Tag Archives: value-added

House committee advances A-F improvements

The House Public Education Committee met Tuesday to hear a number of bills, including those dealing with special education, and to advance a key piece of legislation relating to accountability.

House Public Education Committee meeting April 4, 2017.

House Public Education Committee meeting April 4, 2017.

During a break in testimony Tuesday afternoon, Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Houston) introduced a committee substitute to HB 22, which would modify the “A through F” accountability system. As filed, the bill would collapse the five domains down to three and eliminate the overall, or “summative,” rating for districts and schools.

Chairman Huberty explained the committee substitute would clarify that indicators must be based on disaggregated information and include indicators reflecting access to resources, size and socioeconomics. The substitute would also incorporate policies advocated by ATPE, including a requirement that stakeholders, including teachers, should be involved in the process. ATPE has also advocated for restricting the use of standardized test results and other value-added measures (VAM) for the purposes of evaluating educator performance. The substitute would cap VAM at 25 percent of the educator performance score.

The committee unanimously approved HB 22, along with the following bills:

  • HB 481, which would prohibit TEA from collecting over-allocated state funds after seven years if they resulted from statutory changes.
  • HB 852, which would remove the cap on the number of individuals who can enroll in the adult high school and industry certification charter school pilot program.
  • HB 972, which would make it more difficult for districts to assign students to an uncertified teacher.
  • HB 1560, which would remove an obsolete reference regarding open-enrollment charter schools from the statute outlining the powers of the State Board of Education (SBOE).
  • HB 2611, which would allow districts to list property with a realtor using a multiple-listing service for 30 days.
  • HB 2649, which would require the governing bodies of charter schools to hold open meetings in the county in which the school is located and subject to the same requirements as regular government bodies.
  • HB 3722, which would modify the funding formula for districts to which an academically unacceptable school district is annexed.
  • HB 1669, which would allow the Texas Education Agency (TEA) commissioner to charge legal fees to parents who the commissioner deems have filed a “frivolous” lawsuit.

Also of note, the committee considered HB 713 by state Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston), which would end the de facto “cap” on special education enrollment unveiled by the Houston Chronicle. Specifically, it would prohibit any performance indicator based on the total number or percentage of students enrolled in special education. As the Chronicle reported, an arbitrary 8.5 percent target monitored by TEA resulted in schools inappropriately denying special education services to thousands of children. Although TEA indicated that it will no longer use this information as a performance indicator, Rep. Wu explained HB 713 would prevent the agency from resuming the practice in the future. ATPE supports this bill.

The hearing began Tuesday morning with HB 1886 by state Rep. Rick Miller (R-Sugar Land), which would specify that appropriate dyslexia screening or testing should be done upon enrollment in kindergarten and at the end of first grade. It would require the TEA designate a dyslexia specialist to provide districts with support and resources, and identify both in-person and online training opportunities. According to the fiscal note, the bill would likely require TEA hire an additional full-time equivalent at a cost of roughly $107,000 per year.

HB 2205 by state Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin) would require school employees to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect to local law enforcement, as well as the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Kuempel argued that too much time may pass between the time a report is filed and DFPS notifies law enforcement of a potentially dangerous situation. In some cases, DFPS has waited up to 72 hours before notifying police.

ATPE lobbyist Mark Wiggins testified neutrally on the bill. Highlighting the paramount importance of child safety both to educators and police, Wiggins pointed out that the current law orders DFPS to immediately inform local law enforcement. It’s hard to justify calling 72 hours “immediate,” as required by law. Before duplicating efforts, ATPE suggested that addressing the issue within DFPS may be the correct starting point for ensuring that current law is followed and no children are left in potentially dangerous situations.

HB 743 by state Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) would allow a social worker to provide services to students and families in a school district, collaborating with school administrators in order to enhance students’ learning environments. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 1720 by state Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) would require schools to provide parental notice if a child is found with lice. Furthermore, school officials would be required to notify the parents of every child in the same classroom as a student found with lice. The bill specifies that the child’s identity would be held confidential and not revealed to other parents.

ATPE lobbyist Mark Wiggins testified neutrally on HB 1720, noting that some teachers have expressed frustration that some school districts prohibit teachers from notifying other parents when a child is found with lice, resulting in recurring outbreaks. ATPE suggested the bill could be improved by granting individual teachers the right to notify other parents if they determine such action is appropriate.

HB 1556 by state Rep. Mary González (D-El Paso) would require training for foster parents of a child with disabilities before making educational decisions on the child’s behalf. The bill would separate the legal definitions of foster parents and surrogate parents for the purposes of educational decision making. Social workers testified that oftentimes, the law is unclear as to who makes the educational decisions for foster children in certain situations. According to the fiscal note, local districts could find it necessary to invest roughly $230,000 to develop training and $25,000 in subsequent years to maintain and update the training.

HB 1076 by state Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress) would revisit the timing of mandatory spinal screenings. While current law requires screenings in grades 6 and 9, HB 1076 would instead order the executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to designate the appropriate ages for screening based on the latest scientific research.

HB 1583 by state Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio) would extend epinephrine auto-injector regulations, privileges, grant eligibility and immunity from liability to private schools. The bill would also add private school nurses to the list of positions eligible to serve on the epinephrine auto-injector advisory council.

HB 2395 by state Rep. Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth) would order each district and charter to test their water for lead using a third-party testing service. If too much lead is found, the bill would require schools to provide safe water until lead levels are returned to acceptable parameters. According to the fiscal note, the Texas Association of School Business Officials (TASBO) estimated the cost of lead testing to be between $2,000 and $3,000 per building. TEA estimated the statewide cost at approximately $22 million per year, not including remediation.

HB 2130 by state Rep. Kevin Roberts (R-Houston) would order a study on the impact of the statewide assessment program on students in special education. The study would be required to address whether the administration of alternate assessments complies with ESSA and whether state-required assessments provide accurate and helpful information. Many disability advocates argued that current assessments aren’t necessarily appropriate for children with some disabilities. According to the fiscal note, the study would cost the state approximately $230,000. TEA staff testified the study could be paid for out of federal funds. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 1342 by state Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound) would require elementary and high school students to receive mandatory annual sex abuse training “to promote self-protection, prevent sexual abuse of children, and reduce child pregnancy.” Rep. Parker cited alarming statistics concerning sexual abuse of children, arguing children should be trained how to identify and handle assault.

