Category Archives: Administrators

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 8, 2018

Here’s your weekly wrap-up of education news from ATPE Governmental Relations:


School finance commission working group on expenditures meeting June 6, 2018.

The Texas Commission on Public School Finance met this week both as a whole and in smaller working groups. ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins followed the conversation and provided updates for TeachTheVote.org. His first post details Tuesday’s meeting of the full commission, in which members heard from a number of invited witness who talked about teacher supports, such as merit pay programs.

The working group on revenues, led by state Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), held a last-minute meeting afterward that resulted in most of the public not being able to attend, but reports from those inside provided an idea of what the group has planned. State Rep. Dan Huberty’s (R-Houston) working group on expenditures met Wednesday morning, and engaged in a lively discussion about textbooks and classroom technology.

The commission is scheduled to meet again on July 10, followed by an expenditures meeting on July 11 in which the working group will vote on recommendations to submit to the full body.


The Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security is set to hold two hearings next week in response to the tragic school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick assigned Senate Education Committee Chair Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) to chair the select committee, which is composed of six Republicans and three Democrats.

Monday’s agenda includes invited and public testimony on the following: “Improve the infrastructure and design of Texas schools to reduce security threats, and discuss various proposals to harden school facilities, including limiting access points, improving screening and detecting of weapons, retrofitting school facilities with improved locks, emergency alarm systems, and monitoring cameras.”

Tuesday’s agenda includes invited and public testimony on the following: “Study school security options and resources, including, but not limited to, the school marshal program, school police officers, armed school personnel, the Texas School Safety Center, and other training programs to determine what improvements can be made to provide school districts and charter schools with more robust security options.”

Texas Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) asked the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence to study a “red flag” law that would provide a legal process for temporarily removing guns from someone considered potentially dangerous by family members or law enforcement. Straus also announced nine new interim charges for House committees:

Committee on Appropriations

“Examine the availability of federal funding and Governor’s Criminal Justice grants that may directly or indirectly improve school safety. Evaluate the potential costs of proposals identified by the Governor and House Committees related to improving access to mental health services for children, improved school safety, and enhanced firearm safety.”

Committee on Public Education

“Review the effectiveness of schools’ current multi-hazard emergency operation plans. Determine any areas of deficiency and make recommendations to ensure student safety. Research violence prevention strategies, such as threat assessment, that are available for school personnel to identify students who might pose a threat to themselves or others. Identify resources and training available to schools to help them develop intervention plans that address the underlying problems that caused the threatening behavior.”

“Examine current school facilities and grounds. Consider any research-based ‘best practices’ when designing a school to provide a more secure environment. Review the effectiveness of installing metal detectors, cameras, safety locks, streaming video of school security cameras, and other measures designed to improve school safety.”

Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence

“Examine current statutes designed to protect minors from accessing firearms without proper supervision and make recommendations to ensure responsible and safe firearm storage, including enhancing the penalty to a felony when unauthorized access results in death or bodily injury.”

Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety

“Evaluate options to increase the number of school marshals available, and identify current statutory requirements that limit utilization of the program.”

“Examine best practices and measures adopted in other states regarding reporting lost or stolen firearms. Gather information on reporting strategies, fines, and/or penalties for noncompliance, and receive testimony from law enforcement related to mishandling of firearms.”

Committees on Public Education and Committee on Public Health (Joint Charge)

“Consider testimony provided at the May 17 House Public Health Committee hearing regarding improving mental health services for children. Identify specific strategies that would enhance overall school safety. Study ways to help parents, youth and primary care providers support school personnel in their efforts to identify and intervene early when mental health problems arise. In addition to school-based trauma-informed programs and those that treat early psychosis, consider the benefits of universal screening tools and expanding the Child Psychiatry Access Program (CPAP). Make recommendations to enhance collaboration among the Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Education Agency, local mental health authorities, and education service centers.”

Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety and Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence (Joint Charge)

“Examine current judicial procedures and practices and make recommendations to assist all courts and jurisdictions in reporting judgments and verdicts which make up the information sent to the National Instant Background Check System (NICS). Review and make recommendations regarding the list of convictions, judgments, and judicial orders which disqualify a person from possessing a firearm.”

