionmaking to states when it comes to federal education policy, Commissioner Morath and TEA turned to parents, educators, taxpayers, and other public education stakeholders in Texas to gather required input on a handful of issues the state will have the opportunity to address.
The survey gathered information on five main topics, including how Texas should measure school quality or school success, support the educational success of students with varying backgrounds, increase student access to effective educators, prepare students for college and career, and support struggling schools. For each question, respondents were offered multiple options and asked to rank their top three choices.
In order to measure school quality or success, respondents chose career and technical training, student engagement, and school climate and safety as the top three gauges.
The top strategy chosen by respondents to equalize and grow access to high-quality teachers and principals was increasing teachers’ salaries. Ensuring school leaders have the flexibility to staff their schools based on the specific needs of their students and communities, and ensuring that teacher preparation programs focus on the skills and practices most linked to student achievement followed.
To ensure a quality education for all students, focusing resources on learning in early grade levels, providing high-quality teacher training and supports, and highlighting best practices that have increased student outcomes rose to the top of the list.
To improve struggling schools, respondents felt the following were the best approaches: provide more funding and resources for curricular materials, such as technology; offer incentives for excellent teachers to teach in those schools; and provide more funding and resources for wrap-around services like health care services, behavioral health services, or parent education offerings.
Critical thinking and development of interpersonal skills were respondents’ choices for the knowledge and skills students need in order to be prepared for college and career.
About 22,500 stakeholders completed the survey with an additional almost 7,000 beginning it but not completing. Of the 29,500 respondents, just under 12,500 identified themselves as public school teachers. Parents or guardians of public schoolchildren made up the second highest percentage of respondents, with just over 10,000 of them providing input. More than 3,500 administrators responded and a little over 1,000 students offered their perspectives. Results came in from regions all over the state, but the prairies and lakes, gulf coast, and south Texas plains regions provided the highest percentage of respondents.
The full results of the survey published by TEA can be found here and the Agency’s press release on the survey results is here.
The U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce will meet tomorrow in Washington, D.C. to discuss a new proposed funding-related rule by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The “supplement, not supplant” regulatory proposal is part of ED’s implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed by Congress last year to reauthorize the country’s premier federal education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). On Wednesday, Sept. 21, the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), will hold a hearing entitled, “Supplanting the Law and Local Education Authority Through Regulatory Fiat.”
As described in a press release from the committee announcing tomorrow’s hearing, “The Department of Education has released a proposed rule changing the longstanding requirement that federal funds supplement—not supplant—state and local funds. Concerns have been raised that the department’s unprecedented regulatory proposal does not adhere to the letter and intent of the law and will have significant consequences for students and schools.” Scheduled witnesses have not yet been announced, but the hearing will be live-streamed starting at 10 a.m. Eastern/9 a.m. Central on Wednesday, Sept. 21. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on ESSA implementation.
As displeasure with Texas’ standardized testing regime mounts, all eyes are on a special panel the Legislature created last year to figure out whether to scrap the widely reviled STAAR exam.
The 15-member Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability, scheduled for its second-to-last meeting Monday, has been studying alternatives to the high-stakes tests, which state law requires 5th and 8th graders and high schoolers to pass to move to the next grade level or to graduate.The panel includes a diverse mix of educators, elected officials, business leaders and anti-testing activists.
Its work couldn’t be better timed, with parents and school officials up in arms over wide-ranging problems reported with this spring’s STAAR administration —issues that prompted Education Commissioner Mike Morath on Friday to waive the requirement that 5th and 8th pass the tests to move on to the next grade. The panel first convened in January, the month after Congress passed a new federal law giving states far more freedom to determine what their testing and accountability systems should look like. And manyeducators, parents and elected officials agree that major overhauls are necessary, even if they don’t entirely agree on what they should be.
Commission members have expressed high hopes for devising meaningful changes to a system that assesses students and holds them and schools accountable. Many view that system as unnecessarily stressful, overly punitive and developmentally inappropriate. Their recommendations are due to Gov. Greg Abbott and the Legislature by Sept. 1.
“I really am excited about the potential for this,” said commission member and Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, in an interview ahead of the panel’s April meeting. “It’s really a varied group with a lot of different experiences and backgrounds on there, and it’s what I had envisioned as far as having a meaningful dialogue of stakeholders that bring their own perspectives to it and try to come up with some type of consensus.”