HB 1033 by state Rep. DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne) would require the TEA to petition for a waiver of the annual alternative assessment of students with significant cognitive disabilities required under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Rep. Burns suggested that individual admission, review and dismissal (ARD) committees should be empowered to determine which tests, if any, are appropriate. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 23 by Chairman Huberty would create a five-year grant program to provide money for districts and charters that provide innovative services to students with autism.  The total number of eligible school programs would be capped at ten, giving priority to collaborations between multiple districts and charters. Funds would be capped at $20 million total, and $1 million for each individual program. According to the fiscal note, HB would cost the state $258,000 through 2019 and $10.1 million each following year. Chairman Huberty argued the pilot program would help drive innovation in a much-needed area of education. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 2623 by state Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston) would require schools to create a personalized transition program for students returning after missing 30 instructional days or more because of placement in a juvenile center or hospital care. According to the fiscal note, districts may find it necessary to hire an additional counselor at an average annual salary of $63,000. Rep. Allen explained this is needed to help ensure that students who have been away from a public education setting for an extended period are able to be successfully reintegrated. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 194 by Vice-Chairman Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) would require the State Board of Education (SBOE) to create a special education endorsement. Vice-Chairman Bernal suggested the bill would rectify an oversight that has resulted in some special education students being unable to earn the endorsements needed to graduate.

HB 3439 by state Rep. Linda Koop (R-Dallas) would allow school districts to contract with a charter to operate a district campus and share teachers, facilities or resources. Such schools would be entitled to the greater of the funding per weighted average daily attendance (WADA) entitled to the district or the charter. Although the fiscal note projects no state expense through 2019, the program would cost the state $33.3 million in 2020, $44.4 million in 2021 and $55.5 million in 2022.

ATPE lobbyist Mark Wiggins testified against HB 3439, pointing out concerns regarding students and educators. Even though students in each attendance zone would be given preference, the new charter campus would still be allowed to cap enrollment and potentially exclude students who would otherwise be entitled to go to that school. Furthermore, the legislation is unclear as to whether district teachers could be transferred to the charter and lose the rights and protections of district employees.

The bill would also allow low-performing charters to take over campus management. Currently, charters rated “C” or “D” on the “A through F” accountability system could participate, and as a result, would benefit from a one-year pause in their accountability ratings. This provides an incentive for poorly-performing charters to partner with poorly-performing districts in order to enjoy an accountability holiday. ATPE suggests confining participation to charters with “A” or “B” ratings.

HB 2442 by state Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) would change “minutes of instruction” to “minutes of operation” for the purposes of determining the length of each school day. The TEA commissioner would determine how many minutes of operation are equivalent to a day of instruction. Instruction time would include recess and meals. The bill would also repeal the minimum length of the school day.

ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter testified in support of HB 2442, pointing out that the bill helps clarify the length of half-day pre-kindergarten for funding purposes.

HB 3157 by state Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) would modify eye exam rules to allow students to be screened using photoscreening. Advocates argued photoscreening is a more accurate and efficient method for detecting eye problems than eye charts, but school policies don’t always allow them.

Before concluding, Chairman Huberty suggested there could be a formal meeting later this week in order to advance additional bills pending in the committee.

A-F fix takes center stage in House Public Education

The House Public Education Committee met Tuesday to consider more than two dozen bills. Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Houston) began the hearing with more discussion of House Bill (HB) 21, House leadership’s priority school finance bill that would add $1.6 billion to the public school system. Huberty announced that the much-anticipated committee substitute should be posted this week.

The committee heard extensive testimony over the last two weeks regarding how to structure $200 million allocated for hardship grants to ease the burden primarily on schools facing the expiration of Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR) funding. Huberty indicated $125 million would be allocated the first year, and $75 million the second year. State Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian), who chairs the subcommittee on Educator Quality, explained districts taxing at the max level will get larger prorated grants under the program. Grants could be no larger than the actual amount of the lost ASATR funding, or exceed ten percent of the overall grant.

Huberty added that House budget writers have identified $250 million of additional funds to bring the overall price tag of HB 21 to $1.9 billion. The chairman suggested those funds could be focused toward CTE, computer technology and bilingual education. Huberty concluded by stating his intention to finalize committee substitute language this week and hold a vote on the bill next week. ATPE continues to support HB 21 as an important step toward larger reform of the school finance system.

HB 1776 by state Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees public education funding, would replace the U.S. history end-of-course assessment with the same civics test administered to those applying for U.S. citizenship and allow students to take the test at any time, beginning in grade nine. Ashby argued the current U.S. history end-of-course exam is overly burdensome both for students and teachers. According to the fiscal note, the change would save an estimated $2 million through the biennium ending in August 2019.

HB 22 is Chairman Huberty’s answer to addressing some of the unintended consequences of the “A through F” accountability system. In short, the legislation would collapse the number of domains from five to three and eliminate the overall letter grade for schools and districts. The bill would also add a wide variety of additional performance indicators intended to decrease the reliance on standardized test data, and draw distinctions between “D” and “F” ratings – with particular regard to the accompanying accountability triggers.

Calling the system “flawed,” Huberty suggested HB 22 would move the emphasis away from standardized tests and factors influenced heavily by economic disparities. The bill is the product of collaboration between committee members, Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath and school administrators. The fiscal note estimates HB 22 would cost $4.5 million over the next biennium, and $3.5 million the following biennium.

The legislation would further delay implementation by another school year. Commissioner Morath told the committee that the legislation fixes “unintended mathematical consequences,” and said the additional time is needed to model changes and write new rules. Alief ISD Superintendent H.D. Chambers testified that letter grades fail to adequately capture performance, and were never intended to be part of the five-domain accountability system created by the 84th Texas Legislature.

