Category Archives: graduation requirements

Finance commission working group on outcomes meets

The Texas Commission on Public School Finance working group on outcomes met Wednesday evening for the subcommittee’s first formal public meeting. The group is led by Todd Williams, the education advisor to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, and includes House Public Education Committee Vice-chair Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), Pflugerville ISD Superintendent Dr. Doug Killian, Senate Education Committee Chair Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), and Melissa Martin, who was absent.

Texas Commission on Public School Finance working group on outcomes meeting April 4, 2018.

The first invited witness was former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Tom Luce, who emphasized that education is the future of Texas. Luce began by warning that Texas schools are not preparing students for post-secondary success. Furthermore, an ill-prepared workforce will lead to decreasing median incomes and an increased financial burden on the state.

“We have to do more with more, not more with less.” said Luce, who suggested looking to current tax exemptions for ways to generate additional revenue. “Money matters.”

Luce served as chief of staff to the Texas Select Committee on Public Education in 1984 and participated in the last major reform of the Texas school system. Without another reform, Luce predicted Texas is doomed to fall behind academically and economically. Reforms suggested by Luce include offering incentives for students to take AP exams, full day pre-K, and boosting overall funding. In order to secure the necessary additional funds for public schools, Luce argued stakeholders must explain to taxpayers what the system is going to accomplish differently than what it is currently doing.

Other witnesses laid out similarly concerning views of the state’s current success preparing students for post-secondary success, whether that means pursuing career certification or finishing college. Failure to achieve post-secondary success means graduates entering the workforce and settling for lower-wage jobs, leading to more reliance on government entitlement programs. Together, this means a degraded tax base increasingly unable to support the social safety net programs upon which it relies.

A representative from the Commit Partnership in Dallas, of which Williams is chairman and CEO, drew attention to student demographics and the link between race and poverty in Texas. In addition, performance gaps between demographic groups have remained constant despite improvement in the overall student population. In order to close these gaps, Commit suggested focusing on pre-K and third grade literacy. Dr. Killian indicated he has seen the number of children who are unprepared for kindergarten increase over time, but access to pre-K has proven an effective way to counter this trend.

Commit managing director Sagar Desai suggested that internal surveys indicated just one in four new teachers felt adequately prepared by alternative certification programs with less rigorous training. Additionally, higher rates of poverty correlate with higher percentages of beginning teachers, which also correlates with lower student achievement.

Deputy Commission David Gardner from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) was the last to testify, and offered an explanation of the “60×30” graduation goal. The plain aims for 60 percent of Texas high school graduates to complete a post-secondary degree or certificate by the year 2030. Gardner pointed out that the longer students wait between graduating from high school and entering college, the less likely they are to graduate from college. At the end of the meeting, Killian told Gardner he believes the higher education system should have an accountability system just like the K-12 education system.

The full commission is set to meet Thursday morning, when it will discuss issues related to tax revenues.

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

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

Number of Texas students taking ACT sets new mark

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

TEA issues guidance on new suicide prevention training

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

Pastors for Texas Children weighs in on school finance case

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislative Update: Budget news, House passes grad committees bill, Senate committee hears “Tim Tebow” bill, and more

Conference committees have been named for House Bill (HB) 1, the state’s budget bill. On the House side, the bill’s author and Appropriations Committee Chairman John Otto (R) will be joined by Reps. Sylvester Turner (D), Trent Ashby (R), Larry Gonzales (R), and Sarah Davis (R). Senate conferees include Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson (R) and Sens. Joan Huffman (R), Lois Kolkhorst (R), Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D), and Charles Schwertner (R).

The conference committee’s task is to work out differences between the two chambers on how to fund the state’s obligations for the next two years. There is a significant difference in how the two budget proposals approach public education and tax relief, or as ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter described it this week to Austin’s KVUE News, “a huge divide.”

The Texas House of Representatives gave its final approval to Senate Bill (SB) 149, an ATPE-supported bill that enables high school seniors who’ve failed certain STAAR tests to maintain a pathway to graduation with the appointment of individual graduation committees. The House amended and then voted yesterday to approve the grad committees bill on third reading by a vote of 125-9.