Teacher, school and parent groups also have been excited by the opportunity to make big changes. But some say their hope for revolutionary reform has waned over the months — particularly after the panel’s May meeting, when members struggled to hammer out a list of recommendations. Several panelists said it will be crucial to make progress at Monday’s meeting, as they are set to finalize their guidance at a meeting in July.
Monty Exter, a lobbyist for the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said it quickly became clear after the panel’s first monthly meeting that it was not looking to eliminate statewide testing and that it would likely keep STAAR, or something like it, in the lower grades.
“I do think they will reach consensus around some areas,” he said. “I don’t think that it’s probably going to be groundbreaking.”
The federal government has required states to assess students in grades 3 through 8 annually and once in high school since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002 — at least if they want to receive federal funding. Many other states are also tinkering with their testing plans amid pressure from parents to reduce testing time and make the overall experience less taxing.
The commission has coalesced around some larger concepts, such as the importance of accounting for improvement in student scores; that exams should be more developmentally appropriate and diagnostic rather than summative; and that there should be multiple different measures of student performance with consequences for poor outcomes falling more heavily on teachers and administrators than on students. But they have struggled with specifics, getting hung up on recommendations that would cost districts a lot of time or money or pose other problems.
Scott Placek, an Austin-area lawyer representing a group of parents who recently sued the state over STAAR, said they are concerned by the interest panelists have expressed in having a series of smaller assessments throughout the year rather than one big, end-of-year exam. (Education Commissioner Mike Morath also has expressed support for the concept.)
“Some of the things that have been discussed in terms of more continual assessment, more data-driven assessment, you know, it’s concerning to parents who I think believe the system is already too data-driven,” said Placek, adding that his own son struggled with STAAR.
“I think that parents were initially very supportive of the idea of re-examining assessment,” he added. “I think as the work of the commission has gone on, that’s sort of shifted to caution and suspicion.”
Comal ISD Superintendent Andrew Kim, the panel’s chairman, said he’s tried to remind the panel that many of the things under discussion — including smaller, diagnostic assessments throughout the year — have been tried and rejected before.
“This is a very complex topic,” he said. ”There’s not, in my opinion, one silver-bullet solution that’s going to meet the needs of various constituents out there in our state, and … it probably merits further discussion going forward even beyond the commission.”
He also said that there’s a desire among educators to not “throw the baby out with the bathwater” or risk overcorrecting the problem.
Taylor, too, said he’s “not huge on reinventing the wheel.” Still, he foresees a potentially “massive” impact from the commission’s work, including possibly getting rid of the five end-of-course exams high schoolers are supposed to pass before they can graduate and instead using an exam like the SAT or ACT. Nearly half of all states now require students to take either of these two college entrance exams in lieu of, or in addition to, some other type of test, according to a 2015-16 Education Week survey.
“I don’t want this to just be an exercise of what ifs,” Taylor said.
Panel member Theresa Treviño, president of the influential anti-testing group Texans Advocating For Meaningful Student Assessment, said the recommendations the panel willmake“are probably not as grand as I would have hoped” but that she still thinks they will make an impact.
“I think it’s going to be more than a tweak, which is what I was really afraid of,” she said. “I’m hoping that with this next meeting we can sit down and hammer out those recommendations that could make a bigger difference and they don’t have to be huge.”
Commission member andoutgoing House Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, said striking an appropriate balance has been challenging but that he thinks the commission will produce recommendations to “get rid of some of the craziness” that has created such a stressful testing environment, including some high-stakes provisions.
Even if the panel does recommend big changes, some teacher and school groups worry they may fall victim to House-Senate gridlock next year, with leadership already publicly butting heads over public education priorities.
“The work of the commission will have a challenging road ahead of it in the 85th session,” said education lobbyist David Anderson.
Last week, after House Speaker Joe Straus directed representatives to study improvements to the state’s school funding system, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — a vocal school choice proponent — issued a news release that praised Straus’ move but also said it “must be packaged with education reform.”
Amy Beneski, a lobbyist for the Texas Association of School Administrators, saidthat even if the recommended changes are smaller, they still could make a huge difference.
“The bottom line is, the majority of people I’ve ever talked to aren’t happy with the current system, and that’s not going to change,” she said. “We’re just going to have to keep plugging away. This is hard work.”