Responding to concern raised by state Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) over the elimination of the overall grade, Huberty said “A through F” came with numerous problems. The scheme replaces the current pass/fail accountability system, under which 94 percent of schools are listed as meeting performance expectations. Under “A through F,” many schools and districts received poor grades despite being recognized by the state for outstanding performance during the same year.

“I’m tired of listening to rhetoric about our failing schools,” said Huberty, who suggested lawmakers should focus instead on finding and fixing issues leading to problems. State Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston) agreed “A through F” doesn’t provide a “true picture” of what’s happening within public schools and local communities, and praised the bill as an important step toward improvement.

ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter testified in support of HB 22, pointing out that several states have recently repealed “A through F” systems over the same concerns. While grateful for the inclusion of a teacher quality component, ATPE advocated for ensuring value-added metrics (VAM) are not used for teacher quality measurement. ATPE also advocated for a statutory requirement that the commissioner include a panel of stakeholders, including parents and campus-level educators, in the rulemaking and implementation process. Additionally, ATPE advocated for adding a layer of simplistic language that is more descriptive than a single letter, and which would let parents know what each rating is telling them about their particular school.

Acknowledging the need to fix the shortcomings of “A through F,” Huberty told the committee, “We cannot go home without getting this done.” The chairman encouraged interested parties to continue to engage on HB 22, with a goal of finalizing a committee substitute before next week’s hearing.

HB 1336 by state Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) would require school districts to include in their annual financial management reports the costs associated with administering assessments required by state law. Leach pointed out policymakers don’t know how much the state is asking local districts to spend indirectly in order to administer tests. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 145 by state Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) would require any district with a student enrollment that includes more than 1,000 African-American males to use only the academic achievement differentials among African-American males for accountability purposes under the first domain of “A through F.” Supporters of HB 145 argue that empirical methods should be used to assess the differences in achievement for African-American males as a demographic group, with the goal of closing performance gaps and ending the reliance on anecdotal information. The fiscal note anticipates a cost of $273,000 the first year and $257,000 each subsequent year for the employment of two additional TEA positions to track the data.

HB 61 by state Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) would include metrics regarding the academic performance of students formerly receiving special education services on the list of performance indicators utilized by the “A through F” public school accountability system. Guillen argued the bill would give districts an incentive to encourage special education students to advance.

HB 79 by Rep. Guillen would eliminate the cap the percentage of special education students who take alternative assessments, as opposed to standard assessments. The bill would further prohibit using the percentage of special education students who take alternative assessments for performance, compliance or accountability purposes. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 1500 by state Rep. Helen Giddings (D-DeSoto) would add the percentage of students who earn an associate degree to the list of performance indicators under “A through F.” ATPE supports this bill.

HB 1057 by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) would add pre-AP and pre-IB participation to the performance indicators under the “A through F” system, along with the percentage of student who have received credit by examination, the percentage of students who have been promoted over their grade level and the percentage who received a diploma in three years or less. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 1174 by state Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) would add the percentage of students who have successfully completed on “OnRamps” dual enrollment course to the list of performance indicators under the “A through F” accountability system. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 988 and HB 989 by state Rep. Mary González (D-El Paso) would create a pilot program to develop a portfolio method to assess student performance. HB 988 would create a program for grades three through eight and HB 989 would create a program for high school students. González explained balancing standardized test results with holistic measures would yield a much more useful and accurate picture of student performance. ATPE supports both of these bills.

HB 1650 by state Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth) would allow a student who passes a dual credit course on U.S. history to skip the U.S. history end-of-course exam. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 795 by state Rep. Jarvis Johnson (D-Houston) would require a committee appointed by the education commissioner to review any challenge to academic or financial accountability ratings raised by a school district or charter school, regardless of the issue. A successful challenge raised under this legislation would allow charter schools facing charter revocation due to unacceptable academic or financial accountability ratings to stop the clock on the proceedings under the current “three strikes” law.

HB 1993 by state Rep. Rodney Anderson (R-Grand Prairie) would require the education commissioner to adopt procedures to identify nationally recognized, norm-referenced assessment instruments as additional alternative assessment instruments that may be used to evaluate student achievement under “A through F.” The bill would further require the commissioner to apply for federal waivers to allow for multiple instruments for assessing students in the same grade. According to the fiscal note, HB 1993 would cost the state an additional $1.6 million per year.

HB 3607 by Rep. King would eliminate end-of-course exams for high school students. It would also require the commissioner to identify a procedure for districts to select the Texas Success Initiative (TSI) or a nationally recognized norm-referenced exam, such as the SAT or ACT, as the assessment instrument to be administered to students in grade 11. According to the fiscal note, HB 3607 would save the state $2.5 million per year.

ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter testified neutrally on the bill. Acknowledging the laudable goal of reducing high-stakes testing, Exter noted that norm-referenced tests are not appropriate for accountability purposes because they are designed so that results will fall along a bell curve. ATPE warned against allowing districts to use multiple assessment instruments. Currently, the only benefit of a statewide testing system is data comparability, which is lost when districts use different tests. ATPE also advocated for educators to have a stronger role helping vet out test deficiencies at the agency level.

HB 1731 by Rep. King (R-Canadian) would exclude students who leave a residential treatment facility and fail to enroll in a nearby school from the calculation of those schools’ dropout rates, provided those students would not otherwise be enrolled there. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 515 by state Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would eliminate writing and social studies assessments and require only end-of-course assessments in reading, math and science as required by federal law under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The writing assessment has long been criticized, and VanDeaver argued HB 515 could help reduce overtesting. Agency staff suggested that eliminating writing assessments could run afoul of the U.S. Department of Education’s interpretation of federal guidelines, which could potentially result in a financial penalty. Staff suggested the conflict might be ameliorated by removing writing from the state’s English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) guidelines. The fiscal note estimates HB 515 would save the state $23 million through the next biennium. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 2263 by state Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Terrell) would no longer require campus intervention teams to continue to work with “improvement required” campuses until two years after performance standards are met. Agency staff testified that the process was “resource intensive, without providing much feedback.” Staff suggested that resources may be better spent at the front end of the intervention process, and districts would be able to determine whether additional help is needed to keep campuses from regressing.