Those voting against SB 149 in the House yesterday were Reps. Greg Bonnen (R); Cindy Burkett (R); Tony Dale (R); Jodie Laubenberg (R); Debbie Riddle (R); Mike Schofield (R); Matt Shaheen (R); Tony Tinderholt (R); and Scott Turner (R). However, the official House Journal recording the day’s proceedings reflects that a number of representatives asked for their votes to be changed, as follows: Reps. Angie Chen Button (R), Doug Miller (R), and Dennis Paul (R) all stated that they intended to vote against SB 149 but were shown as voting for the bill; while Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R) stated that while he was shown as voting against the bill, he actually intended to vote for SB 149. Additionally, Reps. Geanie Morrison (R) and Elliott Naishtat (D) both were absent from the floor at the time of the vote, but noted afterward that they would have voted for SB 149; Rep. Bill Zedler (R), also absent at the time of the vote, stated that he would have voted against SB 149. Obviously, none of those changes would have impacted the final outcome of the vote.

We reported Tuesday on the House’s vote earlier this week to approve SB 149 on second reading after adding several amendments. SB 149 now is back on the Senate’s floor calendar, giving senators an opportunity to decide whether to accept the House’s amendments or appoint a conference committee to settle differences between the two versions of the bill. (Senators previously passed their own version of SB 149 by a vote of 28-2.)

The Texas Senate Education Committee met today to hear several pieces of legislation, including yet another private school voucher bill and a measure to allow home-schooled students to participate in UIL activities. SB 1178 by Sen. Don Huffines (R) as filed would set up a private school voucher program using “education savings accounts.” State funds would be placed into the savings accounts for families to access and use for private school or home school expenses. The committee is considering a substitute version of the bill calling for a study of the potential use of education savings accounts.

Another bill heard today was SB 2046 by Sen. Van Taylor (R), being advertised as a measure to provide “equal opportunity” for home-schooled students to participate in UIL. Supporters of SB 2046 have referred to the legislation as the “Tim Tebow bill,” named after the NFL quarterback who was home-schooled prior to becoming a Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Florida. Taylor’s bill requires school districts to enable local home-schooled students to participate in UIL activities at the public school. SB 2046 requires parents of the home-schooled students to attest that their children have met certain academic eligibility requirements. The bill has the support of the Texas Home School Coalition, but some home-school proponents actually testified against the bill this morning, saying they did not want home-schooled students to be forced to take standardized tests as a condition of participating in UIL activities and did not want the state government regulating their educational environment. ATPE opposed the bill based on long-standing positions in our member-written Legislative Program that oppose the selective participation of home-schooled students in public school activities, especially when they are not held to the same academic standards as their public school student peers. Taylor’s bill does not require home-schooled students to take and pass STAAR tests. SB 2046 was left pending. As ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann told Austin’s KXAN News this evening, the bill would not provide “an equal playing field” for home-schooled and public school students.

The Senate Education Committee took action on some pending bills both today and yesterday during an impromptu “desk” meeting. The bills approved by the committee include SB 894 by Chairman Larry Taylor, which is a virtual voucher bill that ATPE opposes. The vote was 6-2. Also voted out favorably by the committee was a new version of SB 669, by Sen. Royce West (D), calling for the creation of an Opportunity School District for certain low-performing schools. Chairman Larry Taylor (R), who filed similar legislation to create an OSD, announced his intent to sign on to West’s bill as a co-author. The committee approved CSSB 669 by a vote of 6-1. Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D) voted against the measure, while Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D) asked to be marked as “present not voting” because she had not yet had an opportunity to review the substitute language.