Committee on Defense & Veterans Affairs and Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety (Joint Charge)

“Examine the experience of other states in prioritizing retired peace officers and military veterans for school security. Determine the minimum standards necessary to implement such a program.”

ATPE will be attending these hearings will post updates at TeachTheVote.org. The House and Senate actions come after Gov. Greg Abbott released his outline of ideas to prevent further school shootings last week. Many of those ideas would require legislative action, which is among the things the committees will consider.

 


State Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) announced his resignation this week, saying it’s time to move on. The Texas Tribune reported on his announcement, which we’ve been expecting since he announced last year he wouldn’t be running for reelection. Rep. Gonzales chaired the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Articles VI, VII and VIII of the state budget, which includes funding for big state agencies such as the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). As a member of the Texas Legislature, he was well known for being a friendly guy and a straight shooter who worked with both parties to get things done. Gonzales was a good friend of public education, and his presence in the legislature will be dearly missed.

The race to follow Rep. Gonzales in representing House District (HD) 52 is between Republican Cynthia Flores and Democrat James Talarico. You can click on each of their names to view their candidate information and survey responses they provided to TeachTheVote.org. This is expected to be a close race, which underscores the importance of every vote.

The November 6 General Election will be the last opportunity for education supporters to make sure pro-public education candidates are elected into office. Whomever voters choose will decide what direction to take the Texas Legislature when it meets in January. Will we see a resurrection of vouchers and bills attacking teachers? Or will we see a comprehensive school finance reform bill that puts more resources into classrooms and gives local taxpayers a break? It all depends on who you elect!

 


 

Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced Wednesday the criteria for schools affected by Hurricane Harvey to receive waivers from the state accountability ratings. Campuses, districts, and open enrollment charter schools are eligible to be evaluated under the Hurricane Harvey Provision if 10% or more of students or teachers were reported as homeless after the storm, if the campus was closed for ten or more instructional days, or if the campus was reported as being displaced due to the geographic relocation of students or the sharing of instructional facilities. Campuses or districts that meet at least one of these criteria AND are labeled Improvement Required or receive a B, C, D, or F rating will have their accountability rating changed to Not Rated. You can read the full announcement here.

 


ATPE educator and Round Rock ISD fourth grade teacher Stephanie Stoebe testifying at the Texas Capitol June 7, 2018.

Lawmakers on the House Committee on Public Education Subcommittee on Educator Quality and the House Committee on Higher Education combined forces on Thursday to discuss educator preparation programs (EPPs). The differences between alternative certification or “alt-cert” programs and traditional EPPs was examined during the hearing. The combined committees also heard from ATPE member Stephanie Stoebe, who spoke about her efforts to identify what marks a quality EPP. Stoebe’s recommendations for the committees included creating a dashboard to share EPP information and setting high standards relevant to student achievement. Teacher pay and attrition were also among the topics discussed at the hearing. The combined committees also heard from Stephen F. Austin University, College of Education Dean, Dr. Judy Abbott about partnerships between colleges, universities, and local districts. A detailed breakdown of the hearing can be found in this post by ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.

 


On Wednesday, June 6, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released guidelines to all administrators relating to services for students with dyslexia and other disorders. The provisions come after a final monitoring report from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) disclosed that TEA failed to comply requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The provision of services outlines the appropriate responses educators should have if a student is showing early signs of dyslexia, the need for special education, or other services. Read the full correspondence here.

School finance commission talks about teacher supports

The Texas Commission on Public School Finance met Tuesday in Austin for a discussion on English learners. Opening the meeting, commission Chair Scott Brister urged the working groups assigned to study different aspects of school finance to be specific in the recommendations they make. In particular, Brister said the commission should strive to reach a consensus on the numbers: How much is the state spending on public education? Is it raising or cutting funding? Should textbooks be included in the cost of education?

School finance commission meeting June 5, 2018.