HB 3828 by Chairman Huberty would adjust the triggers for commissioner action for failing schools to include those “rated unacceptable” and confine criteria to the “school progress” domain of the “A through F” system. The bill would modify the commissioner’s power to oversee turnaround plans and curtail the commissioner’s power to manage failing districts and require district workshops. Importantly, the bill requires a written turnaround plan with the agency and clear guidelines for implementation. After listening to public testimony, Huberty committed to work on a committee substitute for future consideration.

HB 789 by state Rep. Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas) would allow Highland Park ISD to modify the cut score for an examination for acceleration, placing the limit at 90 percent, rather than 80 percent. Meyer explained that some students who passed with an 80 percent score struggled after advancing.

HB 546 by state Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) would also limit state-required assessment instruments to assessments required by federal law. The fiscal note estimates a $2.9 million savings over the biennium. Noting that the language of HB 546 is wholly contained within HB 515 by Rep. VanDeaver, Rep. Deshotel pulled his bill from consideration in favor of supporting HB 515. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 657 by Vice-chair Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) would allow the Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARC) committee of a student who participates in special education to promote a special education student to the next grade level after failing an assessment just once, provided that the committee determines the student has made significant progress in the measurable academic goals contained in the student’s individualized education program. Bernal explained that the passing rate for special education students on state assessments is roughly 30 percent, and scores usually do not improve after the third administration. Rather than subjecting students to multiple unnecessary examinations, Bernal argued parents and educators should be allowed flexibility. ATPE supports this bill.

HB 3104 by Rep. VanDeaver would require the TEA to adopt or develop exams in English Language Arts (ELA) for grades four and seven and at the end of English I and English II, instead of writing. The bill’s committee substitute would create a one-year pilot program to allow districts and charter schools to choose their own assessment instruments for writing and required to report their results. The fiscal note anticipates HB 3104 would save the state $7.5 million each year.

After listening to testimony on HB 3104, Chairman Huberty briefly paused to read a message from his son’s English teacher pointing out that the STAAR end-of-course assessment is approaching next week. The teacher reported students are stressed, even with her words of encouragement. Regardless of the test results, the teacher said, she’s proud at work they’ve done.

“The teachers are trying, but we’re not arming them with the ability to do their jobs,” Huberty concluded.

HB 3075 by Chairman Huberty would exclude students detained in a juvenile detention facility and educated by a public charter school from the computation of dropout and completion rates for charter school accountability purposes. Huberty explained public schools are already exempt, and HB 3075 would allow the same rule to apply to charters.

All of the above bills were left pending. The committee voted out a number of previously heard bills during a break in Tuesday’s testimony. Members unanimously approved the following:

  • HB 1645, which would allow students to get a varsity letter for participating in the Special Olympics.
  • HB 728, which would create an advanced computer science course to satisfy the third math or science credit.
  • HB 367, which would allow schools to assign a nonprofit to distribute leftover food to hungry students.
  • HB 878, which would allow districts to extend depository contracts for three additional two year terms as opposed to two, and to modify the contract for any extension.
  • HB 1270, which would allow excused absences for students to visit a military recruiting facility in the same way they are currently allowed to visit a college or university.
  • HB 264, which would update the information and public outreach materials for HB 5 passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature and extend the time period required for reporting.
  • HB 136, which would add CTE and workforce training to the mission of public education.
  • HB 357, which would allow the children of first responders eligible for Star of Texas awards to receive free prekindergarten services.

Those bills will next head to the Calendars Committee to await a date for consideration before the full Texas House of Representatives. Before adjourning, Huberty referred the following bills to the Subcommittee on Educator Quality: HB 1799, HB 1869, HB 1918, HB 2209, HB 3769 and SB 7.

Huberty reiterated his intent to vote on a substitute for HB 21 next week. The next meeting will feature a variety of bills, including more legislation affecting charter schools.

Federal Update: ED releases long delayed teacher preparation rules

U.S. Dept of Education LogoThe U.S. Department of Education (ED) has released a final set of regulations that lay out federal stipulations for states’ teacher preparation programs. The rules have seen delays since 2014, when an initial iteration was released. That initial proposal garnered significant input, and while some revisions are included in the newest version, the original proposal remains largely intact.

Under the newly released regulations, states will be required to develop a rating system aimed at evaluating the success of its teacher preparation programs. One piece of that rating system must analyze how programs’ teachers perform based on a measure of student academic achievement. This was a highly controversial piece retained from the original proposal, which was heavily-reliant on student test scores, but the newer version does provide flexibility with regard to how states determine student success. Ultimately, if programs don’t perform well on the state’s rating system, states will be required to cut off access to federal grants aimed at supporting teachers who teach in high-need certification areas and in low-income schools (or TEACH grants).

Teacher Standing in Front of a Class of Raised HandsThe rating system must also include the job placement data, retention rates, and feedback of programs’ graduates as well as the feedback from their graduates’ employers. Initial reactions to the final version of the regulations have been mixed. While some support the higher accountability to which programs will be held, others have concerns with the unintended consequences that could result, such as the effect a measure of student achievement could have on the support available for teachers going into high needs schools.

As we shared last week, Texas is at the end of a process to revamp its educator preparation accountability system. Much of what Texas has and is in the process of implementing is in line with the standards to be enforced by ED under its new regulations. One missing piece, however, is the inclusion of student achievement. While such a measure is included in Texas law and rules governing educator preparation programs (EPPs), to date, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has been unable to find a valid way to measure student outcomes. TEA has, however, included a student growth measure in its new teacher evaluation system, the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS). The new system is in its first year of implementation statewide, but the measure of student growth piece is still in the pilot phase. ATPE and other organizations have filed legal challenges based in part on the inclusion of value-added modeling (VAM) as a element of the T-TESS model. The final commissioner’s rules for T-TESS outline four ways in which schools may assess student growth for purposes of teacher evaluations; VAM, which many consider to be an unfair and unreliable statistical calculation for this purpose, is one of the four options. Despite the pending litigation, the student growth piece of T-TESS  is set to take effect statewide next school year. With the new federal rules for EPPs calling on states to look specifically at the performance of students taught by those programs, it seems likely that Texas will at least consider further extension of the same questionable VAM methodology for EPP accountability.