Here is a list of other bills that got a nod of approval from the Senate Education Committee in votes that occurred yesterday or today:

  • SB 213 by Sen. Brian Birdwell (R), which is the UIL sunset bill.
  • SB 313 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R) calling for a review of the breadth and scope of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.
  • SB 471 by Sen. Jose Rodríguez (D) pertaining to Texas Education Agency desk audits of school districts.
  • SB 496 by Sen. Kirk Watson (D) on providing additional funding for optional flexible school day programs.
  • SB 750 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) relating to an allotment for schools buying windstorm and hail insurance.
  • SB 955 by Sen. Charles Schwertner (R) regarding permissible locations of charter schools created by universities.
  • SB 1222 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R) relating to commissioner’s authority to issue subpoenas during an investigation of educator misconduct.
  • SB 1241 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) on establishing innovation zones for certain low-performing schools.
  • SB 1309 by Sen. Jose Menéndez (D) dealing with certification requirements for JROTC instructors.
  • SB 1434 by Sen. Van Taylor (R) allowing time spent in certain off-campus activities to count for purposes of a district’s Average Daily Attendance calculation.
  • SB 1483 by Sen. Sylvia Garcia (R) relating to community schools.
  • SB 1567 by Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) regarding applicability to certain laws regarding local governments to charter schools.
  • SB 1569 also by Sen. Lucio relating to charter school immunity provisions.
  • SB 1867 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D) omitting certain adult special education students from dropout calculations.
  • SB 1771 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R) relating to the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium.
  • SB 1896 also by Sen. Larry Taylor on providing tutoring through the Virtual Schools Network.

Also today, the House Public Education Committee’s Subcommittee on Educator Quality held a brief hearing on a bill relating to teacher certification. HB 1373 by Rep. Helen Giddings (D) attempts to prohibit schools from assigning elementary school students to a first-year teacher or a teacher lacking the proper certification for two or more consecutive years. ATPE supports the bill, which Rep. Giddings has filed repeatedly over the course of several legislative sessions. HB 1373 would apply only to school districts with a student population of at least 5,000, and there is language in the bill permitting waivers to be issued in extenuating circumstances.

Next week, the House Public Education Committee is slated to hear SB 6 by Chairman Larry Taylor (R), which calls for assigning “A through F” accountability grades to school campuses. ATPE opposed the bill in the Senate, where it passed on a vote of 20-10 after being amended. SB 6 is part of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s priority education package this session.

Also on the House committee’s agenda next Tuesday, April 28, is HB 4047 by Rep. Alma Allen (D) relating to the extension to open-enrollment charter school employees of certain rights granted to school district employees. The bill would ensure that charter school teachers have the right to join or not join a professional association or union and the right to be politically active in the same manner as teachers at traditional public schools. ATPE requested that the bill be filed.

The House Public Education Committee still has not yet acted on a controversial bill to do away with the minimum salary schedule for teachers. The bill is HB 2543 by Rep. Marsha Farney (R), which has a Senate companion bill, SB 893 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R), also pending on the House side. This bill may be brought up again next week to discuss possible amendments. ATPE members are urged to continue reaching out to their state representatives and asking them to oppose HB 2543 and SB 893. Download or print more information about our opposition to the salary bills here.

Another controversial bill being watched by the education community is SB 1968 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R). The bill, which would prohibit school districts from offering their employees the convenience of payroll deduction for education association dues and other services, could be headed for a Senate floor debate next week. The bill was placed on the Senate Intent Calendar for April 22, then removed from the calendar for April 23, and then subsequently re-positioned on the calendar for Monday, April 27. Read more about how the Senate Intent Calendar works here. Also, view ATPE’s Senate floor letter opposing SB 1968. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on these bills next week.

State Board of Education meeting wrap-up

The State Board of Education (SBOE) wrapped up its regular meeting today. During the meeting, the board addressed, at least in part, calls for a Mexican American Studies course and ensured that speech courses will continue to be offered in Texas high schools.

Earlier this week, the board was set to debate the merits of adding a Mexican American Studies course to the list of courses to be developed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). However, as it became apparent that one course focusing on a specific culture would beget many more course requests and that the waiting list for the creation of one course is two years long, advocates for the standalone course shifted their focus. Instead of putting all of their efforts behind the creation of a course covering a single cultural background, the board chose to examine an existing set of TEKS—Special Topics in Social Studies—that could be used to teach a class on any number of ethnic or cultural backgrounds.