It’s important to note that most of these numbers are readily available from the Legislative Budget Board and are not in dispute. The disagreement has arisen as a result of some witnesses and commission members attempting to use alternative calculations that are not used in state accounting documents, usually in an attempt to inflate spending figures. Part of the argument used by those hoping to privatize public education is that the state spends enough on public schools already. Compared to other states, Texas ranks in the bottom 10 in per-pupil spending.

The English learners discussion began with invited witnesses pointing out the benefits of dual-language programs over traditional English as a Second Language (ESL) models. Texas has a high percentage of English learners, who benefit the most from strong language instruction early in their academic careers. Students who don’t become proficient in English in elementary school are increasingly likely to struggle later on, and are at a higher risk of failing to graduate. Chair Brister expressed concern over the cost of high-quality programs for English learners. Conversely, state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) warned of the future costs of failing to ensure students successfully learn English.

A witness from the Mark Twain Dual Language Academy in San Antonio explained that most of the costs of dual language program are related to start-up, such as training and hiring bilingual educators. The challenge for many schools is hiring educators from a limited pool of certified teachers who are highly proficient in both English and Spanish.

The next panel focused on supports for teachers in general. Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath testified that the evidence supports the idea that teachers should be paid significantly more, which would aid retention at high-poverty schools. Morath suggested it is also possible to develop an evaluation system that can identify high quality teachers, and advised the commission that a policy framework to provide better pay for high-quality teachers will require long-term commitment by the state, not a one-time grant or budget rider.

Morath further said that pay, not working conditions, is the top hurdle when it comes to recruiting people into the education profession. When it comes to retention, teachers say working conditions are more important than pay. Pay for education jobs has decreased over time, and the average classroom teacher has gotten younger as veterans leave the profession.

The commissioner discussed legislation filed during the special session of the 85th Texas Legislature that would have created a system of tiered certification distinctions tied to significant increases in pay. For example, a “master teacher” who has received a national certification and fulfilled additional requirements and serves at a rural or high-poverty campus could earn up to $20,000 more.

State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston), who chairs the House Public Education Committee, said he declined to support the bill because of the cost it would have imposed on a long-term basis. Morath emphasized that higher pay is a long-term strategy and would not improve current performance, rather it would recruit and retain better quality educators in the future. In endorsing the idea, Morath indicated it will only work if the funding is baked into the funding formulas for school districts. The commissioner also suggested that one of the bill’s flaws was calibrating the process of identifying high-performing teachers, explaining that each school principal could have a different opinion when it comes to what defines a great teacher.

Responding to a question about high-stakes testing from State Board of Education (SBOE) Member Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin), Morath said testing would have to be at least one component of a program that evaluates teacher quality. The commissioner suggested there should also be an observational component and perhaps a student survey, which is included in the Dallas ISD program upon which the bill was based.

Commission member Todd Williams also noted that there is no incentive for teachers to work in high-poverty or rural schools. In addition, teachers who are at the top of the pay scale cannot increase their pay without leaving the classroom and becoming an administrator, which means their teaching talent would be removed from the system. Finally, Williams noted that there is no incentive for teacher candidates to choose a high-quality preparation program over a cheaper, fly-by-night program. Williams suggested creating incentives in these areas could increase teacher quality and retention.

Concluding his testimony, Morath said that investing in better quality teachers would lead to better-prepared students graduating and pursuing more lucrative jobs. That, combined with teachers themselves earning more, would materially increase the state’s GDP. Morath reasoned this would have a positive and measurable impact on the Texas economy.

Following up on Morath’s testimony, Alief ISD Superintendent H.D. Chambers noted that rising health care costs have also driven teachers out of the profession. Chambers said children need to come to kindergarten ready to go to school, which pre-K helps accomplish, and must be reading on grade level by the third grade. Quality teachers should be in all classrooms, which is helped by differentiated teacher pay, such as paying teachers more to teach in more challenging classrooms.

San Antonio ISD fourth grade teacher Sarah Perez, who is also a Teach Plus Policy Fellow, rounded out the panel on educator supports. Perez testified that students need more social and emotional supports, such as counseling services. According to Perez, a teacher survey by Teach Plus found that teachers identify large class sizes and low teacher pay as having a negative impact on student learning. So do inadequate facilities and limited access to technology or funding for classroom expenses. This led to a lively discussion regarding how much the state could reimburse teachers for classroom expenses and how renewing this program could be done using technology, such as a debit card.