For related content, read the perspectives of Kate Walsh with the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). She highlights her thoughts on the new regulations, including why she doesn’t disagree with ED’s decision to omit the previously required use of student test scores or VAM.


U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King and President Obama have stood by the administration’s new regulations and are joined by those who support stronger regulations for teacher preparation in the United States, but the rules have received criticism from congressional leaders and other stakeholders. As all of this plays out, two things create some uncertainty: 1) regardless of who is elected, it is relatively unknown how a new president would implement these regulations, and 2) Congress has been toying with reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, which has a questionable likelihood but would entail fresh laws that could render these new teacher preparation regulations meaningless. Plus, the price tag of implementing these regulations would be high for states (latest estimates from the administration indicate $27 million per year for the next 10 years). Bottom line, the final version of the regulations released today might not be the end of the road. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for more.

ATPE files T-TESS legal challenge, asserts that new evaluation rules violate state law

ThinkstockPhotos-487217874_breakingThe state’s largest educator association is filing a petition today with the Texas Commissioner of Education legally challenging his recent adoption of rules creating a new state-recommended teacher appraisal system. The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) asserts that Commissioner Mike Morath’s rules for the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) violate state laws and the Texas Constitution and are contrary to public policy.

View a copy of ATPE’s press release here. Below is additional background information about the legal challenge.

State laws call for the commissioner to recommend a system for annual teacher appraisals with certain criteria, but school districts are allowed to adopt their own appraisal systems instead and are also permitted to evaluate some experienced teachers less frequently. In challenging the new T-TESS rules, ATPE contends that the commissioner has mandated certain actions that exceed what state law requires for teacher evaluations and has improperly limited the local discretion school districts are afforded under the Texas Education Code. The new rules also restrict teachers’ ability to request a second appraisal, which is a right ATPE says teachers are entitled to by law.

The commissioner’s rules require that all teachers participate in certain elements of the appraisal process every year, despite exemptions that are carved out in state law allowing less-than-annual evaluations for some veteran teachers who have not shown job-related deficiencies. The evaluation components in the new rules that are required every year also include a controversial new student growth measure. Commissioner Morath is requiring all teachers to be evaluated based on student growth, and recommending value-added measures (VAM) as one of four such evaluation components in the new rules. ATPE believes VAM amounts to “junk science,” as its attorneys contend in the petition filed today.

JC

Jennifer Canaday

‘VAM attempts to use complex statistical calculations on students’ standardized test scores in previous years to predict how well a student should perform on future tests; the resulting test performance of an individual student – not accounting for myriad outside factors – is supposed to magically show whether that student’s most recent teacher was effective or not,” said ATPE Governmental Relations Director Jennifer Canaday. “At best, VAM is an estimate or projection of a possible outcome. We are very disappointed that the commissioner is endorsing this complicated, extremely limited, assessment-based guesswork as a reliable and definitive formula for measuring a teacher’s value.”

Numerous academicians and researchers have questioned the reliability and validity of VAM, especially for use in high-stakes decisions, including the American Statistical Association, which warned that VAM has several significant limitations. ATPE has long questioned the fairness and efficacy of using VAM for teacher evaluations, particularly when the vast majority of teachers teach subjects or grade levels that have no state standardized tests and most policymakers have expressed a desire to place less emphasis on standardized tests.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has even acknowledged some of the drawbacks of VAM and maintains that it should be used to provide feedback to teachers within a formative appraisal process. In its “TEA Student Growth Overview — January 2016,” the agency wrote that VAM scores don’t account for teacher behaviors, since they are derived solely from test scores, and they provide feedback that is “less insightful at the instructional level.” ATPE points out that while VAM might potentially provide some limited feedback to a small group of teachers about how well their students are performing on tests, the difficulty with incorporating VAM into teacher appraisals lies in how schools are actually using those appraisals.

“If T-TESS were merely a formative tool to help teachers grow, we’d be having a different discussion,” notes Canaday. “However, schools are using T-TESS and similar appraisal systems to make high-stakes decisions about teacher compensation and employment. When teachers’ paychecks and contracts are dependent on the outcome of these appraisals, the validity and integrity of the appraisal process matters greatly.”

Canaday explains that to avoid having two discrete evaluation systems in use at the same time, most school districts employ only one appraisal system, and the majority of districts will opt to use the state-recommended model rather than developing their own. The problem with incorporating elements that TEA might expect districts to use as formative tools, such as VAM, is that the same evaluation instrument is being used for summative scoring of teachers and then making high-stakes employment-related decisions based on those evaluations scores.

“There’s a big difference,” Canaday says, “between districts saying, ‘This is an instrument that might provide slightly beneficial feedback to you as a teacher of a tested subject,’ and telling teachers, ‘This is the instrument that will be used to determine whether you still have a job next year.’”

TEA began developing T-TESS in conjunction with its request for a waiver of federal accountability requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In 2013, the Obama administration offered Texas its requested flexibility in exchange for a promise to adopt a new teacher evaluation system that places more emphasis on student growth measures. T-TESS was designed to fit the parameters of the NCLB waiver and has been piloted in several school districts around the state ahead of its full implementation during the next two school years. In December, Congress repealed NCLB and replaced it with new federal law, making the conditions attached to the state’s old NCLB waiver no longer a concern. ATPE and individual educators involved in the development of T-TESS urged the commissioner to reconsider the design of the system in light of the recent changes in federal law, but Morath has moved forward with rolling out the new T-TESS rules as previously planned. The final rules were adopted this month and are scheduled to take effect in July, although the student growth elements of T-TESS are not required to be used until the 2017-18 school year.

“At a time when the federal government has taken important steps to decrease the focus on testing, there are widespread reports of flaws in the testing system, and parents are increasingly opting their children out of taking the tests, it makes no sense that Texas policymakers keep looking to test scores to determine if students, teachers, and schools are making the grade,” says Canaday.