Although this set of TEKS is not new, the board did, for the first time, choose to call for an instructional materials adoption for them. Much like the instructional materials for Languages Other Than English (LOTE), the materials will be specific to one ethnic or cultural background even though the TEKS are general (e.g., the board does not adopt instructional materials for LOTE; they adopt Spanish textbooks). Likewise, the board has not called for publishers to submit material for a general course in Special Topics in Social Studies, they have asked for publishers for materials for Mexican American Studies, African American Studies, Native American Studies and Asian American Studies. In addition to calling for materials, the board will, during their next meeting, look at expanding the Special Topics in Social Studies TEKS from a half credit course to a full credit course.

Also during the meeting, the board updated the list of courses that districts must offer to students. This item was primarily on the agenda to align the board rule with statutory mandates including the the addition of a course in Personal Financial Literacy. (Please note: This list of courses is separate from the rule that defines what courses a student is required to complete to earn his or her high school diploma. Although the lists are similar, the list of courses districts must offer exceeds the courses required to graduate under either the 4×4 graduation plans or the new foundation diploma. For example: By statute, districts are required to offer a health class but students are not required to take one.)

During the last SBOE meeting, the board removed the requirement that all students take a specific speech course, but added a new requirement that all districts certify students are taught specific speech-related skills. During this week’s meeting, the board decided that districts must continue to offer a high school course covering the Communications Applications TEKS, the primary speech class taught in Texas schools. Although students now potentially have more options for courses that fulfill their required speech skills, the board’s actions guarantee that one of the options will continue to be a traditional speech class.

Watch archived video of this week’s meeting.

SBOE approves new graduation requirements

Today the State Board of Education (SBOE) voted 14-1 on final rules to implement new graduation requirements mandated by last year’s House Bill (HB) 5. Facing pressure from many stakeholders with opposing viewpoints, the board struck a compromise today that ATPE believes will allow ample flexibility for school districts and students while helping ensure that students are prepared for post-secondary success.

At the center of the debate was the treatment of Algebra II, which prior to the passage of HB 5, was a statutorily mandated course for graduation under the Recommended and Advanced high school programs. Through HB 5, the legislature created a single high school graduation plan based on a foundation curriculum plus subject-specific endorsement areas. In doing so, legislators eliminated the specific mandate in statute that Algebra II be taken as the third math course required for graduation. Even though the statutes as amended by HB 5 no longer specify Algebra II as one of the required math courses, state law gives the SBOE authority to adopt additional or more specific graduation requirements beyond what the legislature mandates.

The board decided today that only students pursuing a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) endorsement under the new high school diploma structure should be required to take Algebra II. Students pursuing other endorsements may choose to take Algebra II or another math course from among a short list; that list will soon include two new advanced math classes, algebraic reasoning and statistics, which are currently being developed. The lone dissenting vote today came from SBOE District 1 member Martha Dominguez, who felt that Algebra II was an important factor in students’ college success and should be required for all students.

Education stakeholders also voiced much concern in the recent months of SBOE deliberations about the future of speech courses. While not required by law, the SBOE has required students to earn one-half credit in speech as a graduation requirement since 1996. HB 5 did not address the speech requirement, again leaving the board with discretion to decide whether or not to continue its requirement. The board’s preliminary proposal in November would have eliminated the speech requirement altogether. Recent surveys conducted by ATPE and by SBOE District 9 member Thomas Ratliff showed strong support among educators for continuing a speech requirement at the state level, but several school districts urged the board to eliminate the requirement. SBOE members settled this week on a plan to designate Communications Applications—the primary course used to fulfill the current speech requirement—as one of the courses that can satisfy the fourth-year advanced English course required by HB 5. The speech course will no longer be required, but districts must still ensure that all students master certain communications-related skills.

Read the Texas Education Agency’s press release on the new graduation plan approved today. Also, check out today’s press statement by ATPE State President Ginger Franks in response to the vote.

Legislative Update: A new legislator, graduation requirements and early childhood education

Texas House District 50 has elected a new state representative. Democrat Celia Israel won yesterday’s special election runoff to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. Mark Strama (D–Austin). She’ll take over that seat for the remainder of this year and is also on the 2014 ballot seeking a full term that would begin in January 2015.