The rest of the day’s panels focused on “inefficiencies” in public education. Michael Szabo, a high school math teacher from Galena Park ISD, gave moving testimony about the struggles his students face. Some deal with teen pregnancy, homelessness, deportation, absent parents and other issues that distract from their ability to concentrate on schoolwork. At the same time, they and the school are being judged based on their performance on standardized tests. Instead, Szabo suggested tying performance evaluation to the percentage of graduates who enter the workforce, as well as those who are incarcerated or end up on welfare.

Other witnesses testified regarding reviewing special program allotments and how those funds can be spent. That included raising the compensatory allotment and easing back spending requirements. Responding to a question about charter schools, one witness noted that while charter school teachers are eligible to participate in the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) of Texas, charters are not required to pay into the system. Another district suggested requiring charter schools to provide more notice and information to the district before setting up shop within a district’s borders and a “universal wait list” for charters. Some charters have touted dubious statistics regarding the number of students who are on wait lists. At the conclusion of the meeting, Brister invited a representative from a charter school to advocate for charters in general.

Districts requested more flexibility with regard to instruction time, as well as accessing the virtual school network. Districts also identified unfunded mandates and the unique challenges facing small, rural districts as drivers of inefficiency. There was some discussion as well from members of the commission who suggested districts faced with burdensome regulations consider becoming districts of innovation (DOI). It’s important to note that despite the perceived benefits of becoming a DOI, most districts have used DOI to hire uncertified teachers and expand class sizes beyond the statutory maximum. These are cost-cutting measures that ultimately hurt students.

The commission working group on expenditures is scheduled to meet Wednesday morning. The next meeting of the full commission is July 10.

School finance commission focuses on charters

The Texas Commission on School Finance met for the fourth time Wednesday in Austin. After a late start due to members trickling in the day after the state’s heated primary elections, the commission quickly launched into a debate about just how much of its activities will be open to members of the public.

Texas Commission on School Finance meeting March 7, 2018.

Chairman Justice Scott Brister began by informing members of the commission that commission subcommittees will be free to hold meetings without posting notice to the public. Brister gave members specific guidance in order to avoid having to comply with state open meetings laws, and led a vote expanding the number of members who can attend committee meetings out of the public eye.

State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), vice-chair of the House Public Education Committee, argued for greater transparency, suggesting members of the public have an interest in what the commission is doing behind closed doors. State Board of Education (SBOE) Member Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) joined in highlighting the importance of transparency. Arguing for more secrecy, state Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) noted members of the Texas Senate regularly hold secret meetings.

The committee also discussed logistics for the next meeting, March 19, when members of the public will be able to testify. Before public testimony, the commission plans to invite various stakeholders and interest groups to testify for up to five minutes. Brister stated the list of potential invited witnesses compiled by members and Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff numbered roughly fifty, and asked for help whittling down that number. He warned the March 19 meeting will be long, and members should expect to work well into the evening hours. Sen. Bettencourt asked to reduce the amount of time allotted to public witnesses to avoid a lengthy meeting, and Brister expressed interest in doing so based upon the number of witnesses who sign up.

The topic of Wednesday’s meeting was “efficiency,” with panels dedicated to efficiencies at the classroom, campus and district levels. The first panel featured witnesses from Cisco and Pasadena ISDs to discuss blended learning programs, which combine classroom time with self-paced digital learning incorporating technology such as computers and tablets. Todd Williams, an advisor to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, asked whether blended learning would enable a single teacher to teach more students. Pasadena ISD Deputy Superintendent Karen Hickman indicated that may be possible, but had not been her district’s experience.

The next panel featured witnesses from Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, along with Dallas County Community College and the Dallas County Promise program. College partnership programs allow students to earn industry credentials or college credits by taking courses through local higher education institutions. While praising the work of PSJA ISD, Williams suggested college completion rates in these programs are not always where many would like to see them. DCCC Chancellor Joe May testified that the Dallas program is an efficient way to get students to a four-year degree at a quarter of the typical cost.