Disclosure: The Association of Texas Professional Educators and the Texas Association of School Administrators have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) published its rule proposal for the accountability piece of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in the Federal Register yesterday. The proposal addresses state accountability systems, state and district report cards, and consolidated state plans.
Initial reaction to the accountability rule proposal was mixed. In Congress, the partisan division again hinges on state control and flexibility versus strong civil rights protections. House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced they will each hold hearings on the proposal and threatened to block the regulation through available means if it “doesn’t follow the law,” which aims to decentralize power away from the federal government. Their Democratic counterparts, Ranking Members Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), praised the proposed rule for protecting and promoting equity.
Outside of the Capitol, stakeholders pointed to more specific issues with the proposal, citing concerns about a definition for “consistently under-performing,” the inclusion of specific punitive consequences for low assessment participation rates (in situations where parents opt children out of state standardized tests), the need for guidance on ways to make school report cards more accessible and transparent for parents, and more.
The proposal requires states to have accountability systems in place by the 2017-18 school year, with the goal for states and districts to identify schools in need of support the following school year.
In other ESSA rule proposal news, ATPE submitted a letter last week to U.S. Secretary of Education John King. The letter identified two areas of the new law where ED is asked to pay particular attention to previous ATPE input to Congress when writing rules or issuing non-binding guidance. Those areas of the law pertain to an innovative assessment pilot and a new avenue for potential funding for educator preparation programs.
ATPE’s previous comments on assessments to the Senate HELP committee outline recommendations for giving states “more flexibility to innovate and choose assessment methodologies that better suit the needs of their students, parents, and educators.” ATPE’s comments note that the high stakes testing regime is ineffective and even harmful to students, and suggest that tests “be low stakes, be administered less frequently, employ sampling, and be truly criterion-referenced.” While the new federal education law requires states to maintain the current annual testing schedule, ATPE’s letter encourages ED to allow states piloting innovative assessments to test these recommendations.
In the letter to ED, ATPE also points to previous comments on supporting educators. Particularly, the letter highlights ATPE’s input on “initiatives to encourage more selective recruitment of educators by setting high standards for educator preparation and certification.” ATPE encourages ED to support states through non-binding avenues as they seek to ensure high standards for educator preparation programs.
Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for more updates on ESSA implementation.
ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson was in Washington, D.C. this week to meet with members of our state’s congressional delegation and attend Tuesday’s hearing on Social Security offsets that affect educators and other public employees. The U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security also discussed a bill filed by Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) that would eliminate the current Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and create a fairer system. Read Josh Sanderson’s blog post this week to learn more about the hearing and how H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act, would help educators.
Also in Washington this week, the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Education looked at the president’s education budget proposal, while the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing to discuss reauthorization of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and ways to protect student privacy. The U.S. Department of Education was also overseeing meetings of a negotiated rulemaking committee for the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann provided a wrap-up for our blog, which you can read here.
With the approach of STAAR testing, many educators have been grumbling about new rules that require test time and the time students spend on breaks during the test to be tracked by test administrators. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter took a closer look at the issue this week. Read his blog post from yesterday on how a popular bill to reduce the overall time spent by students on standardized testing has caused some unforeseen headaches for educators while the Texas Education Agency (TEA) considers how to implement the new law.
The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability met Wednesday, March 23, to continue working toward proposed suggestions to report ahead of the 2017 legislative session. ATPE’s Monty Exter reports that the meeting was held in the TEA/State Board of Education board room and was broken into two main parts. First, TEA staff gave a presentation on statutory nuances associated with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorized the primary federal education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) formerly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The commission members also participated in a moderated work session among with board members and key legislators.
Click here to view the presentation on ESSA from Wednesday’s commission meeting in PDF format. Video of the entire meeting can be viewed here. Find additional information on the commission including video of previous meetings here. The next commission meeting will be held Wednesday, April 20, in Austin.
Next week presents a busy calendar full of interim hearings pertaining to public education. NOTE: The Texas Legislature’s computer systems are undergoing maintenance this weekend and will not be available until late Sunday night, March 27. In the meantime, some of the hearing notices linked below may not be available for viewing. For additional information, follow @TXLegeCouncil on Twitter.