ATPE_At_the_Capitol_VerticalThe Texas Education Code provides a mechanism for appeals of agency actions to the commissioner, who has primary jurisdiction under state law, after which point a lawsuit may be brought in district court if necessary. ATPE hopes that Commissioner Morath will take necessary steps to revise the T-TESS rules to comply with state laws, ensure that all teachers are evaluated fairly, and recommend a transparent and easily understood appraisal process that truly helps teachers improve their skills in the classroom.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Jan. 15, 2016

Here’s what made the news for Texas public education this week:


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.

Libbie Payne

Libbie Payne

Stephanie Stoebe

Stephanie Stoebe

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.

American voting pins

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.

ATPE submits input on T-TESS rules, steering committee members send letter

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.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Jan. 8, 2016

It’s a new year with many changes in store for public education. Here’s the latest news:


Monday, Jan. 11, is the deadline for public comments to be submitted on proposed Commissioner’s Rules to implement a new teacher evaluation system in Texas known as T-TESS. Former Commissioner of Education Michael Williams proposed the draft rules for a replacement to the PDAS shortly before Christmas. If adopted, the rules would take effect as of July 1, 2016.

ATPE and others are asking the new commissioner to consider delaying the adoption of the rules to allow time for reconsideration of some aspects of the new system. Specifically, T-TESS calls for at least 20 percent of a teacher’s appraisal to be based on student growth measures; for teachers of tested grades and subjects, the growth measure will be calculated using value-added modeling (VAM) data from student test scores. ATPE has previously shared with lawmakers and policymakers our grave concerns about the use of VAM for high-stakes purposes, especially in light of substantial research calling into question its validity. (Read more about some of the problems with VAM in a formal statement from the American Statistical Association, in our Summer 2014 feature article for ATPE News, and on our blog here and here.)

The decision to incorporate VAM into a new teacher evaluation system for Texas was driven by the state’s desire to win and hold onto a waiver of federal accountability laws from the U.S. Department of Education. The Obama administration offered states waivers from some sanctions and penalties within the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), but strings were attached. In Texas’s case, the NCLB waiver was conditioned on our state’s adopting a new teacher appraisal system that would tie teacher evaluations to student performance data. ATPE members who served on an original stakeholder committee convened to help develop the new system were told that the 20 percent threshold for student growth measures in each teacher’s appraisal was the minimum that the federal government would allow in order to preserve Texas’s waiver.

Since that time, however, the circumstances have changed. Congress replaced the NCLB with a new federal law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December, and that new law means that waivers and the strings attached to them will soon become obsolete. For this reason, ATPE is urging the Texas Education Agency to revisit with stakeholders and put the brakes on wholesale replacement of PDAS with a new system that is based largely on federal parameters that no longer apply.

If you would like to submit your own feedback about the T-TESS proposal in new 19 TAC Chapter 150, Subchapter AA, send your written comments to TEA no later than Monday, Jan. 11.


Before the holidays, Gov. Greg Abbott announced his pick to succeed Michael Williams as Texas Commissioner of Education. Mike Morath was sworn in on Monday as the new commissioner and he shared his desire to hear from stakeholders in an introductory blog post. Members of the ATPE staff expect to meet with Commissioner Morath in the near future and share our members’ priorities and input.CapitalTonightJMCJan2016

Related content: ATPE Governmental Relations Manager Jennifer Canaday appeared on Time Warner Cable’s Capital Tonight program this week to discuss the appointment of the new commissioner along with new laws affecting public education in Texas.


Exam

The State Board of Education is hosting a series of community conversations around the state this winter to gather input on accountability and student testing. The meetings are designed to elicit feedback to share with the new Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. We posted the tentative schedule of dates and locations on our blog earlier this week. Registration links for each event will be included in the ATPE member newsletter.

Updated information on bills to eliminate salary schedule for teachers

Several ATPE members have inquired about the status of bills attempting to eliminate the state minimum salary schedule for teachers. The bills are Senate Bill 893 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and House Bill 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R-Georgetown). ATPE is opposed to both bills.

SB 893 by Sen. Seliger relates to public school teacher performance appraisals, continuing education, professional development, career advancement, and compensation. The bill was heard by the Senate Education Committee on March 19. During that hearing, ATPE testified against the bill. Read more about that hearing here. The Senate Education Committee favorably voted out a substitute version of the bill on March 24. The committee substitute changed language in the bill pertaining to student and teacher performance and attempted to ensure that state standardized tests would not be the only measure of student performance used in a state or district developed teacher appraisal system. However, ATPE believes that the bill still overemphasizes the role of “objective” student performance measures. The full Senate amended and then passed SB 893 on April 7. The vote was 27-4, with Democratic Sens. Rodney Ellis, Eddie Lucio, Jose Menendez, and Royce West opposing the bill. The Senate rejected a floor amendment by Sen. Menendez that attempted to restore the minimum salary schedule for teachers in the bill. SB 893 has been sent to the House for consideration.

HB 2543 by Rep. Farney is the House companion bill also relating to public school teacher performance appraisals, continuing education, professional development, career advancement, and compensation. HB 2543 was identical to SB 893 at the time of filing. The House Public Education Committee heard HB 2543 on Tuesday, April 7, and ATPE testified against it. The bill was left pending while the author considers possible amendments to the bill.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates about both of these bills as developments occur. In the meantime, we encourage ATPE members to keep contacting their state representatives and urging them to oppose these bills as they move through the Texas House. Click here for additional information about SB 893 and HB 2543 to share with your legislators.

Legislative Update: Vouchers get committee approval, Senate votes to scrap salary schedule, House advances pre-K

The Texas Senate approved two major bills relating to teacher quality yesterday, including one opposed by ATPE and most other groups representing Texas educators.