The final panel on district-level efficiencies was led off by San Antonio ISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez, who highlighted new innovative campuses and advanced teacher training. Martinez made a compelling argument against basing too much accountability on end-of-course exams, pointing out that SAT scores have a far greater impact on the future trajectory of individual students. Martinez also laid out a nuanced way of tracking income demographics for the purposes of equalization within the district. More controversially, Martinez discussed bringing in charter operators from New York to take over a local elementary campus. These types of arrangements receive financial incentives from the state as a result of SB 1882, which was passed by the 85th Texas Legislature despite warnings raised by ATPE over the potential negative impacts on students and teachers. In consideration of these criticisms, Martinez suggested adding Dallas ISD’s ACE model or similar teacher retention programs as a third option under SB 1882. Martinez further acknowledged that charters are not interested in taking on the task of educating the most economically disadvantaged students.

The commission also heard from Paul Hill, a Washington-based policy consultant whose work has been affiliated with handing campuses over the charters and supporters of broader education privatization, including vouchers. Midland ISD Superintendent Orlando Riddick spoke of districts of innovation (DOI), and confirmed that districts are eager to waive requirements for maximum class sizes and teacher certification. ATPE has repeatedly warned of DOI being used to hire cheaper, uncertified teachers and assign larger classrooms.

The meeting ended with testimony from IDEA Public Schools charter founder Tom Torkelson. While acknowledging that well-trained teachers should earn more money, Torkelson also suggested that class size limits designed to protect students should be waived in order to place more students in a single classroom. Torkelson also suggested eliminating regional education service centers (ESCs), which were designed to increase efficiency by consolidating various support tasks in order to service multiple districts. Torkelson gave no indication what should replace the ESCs in his estimation.

State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston), who chairs the House Public Education Committee, concluded Wednesday’s hearing by directing members to the task at hand: Finding a way to pay for public education for all Texas students. Anything short of that, he reminded members, will not help Texas out of its current predicament. The commission will next meet March 19, and members of the public will be allowed to testify.

ATPE joins effort to encourage school districts to facilitate primary voting

Vote imageDays away from the start of early voting for the primary elections in Texas, education groups are spreading the word about the importance of voting through an unprecedented joint effort. ATPE has teamed up with nearly a dozen other groups in support of a new initiative called TexasEducatorsVote.com.

The new website features election-related guides, links to candidate resources, and an oath that educators can take to pledge to support public education by voting in 2016. The new initiative launched by the Texas Association of Community Schools (TACS) complements ATPE’s existing TeachtheVote.org website, where voters can view profiles of candidates for the legislature and State Board of Education, read their responses to ATPE’s candidate survey, study incumbents’ voting records on education issues, and find additional resources.

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Brock Gregg

“We’re coming together for the first time in an unprecedented way,” ATPE Governmental Relations Director Brock Gregg said in a press release issued yesterday. “Our goal is to implore educators and the public to take action. There are about one million active and retired public school educators in Texas. If they all go out and vote, this could have a tremendous positive impact on public education.”

The partners in the Texas Educators Vote initiative are also reaching out to school administrators across the state and encouraging them to do what they can to facilitate voting by school employees. The message to administrators highlights specific ways school leaders can promote high voter turnout and engagement within their school districts and campuses without endorsing particular candidates. Suggested actions include the following:

  • Setting a campus-wide voter turnout goal during the early voting period.
  • Encouraging employees to utilize election resources such as TeachtheVote.org and TexasEducatorsVote.com to learn more about the candidates and voting details.
  • Facilitating time off for school employees to go vote, including coordinating with volunteers to help cover classrooms as needed.
  • Coordinating ride-sharing or providing transportation to the polls.

ATPE encourages educators to check out the candidate profiles available through our 2016 Races search page and take the voting oath on TexasEducatorsVote.com. Click here to view a brochure with more information on Texas Educators Vote and its participating partners.

For even more information, be sure to follow @TeachtheVote and @TXEducatorsVote on Twitter for the latest updates.