Several state legislatures are taking steps to change their teacher evaluation systems in light of new flexibility available to them under federal law. The issue of how to evaluate or appraise teachers has been a topic of great interest for Texas lawmakers in every recent legislative session. Now that the Texas Education Agency is in the middle of developing and piloting a new state-recommended evaluation model, many are watching to see how a newly-appointed commissioner of education will react and how the current primary election could alter the composition of the 85th Texas legislature that will have power to intervene.
With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December came a reduced emphasis on student growth measures tied to teacher evaluations. Prior to ESSA becoming law, however, many states were tied to requirements pushed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) under Secretary Arne Duncan’s waiver process. Those waivers specifically required that states seeking waivers, which included Texas, tie teacher evaluation systems to student standardized test scores. States did so in exchange for flexibility from the onerous and outdated policies of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the nation’s previous law governing education that was, at the time, long overdue for a rewrite.
However, the passage of ESSA made the flexibility from NCLB unnecessary and reduced the pressure for states such as Texas to meet federal expectations of educator evaluation systems. In fact, the new law puts no requirements on states’ teacher evaluation systems. It also allows states to use funding to create educator evaluation systems but does not require that states create such a system. This has allowed several states to rethink the teacher evaluation policies previously enacted because of requirements tied to the waivers and NCLB, which was more specific with regard to creating educator evaluation systems.
The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) is an organization focused on enhancing public education within its 16-member region that includes Texas. According to the SREB, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Tennessee all have bills moving through their respective legislatures that would significantly alter their educator evaluations systems. The SREB said that while state lawmakers are primarily looking to provide flexibility to districts, more specifically, some of the states are looking to reduce the amount that student test scores weigh in an educators evaluation. The SREB offers a bill tracker that highlights all relevant bills filed in the board’s member states on this and other topics. Georgia, for instance, has a bill filed that would reduce the use of standardized test scores to no more than 10 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.
As you go to the polls during this primary election, remember that the candidates you elect will have the ability to make big decisions about criteria that should be a part of the new teacher evaluation system for Texas going forward. The future of education will be determined by this election in several ways; this is just one. Visit our 2016 Races search page here on Teach the Vote to find out where your candidates stand on major issues such as evaluating teachers and what role standardized tests should play. When you go to the polls, vote for the candidates who support your classroom, students, and profession.
On Monday, ATPE submitted formal written comments expressing concerns about proposed Commissioner’s Rules to implement a new teacher evaluation system called T-TESS. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann provided details on ATPE’s input in a blog post for Teach the Vote earlier this week.
ATPE has asked the Commissioner Mike Morath to consider delaying the adoption of the rules to allow time for reconsideration of some aspects of the new system – particularly, a requirement that at least 20 percent of each teacher’s appraisal be based on student growth measures, such as value-added modeling (VAM) using student test scores. With Congress’s recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Texas no longer faces the same pressure from the federal government to emphasize student growth measures in teacher evaluations.
Several ATPE members who served on stakeholder committees making recommendations for the creation of the T-TESS system and the rules to implement it have also shared their input with the commissioner. In a letter to Morath, educators Richard Wiggins, Ginger Franks, Jeremy Wagner, Stephanie Stoebe, Libbie Payne, and Carlos Diaz-Rivera Jr. echoed the concerns about moving forward with an evaluation model that includes the use of VAM and is heavily linked to students’ standardized test scores. “We are proud that the inappropriate use of standardized tests in the public education system has been recognized and change is underway,” the educators wrote to Morath. “Please help us continue that effort for the betterment of the 5 million schoolchildren across Texas.”
Former Commissioner of Education Michael Williams proposed the draft rules late last year for replacing the PDAS evaluation system with T-TESS. If adopted now by Commissioner Morath, the new rules and the T-TESS model would take effect as of July 1, 2016.
Related content: ATPE members Stephanie Stoebe and Libbie Payne, both of whom were involved in the efforts to develop a new teacher appraisal system, shared their thoughts on the proposed T-TESS rules in media interviews this week. Watch videos here of Stoebe appearing on KXAN-TV in Austin and Payne appearing on KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi.
An inaugural meeting will take place next week for the new Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. No testimony will be taken during the Jan. 20 meeting. We also reported this week on a new member being appointed to the commission and on Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to appoint Andrew Kim as the commission’s chair. Kim replaces the governor’s original choice to lead the commission, Mike Morath, who can no longer serve in that role since being named as the commissioner of education. The State Board of Education is also hosting a series of community conversations around the state to gather input for the commission. Its next scheduled event is in Austin. Read more about the SBOE events here and check your ATPE member newsletter for links to register.