First, the Senate passed Senate Bill (SB) 892 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R), which deals with educator preparation. ATPE supported the bill as filed when it was heard by the Senate Education Committee on March 19, since the bill called for enhancing the existing GPA requirements for admission into an educator preparation program (EPP). The bill, however, was subsequently amended to a version that ATPE does not support. In its current form, SB 892 adds language enabling alternative certification programs to take advantage of “late hire” provisions that place teachers into the classroom before they’ve had sufficient training, and it caps the minimum GPA requirement for EPP candidates at 2.5, which is lower than what is provided for in current statute. SB 892 passed the Senate on April 7 by a vote of 30 to 1, with Sen. Don Huffines (R) offering the only vote against the bill. (Huffines similarly opposed the bill when it was approved by the Senate Education Committee.)

SB 893, also by Sen. Seliger, was approved by the full Senate yesterday, too. The bill deals with teacher appraisals, employment, and compensation; most notably, it calls for elimination of the state minimum salary schedule for teachers. ATPE and most educator groups opposed the bill when it was heard by the Senate Education Committee on March 19. Several floor amendments were added to SB 893 yesterday, including one by Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Larry Taylor (R) requiring the commissioner of education to develop a training course to help administrators implement new appraisal processes and another floor amendment by Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D) that modifies Advanced Placement Incentives that may be paid to teachers. The Senate rejected by a vote of 24 to 7 a floor amendment by Sen. Jose Menendez (D) that attempted to restore the minimum salary schedule for teachers in the bill. The Senate ultimately passed SB 893 by a vote of 27 to 4, with Sens. Menendez, Rodney Ellis (D), Eddie Lucio (D), and Royce West (D) voting against the bill on third reading.


The House Public Education Committee met April 7 to hear several high-profile bills. The hearing began with Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock (R) providing new details on his bill to overhaul the state’s school finance system. Aycock explained that House Bill (HB) 1759 will eliminate many of the existing funding allotments for special populations and circumstances and place those funds into the basic per-student allocation instead. Watch for more details on HB 1759 coming soon from ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson.

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testified against a controversial bill to do away with the minimum salary schedule for teachers. House Bill (HB) 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) is a bill relating to teacher appraisals, professional development, salaries, and employment. The bill was identical at the time of filing to SB 893, which passed the full Senate yesterday in an amended format. Exter’s testimony highlighted ATPE’s concerns about eliminating the minimum salary schedule for teachers and the potential for school districts to rely heavily on students’ standardized test scores and value-added measures of student performance in evaluating and making employment decisions about teachers. The bill was left pending in the committee yesterday. ATPE appreciates those members who have contacted their legislators asking them to oppose HB 2543 and SB 893, and we encourage you to keep letting members of the House of Representatives know how these bills would negatively impact teachers. Visit our Officeholders page to find contact information for your state representative.

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter also testified yesterday in support of SB 149, by Sen. Kel Seliger (R), a measure that would give some high school students a chance to graduate despite failing a STAAR exam. SB 149, sponsored on the House side by Rep. Dan Huberty (R), has broad support from the education community and parents, and the bill already passed the Senate by a vote of 28-2 last month. Exter asked the committee to consider amending the bill to provide similar options for students who were high school seniors during the previous two school years and were denied an opportunity to graduate based on failing a STAAR test that was required. The House Public Education Committee approved SB 149 unanimously during yesterday’s hearing.


The Senate Education Committee also met April 7 to hear bills relating to interventions for low-performing schools and to vote out pending bills. The committee considered SB 669 by Sen. Royce West (D), along with two bills by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), who chairs the committee: SB 895 and SB 1241. The first two bills would place certain low-performing schools into a statewide “Opportunity School District.” Read more about the legislation in our blog post from yesterday. Chairman Taylor’s SB 1241 also subjects low-performing schools to the possibility of alternative management through the creation of “Innovation Zones.” ATPE Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg testified against the aforementioned bills based on concerns about enabling private entities to manage public schools, the potential impact on educators’ contract rights, and the likelihood that parents and local voters would lose their ability to have input on school governance decisions. All three bills were left pending, but the committee did vote out a related piece of “parent trigger” legislation. A committee substitute version of SB 14 by Chairman Larry Taylor was approved by the committee on a vote of 7 to 1, with one committee member present not voting.

Also in yesterday’s Senate Education Committee hearing, Gregg testified in support of SB 1483 by Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D), a bill promoting the use of a community schools model for turning around struggling schools as an alternative to reconstitution or privatization. The bill was left pending.

The Senate Education Committee also approved Chairman Larry Taylor’s private school voucher bill, SB 4, which ATPE opposes. The bill was amended and substituted, and its new text has not yet been made available, but the new version incorporates elements of another privatization bill, SB 642 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R). ATPE testified against the voucher bills during their March 26 hearing, and you can read more about them on our Issues page. The committee’s vote yesterday on SB 4, though not yet officially reported, was 7 to 3.


On the House floor today, state representatives debated House Bill (HB) 4, by Rep. Dan Huberty (R), a bill relating to a hig- quality pre-kindergarten program provided by public school districts. The bill, which ATPE supported when it was heard by the House Public Education Committee on March 10, is aimed at flowing additional money to school districts that agree to implement certain quality control measures in their pre-K programs. Several floor amendments were considered during today’s lively debate. The House approved an amendment by Rep. Eric Johnson (D) to prohibit state standardized testing of pre-K students and rejected an amendment by Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D) attempting to impose an 18:1 pre-K class-size limit. A small group of legislators who oppose the bill raised points of order (procedural objections) against the bill and offered amendments attempting to reduce the state’s pre-K plan to a limited pilot program with reduced funding. Those attempts were unsuccessful, and the House ultimately voted 129 to 18 to advance the bill to third reading.


Tomorrow, April 9, the Senate Education Committee will meet again to consider a number of bills. The agenda includes a bill that would prevent school districts from hiring employees with certain criminal histories, bills relating to the procedures by which school districts adopt textbooks, a measure to give the commissioner of education the ability to issue subpoenas when investigating educator misconduct allegations, and even a bill pertaining to the use of sunscreen in schools. Visit Teach the Vote for updates after the hearing.


In national news, U.S. senators leading an effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), are making progress. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn), who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced yesterday that they have reached a bipartisan agreement on a rewrite that they believe will fix many of the problems of the ESEA. A committee hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday, April 14. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for additional details from ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann later this week.