From The Texas Tribune: Who Will Be the Next Texas Education Chief?

by Morgan Smith, The Texas Tribune
November 22, 2015

 

commissioner_jpg_800x1000_q100_TexasTribunephoto_Nov2015

Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to appoint a new commissioner of education.

A few days after Michael Williams announced he would step down as the state’s top education official in January, he described the post as the most challenging job he’s ever had.

“There is more concern and interest in what we do at [the Texas Education Agency] than anything else I’ve ever done,” said Williams during an interview at the Texas Tribune Festival in October.

His 30-year-long resume in state and federal government includes prosecuting members of the Ku Klux Klan as a U.S. Department of Justice attorney and over a decade on the Texas Railroad Commission.

Leading the Texas Education Agency — which involves overseeing the state’s approximately 1,200 school districts and charter schools — is a role that requires both diplomacy and policy chops.

Williams’ successor in the governor-appointed position will inherit an ongoing state funding lawsuit brought by two-thirds of Texas school districts, an uneasy gridlock with the federal government over teacher evaluation policy, and an agency still recovering from drastic 2011 cuts to budgets and personnel. All those problems must be tackled while balancing the demands of state lawmakers, school leaders, and, of course, the governor’s office.

As Gov. Greg Abbott ponders possibilities to fill the job, he will be doing a balancing act of his own among the wide-ranging, though sometimes overlapping, factions within the education community.

So who might be among his choices for the next education commissioner? Let’s take a look.

A reform champion: With his education platform, Abbott has strived for the support of the homeschoolers, business-oriented accountability groups, charter school advocates, and voucher proponents who make up the education reform movement. So any appointee he selects is likely to at least be palatable to those groups, if not one of their own.

Examples: Chris Barbic, founder of the Houston-based Yes Prep charter school network; Mike Feinberg, co-founder of KIPP Public Schools and superintendent of KIPP Houston; Former Texas House Public Education Chairman Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington.

Complications: Asking someone to move from the innovation-focused environment of charter schools and business to a regulation-laden agency may be a hard sell. And some options — particularly Grusendorf, a harsh critic of public schools who has continued to be an outspoken proponent of school choice since losing his seat in 2006 — may be polarizing.

A veteran school administrator: In its day-to-day function, the agency’s biggest constituents are the school officials who weigh in on and carry out its policies throughout the state. Having a leader who has already earned their respect while coming up through their ranks could be a big help. But anyone Abbott selects from this crowd is also going to need a track record of playing well with the reform movement.

Examples: Former Spring Branch ISD superintendent Duncan Klussman; Grand Prairie ISD superintendent Susan Hull; Hutto ISD superintendent Doug Killian; Alief ISD superintendent HD Chambers; Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa.

Complications: In most cases, superintendents of large to mid-sized Texas school districts would be taking a pay cut to lead the agency. A choice from within the ranks of school administrators may also carry the perception that Abbott isn’t pushing hard enough for school reform.

A politico: Appointing a former lawmaker with an education background has two primary advantages: direct experience with statewide policymaking and (ideally) good relationships with the current elected officials who will be passing the laws that the agency is charged with implementing. Some in this category could also walk the line between the establishment and reform camps.

Examples: Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, who announced he’s not running for re-election in May; former Senate Education Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano; Former state Rep. Dee Margo, an El Paso Republican who since leaving the House has led El Paso ISD’s Board of Managers; Grusendorf.

Complications: Once an elected official has made the decision to leave public service, it may be difficult to persuade him or her to return, especially to a job as grueling as running the education agency.

An agency insider: Why not eliminate the learning curve and appoint someone from within who can immediately begin making changes that advance the governor’s priorities?

Example: Deputy Education Commissioner Lizzette Reynolds.

Complications: If Abbott selects from within, he could lose the opportunity to make an appointment that would immediately put his own stamp on the agency.


 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2015/11/22/who-will-be-next-texas-education-chief/.

SBEC votes to approve changes to superintendent certification criteria

SBECThe State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is meeting today, Oct. 16, and taking up several agenda items of great interest to the educator community.