Have you noticed any changes to Teach the Vote lately? Our 2016 candidate profiles are now featured on the site along with voting records for incumbent legislators. Search for legislative and State Board of Education candidates by clicking on our 2016 Races page. Additional information about the candidates will be added in the coming weeks, especially as those vying for election respond to our candidate survey.
Feb. 1 is the last day you can register to vote in the March primary elections. It’s important for all Texas educators to be registered and exercise their voices at the polls. This is especially true for the March 1 primary elections, since many of Texas’s contested races will be decided through the primaries rather than during the November general election. If you’re already registered, make sure your family members, friends, and colleagues are registered, too! Learn more about how to register to vote here.
Early voting for the March primaries is still a month away, but if you happen to live in San Antonio’s House District 118, you can cast a vote as early as next week! The retirement of Rep. Joe Farias (D-San Antonio) has forced a special election for his seat. Back in Nov. 2015, voters selected Republican John Lujan and Democrat Tomas Uresti to advance to a runoff election. The runoff is scheduled for Jan. 26, 2016, but you may early vote between Jan. 20-22. View additional information on the special election candidates in the Resources section of Teach the Vote.
In public comments submitted today on the proposed Commissioner’s Rules implementing a new teacher appraisal system in Texas, ATPE encouraged newly appointed Commissioner of Education Mike Morath to delay implementation of the rules in order to address several concerns. ATPE expressed particular concern with provisions pushed by the Obama administration in exchange for Texas’s waiver from the burdensome and outdated policies under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), including compelling school districts to use standardized test scores as a measure of evaluating teachers on student growth.
ATPE highlights prominent research that questions the reliance on student standardized test scores (or the use of value-added modeling or VAM) as a measure of student growth and encourages the Texas Education Agency to omit the unproven measure. Such research questions the reliability of VAM for high-stakes decisions affecting educator appraisals, compensation, employment, and preparation program accountability. ATPE’s comments note research published by the American Statistical Association, which issues the following warnings:
“limitations are particularly relevant if VAMs are used for high-stakes purposes,”
“ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality,”
aside from test scores, VAMs “do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes,”
“VAM scores and rankings can change substantially when a different model or test is used,” and
“effects – positive or negative – attributed to a teacher may actually be caused by other factors that are not captured in the model.”
In addition to citing research warning against the use of VAM, ATPE’s comments address several issues that make the use of VAM impractical, unnecessary, and harmful. Among them is the fact that only about 30 percent of Texas teachers will be evaluated on their students’ test scores since VAM can only measure teachers who teach subjects where a STAAR test is administered. “The potential harm created by this bifurcated system, where teachers of certain tested subjects would be isolated from the majority of their peers, is tremendous and will only serve to alienate teachers in tested subjects or discourage teachers from teaching those subjects.”
As we reported last week, today is the last day to submit comments on the proposed rules, which could be adopted as early as today and after adoption would go into effect on July 1. Among the comments submitted to the Commissioner is a letter authored by six ATPE members who served on two T-TESS steering committees that TEA convened to gather input on the development of the new teacher standards, evaluation system model, and proposed rules. The educators’ letter states: “We ask you to delay implementation in order to reconsider inclusion of value-added data as a means to measure student growth. We are proud that the inappropriate use of standardized tests in the public education system has been recognized and change is underway. Please help us continue that effort for the betterment of the 5 million school children across Texas.”
The group’s letter explains that they understood that the inclusion of VAM was a requirement of the waiver Texas had received from the Department of Education in exchange for needed flexibility under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). “At that time, we were willing to accept that our hands were tied and this was not a topic of debate.” However, the group notes, Texas was freed from waiver requirements last month when Congress passed and President Obama signed into law a new federal education law. Passage of the law negates the need for a waiver and returns the decision making on teacher evaluations to Texas and its local school districts. In light of that development, the group encourages Commissioner Morath “to eliminate the inclusion of value-added data or student standardized assessment results as a means for measuring student growth under T-TESS.”
Both ATPE and members of the steering committees encouraged Commissioner Morath to delay implementation in order to address the piece allowing the use of value-added data, or state standardized test scores, as a measure of a teacher’s performance. Read ATPE’s full comments and the letter from members of the steering committees to learn more.
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