Legislative Update: A busy week of hearings, good and bad bills on the move

The House Public Education Committee is set to meet tomorrow afternoon, April 7, for a public hearing on a dozen bills. The agenda includes a controversial bill to do away with the minimum salary schedule for teachers, a bill that may eventually become an overhaul of the state’s school finance system, and a popular Senate bill that would give some high school students a chance to graduate despite failing a STAAR exam.

First, the committee is slated to hear House Bill (HB) 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) relating to public school teacher performance appraisals, continuing education, professional development, career advancement, and compensation. HB 2543 is identical to SB 893 as filed, a bill that ATPE similarly opposed on the Senate side. In lieu of compensation tied to the state’s minimum salary schedule, the bill calls for tying teacher compensation and appraisals to students’ performance on standardized tests. It places too much emphasis on student testing and not enough emphasis on observations and giving teachers meaningful feedback through the evaluation process. HB 2543 needlessly eliminates the minimum salary schedule in favor of performance-based strategic compensation systems, which districts can already implement on their own as a supplement to the salary schedule. Additionally, HB 2543 infringes on local control by requiring districts to adhere to a state-imposed framework for personnel actions.

ATPE is encouraging our members to contact their state representatives and ask them to oppose HB 2543 (along with its Senate companion bill, SB 893, which is expected to be debated soon on the floor of the Senate). Visit our Officeholders page to find contact information for your state representative.

Another bill on tomorrow’s agenda in the House Public Education Committee is Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock’s (R) HB 1759. The bill is merely a placeholder at this point for a future plan to try to fix the state’s broken school finance system. Read more about the bill here. Also on tomorrow’s agenda is SB 149 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R), the bill that allows individual graduation committees to recommend that an 11th or 12th grade student be permitted to graduate despite being unable to pass a STAAR exam that is required for graduation. ATPE supports the bill, which already passed the Senate by a vote of 28-2 last month.

These are the remaining bills scheduled to be heard by the committee tomorrow:

  • HB 744 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R) relating to the purchase of certain insurance by public school districts.
  • HB 1170 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) relating to the applicability to open-enrollment charter schools of certain laws regarding local governments and political subdivisions.
  • HB 1171 also by Rep. Farney relating to the applicability of certain immunity and liability laws to open-enrollment charter schools.
  • HB 1706 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R) relating to reducing paperwork and duplicate reports required of a school district.
  • HB 1796 by Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R) relating to public school choice, including school campus information, student transfers, the public education grant program, and the transportation allotment.
  • HB 1798 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D) relating to local control school districts.
  • HB 1804 by Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D) relating to notice by campuses and open-enrollment charter schools about events that may significantly impact the education of certain foster children.
  • HB 1993 by Rep. J.D. Sheffield (R) relating to the authorization of independent school districts to use electronic means to notify parents of a student.s academic performance.
  • HB 2545 also by Rep. Sheffield relating to the eligibility of certain students to participate in a school district’s special education program.

Earlier today, the House Public Education Committee held an impromptu meeting to vote out pending bills that had already been heard. All the bills except one were approved by the committee unanimously. The bills approved today included the following:

  • HB 506 by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D) relating to the issuance of tax-supported bonds by certain school districts and increasing the tax rate limitation on the issuance of those bonds. The committee’s substitute version of the bill was approved by a vote of eight to one, with Rep. Dan Huberty (R) voting against the measure.
  • HB 743 (committee substitute version) by Rep. Huberty relating to the essential knowledge and skills of the required public school curriculum and to certain state-adopted or state-developed assessment instruments for public school students. ATPE supported the bill at its prior hearing.
  • HB 771 by Rep. Joe Deshotel (D) relating to funding for the Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities.
  • HB 917 (committee substitute version) by Rep. Jason Villalba (R) relating to school marshals for private schools, notifying a parent or guardian whether an employee of a public or private school is appointed school marshal, and the confidentiality of information submitted to or collected by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement in connection with a certification for appointment as school marshal.
  • HB 1305 (committee substitute version) by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R) relating to a program to provide a free or reduced-price breakfast to eligible students attending a public school and the method of determining the number of educationally disadvantaged students.
  • HB 1430 by Rep. Susan King (R) relating to the inclusion of mental health in the public services endorsement on a public school diploma and in information about health science career pathways. ATPE supported the bill at a prior hearing.
  • HB 1843 (committee substitute version) by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R) relating to providing training academies for public school teachers who provide reading instruction to students in kindergarten through grade three. ATPE supported the bill at its prior hearing.

The Senate Education Committee is meeting tomorrow morning (April 7) to take up bills that would place certain low-performing schools into a special statewide school district. The idea was conceived in Louisiana around the time of Hurricane Katrina, when many struggling schools were placed into that state’s Recovery School District. The idea has been replicated in a few other states and has been fraught with controversy. In 2013, legislation was filed in Texas to create a similar program called an “Achievement School District.” ATPE opposed that legislation, which would have opened the door for private management of public schools by entities not accountable to local parents and taxpayers. Those bills died, but similar proposals have resurfaced this session and are now being called “Opportunity School Districts” or “Innovation Zones.” The bills on tap for tomorrow’s hearing include SB 669 by Sen. Royce West (D); SB 895 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R), who chairs the committee; and SB 1241 also by Sen. Larry Taylor.

It is also believed that the committee may vote out a series of private school voucher bills during tomorrow’s hearing. SB 4, SB 276, and SB 642 were all heard by the committee on March 26; ATPE testified against the bills and will continue to oppose any effort to funnel taxpayer dollars to unregulated private or home schools. Read more about the voucher bills and our position on privatization here.

Finally, the Senate Education Committee is also expected to hear SB 1483 by Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D) tomorrow. The bill, which ATPE supports, encourages the use of a community schools model for turning around struggling schools and as an alternative to reconstitution or privatization. The plans combine wraparound services and community partnerships to help a struggling school improve its academic performance and avoid closure.


Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on tomorrow’s hearings, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for the latest developments.