First up for debate this morning was a controversial proposal to allow superintendents to become certified without having prior education experience and training that is currently required. As we have reported previously on our blog, ATPE has been a vocal opponent of the SBEC plan, originally proposed by board member Laurie Bricker, to do away with existing requirements for superintendents to have at least two years of classroom teaching experience, a principal’s certificate, and a master’s degree.

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann

In addition to submitting formal written comments to SBEC, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann testified against the proposal at SBEC’s August meeting and again today, citing classroom teaching experience as a crucial element in preparing superintendents to lead school districts effectively. After hearing public testimony from all four of the state’s major educator groups along with the Texas Association of School Administrators, board members debated the item for more than an hour this morning before voting to adopt a modified version of the rule. Under the new rule language, candidates may pursue superintendent certification without having prior experience as a certified principal and teacher; however, they will be required to hold a graduate degree and school districts will be required to share with the public their rationale for recommending the hire of such a non-traditional superintendent candidate.

Four SBEC members voted against the rule today, and we appreciate their voicing concerns about the changes to the rule. The no votes came from both superintendents serving on the board: Dr. Susan Hull from Grand Prairie ISD and Dr. Bonnie Cain from Waco ISD, who also serves as board chair. Also casting no votes today were two of the four teachers serving on the board: Suzanne McCall and Brad Allard, who is an ATPE member. Dr. Rex Peebles, who represents the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board as a non-voting member of SBEC, also spoke eloquently on the need for transparency and maintaining high standards for superintendent candidates.

While the modified certification rule still does not require superintendents to have teaching experience, ATPE believes it is an improvement from SBEC’s original proposal in that it will restore a process for school districts to make their decisions transparent and will ensure that superintendent candidates have earned a graduate degree.Under state law, the SBEC certification rule change approved today still must be vetted by the State Board of Education, which meets in mid-November. (Related: read ATPE’s press statement on today’s SBEC vote.)

Other issues being discussed at today’s SBEC meeting include changes proposed for educator preparation program admission processes, reciprocity and comparability in certification standards compared to other states and jurisdictions, and new recommendations from the board’s Committee on Educator Discipline for future modifications to disciplinary rules for educators.

SBEC meets tomorrow, will consider new superintendent certification standards

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is scheduled to meet tomorrow, Oct. 16, in Austin. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. and will be live-streamed through the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website. View the full SBEC meeting agenda here.

One of the hot topics on tomorrow’s SBEC agenda is a scheduled final vote to adopt new standards for certification as a superintendent in Texas. As we have reported previously on our blog, ATPE opposes an SBEC proposal that would do away with existing requirements for superintendents to have at least two years of classroom teaching experience and a master’s degree. ATPE submitted formal written input to SBEC opposing the proposed rule change earlier this month, and ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann testified against the proposal at an earlier SBEC meeting in August. Read ATPE’s latest press statement about the controversial superintendent certification rule proposal here.SBEC

An SBEC Committee on Educator Discipline is also meeting today to review existing disciplinary policies and the process for sanctioning certified educators accused of misconduct. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote tomorrow and follow us on Twitter for updates on both meetings from ATPE’s Kate Kuhlmann.

ATPE opposes controversial change to superintendent certification rule; submits formal input to SBEC

For the past two months we have regularly reported on the State Board for Educator Certification’s preliminary decision to water down superintendent certification standards in Texas, which would remove the requirement that superintendents first obtain two years of classroom teaching experience, among other crucial qualifications, for some superintendent candidates. Today, ATPE submitted formal comments on behalf of our more than 100,000 educators across the state opposing the controversial plan.

Background:SBEC

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) took the preliminary vote and advanced the proposal in August, despite testimony from ATPE that stressed our members’ belief that classroom teaching experience, in addition to managerial experience and a strong educational background, is a critical contributing factor to the success of an administrator. The hybrid proposal advanced by the board was instigated by two stakeholder groups, one consisting of members from the education community and one consisting of those in business. Each group essentially created a new pathway to becoming a superintendent: substituting education specific managerial experience for principal certification and substituting business experience for principal certification and a master’s degree, respectively. Under the latter pathway presented by representatives of the business community, a district’s board of trustees would be given blanket authority to hire a non-traditional superintendent without proof to parents, school personnel, and taxpayers why such a candidate is otherwise qualified. Ultimately, both pathways were included in the proposed revisions.

Rationale and excerpts of ATPE’s written comments on the proposed rule change:

ATPE’s formal comments submitted today to SBEC again stressed the need for superintendents to bring well-rounded experience to the job, including experience teaching in the classroom, managerial experience, and an advanced educational background:

“ATPE members and educators at all levels across the state support the need for teaching experience prior to obtaining a superintendent certificate, because those working in the field know that every superintendent needs a strong understanding of how education works, the needs of every student, and how administrative influence can affect educational outcomes… ATPE’s superintendent members tell us this teaching experience is critical because without it, administrators cannot fully understand classrooms and the needs of students within them – classrooms and students they make decisions about daily.”

And, as our formal comments stress, ATPE members are not alone in their stance on the issue:

“Educators across the state also support our members’ opinion that high standards and experience in education, in addition to managerial experience, are critical to the success of superintendents. In fact, a 2009 informal survey asked Texas administrators whether the two-year classroom experience requirement in SBEC rules was adequate, and 92 percent of respondents agreed it was insufficient.”

Proponents of SBEC’s rule change suggest that such a revision is necessary in order to capture the non-traditional superintendent candidates that districts might find to be great hires. As the rule change was being proposed by SBEC in August, names such as Michael Dell and Bill Gates were mentioned as the types of business, finance, and managerial experts who might desire to become superintendents but would not want to commit to traditional superintendent training programs. Setting aside for now the rhetorical question of whether a Bill Gates or Michael Dell would ever truly desire to become a school superintendent in Texas, ATPE has questioned the merits of the rule-backers’ claims that districts do not otherwise have viable means of hiring non-traditional leaders. In our formal written comments, we point out that districts already have the option to utilize a waiver process in order to hire a non-traditional superintendent candidate. The difference between current law and the proposed rule revision is that current law provides for a more transparent and responsible process for hiring such a candidate.

The waiver process under current law requires school districts to provide the qualifications of non-traditional superintendent candidates and justify why those candidates would be a beneficial hire for that district. It also allows for a transparent and accountable process under which key stakeholders, such as those employed by the district and parents of students, are notified and applications are vetted and approved by the Texas Education Agency. None of this would be true under the proposed revisions where school board trustees are given blanket authority to hire the nontraditional candidates they see fit.

“ATPE believes that removing the requirements for keeping local communities – and especially school employees and parents of students – informed about the rationale for these major decisions would be a grave mistake. It will likely lead to school morale challenges with faculty members feeling disenfranchised, parents increasingly questioning the leadership of the district, and a disconnect between school board members and the taxpayers and voters who placed them into office.”

Next steps:

For all of these reasons above and more, which you can read in our full formal comments, ATPE opposes this certification rule change and urges members of SBEC to reject the proposed revisions. SBEC will take a final vote on the proposed revision at its October 16 meeting. If you would like to submit your own input on the proposed rule change, the public comment period officially ends Monday, October 5. Information on submitting written public comments can be found here. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on this issue later this month after the SBEC meeting.

Commissioner adopts new standards for principals

As we reported on Teach the Vote in late 2013, Commissioner of Education Michael Williams formally proposed new professional standards for teachers and principals. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) invited public comments on drafts of both sets of standards, which the agency intends to incorporate into new educator evaluation systems. The latest iteration of the proposed teacher standards have not yet been adopted, but this week the commissioner released his final version of the standards for principals.

The new principal standards go into effect June 8, 2014, and reflect some changes that were made in response to public comments. Those changes in wording include several instances in which principals will now be expected to demonstrate “commitment” rather than being expected to “take personal responsibility” for various outcomes as originally proposed by Commissioner Williams.

View the adopted principal standards here; phrases shown in red include language that was changed from the commissioner’s original draft. View TEA’s background information here.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on the teacher standards and all developments related to educator evaluation using our new Educator Evaluation Reform Resources.