Related Teach the Vote content: Monday is the deadline to register to vote in the March primary election. ATPE State President Ginger Franks recently spoke about the importance of voting.

The State Board of Education meeting continues this week, with much attention focused on the anticipated adoption of new graduation requirements. You can watch the hearings online.

In related news, Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams gave a keynote address yesterday at the annual Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) Midwinter Conference in Austin. He expressed support for preparing all students to go to college and requiring them to take Algebra II. Williams also stressed the need to close performance gaps for minority students.

In Washington, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce announced that it will hold a Feb. 5 hearing entitled “The Foundation for Success: Discussing Early Childhood Education and Care in America.”

Legislative Update: A busy day in spite of the weather

Icy weather in Central Texas has forced closures of many schools and delayed the start of today’s State Board of Education meeting until noon. The agenda for this week’s SBOE meeting features a final vote on new graduation requirements, including a decision on Algebra II, pursuant to House Bill 5.

Watch the hearings online through the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website. TEA has announced that anyone who intended to testify at today’s hearing today but is unable to travel due to the weather may email written testimony to the board instead (

Related Teach the Vote content: Read about the SBOE’s preliminary recommendations for the graduation requirements and ATPE’s testimony at the November board meeting, and watch a media interview with ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter about the Algebra II debate.

Today is election day for candidates in the runoff to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. Mark Strama (D–Austin) in House District 50. Democrat Celia Israel and Republican Mike VandeWalle are on the ballot. Some polls are opening later than originally scheduled because of the weather, and voter turnout is likely to be very low. Visit the Travis County Clerk’s Election Division for more information on when and where to vote if you live in HD 50. This is an important race, and there will be plenty of time for you to head to the polls this afternoon after the ice thaws.

Related Teach the Vote content: Visit the 2014 Races page to view profiles of all candidates for legislative and State Board of Education seats on the ballot this year..

Today is the last day to submit public comments via email ( on new teaching standards proposed by the commissioner of education. Commissioner Michael Williams is also scheduled to deliver a keynote speech this afternoon at the TASA Midwinter Conference in Austin.

Related Teach the Vote content: Read background information about the standards and how they were developed.

In Washington, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce has a meeting scheduled this morning for its Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. The hearing is entitled “Keeping College Within Reach: Sharing Best Practices for Serving Low-Income and First Generation Students.” Watch the live proceedings online.

Legislative Update: School finance, test scores and a special election

The parties in the Texas school finance litigation headed back to court today to discuss changes that might alter District Judge John Dietz’s February 2013 preliminary oral ruling that stated that Texas’ system of paying for public education was unconstitutional.

Dietz has reopened the trial to consider any new evidence that might change his prior conclusion. The state is arguing that additional funds appropriated by the Legislature in 2013, along with changes to graduation and student testing requirements, should put to rest claims that the system is insufficiently funded.

Related Teach the Vote content: Read ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey’s op-ed on school finance.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) reports an increase in cumulative scores for end-of-course exams. In a press release issued today, the agency says 76 percent of the state’s high school juniors have passed the tests now required under House Bill 5, and that they “are on track to graduate.”

Early voting is taking place this week in the Austin area for a special runoff election to fill the vacant Texas House of Representatives seat of former Rep. Mark Strama (D–Austin) in House District 50. Tuesday, Jan. 28 is the date of the official runoff election.

Related Teach the Vote content: Visit the 2014 Races page to view profiles of all candidates for legislative and State Board of Education seats on the ballot this year.

New commissioner’s rules adopted to implement portions of HB 5

The 83rd Legislature’s comprehensive accountability and assessment reform bill passed earlier this year, House Bill (HB) 5, requires action by some regulatory entities before it can take full effect. Just as the State Board of Education (SBOE) has been considering rules to implement changes to the graduation requirements under HB 5, Commissioner of Education Michael Williams also has authority to adopt rules that implement other sections of the bill.

The commissioner recently adopted rules on curriculum requirements and alternative assessments. The first set of rules can be found in Title 19, Chapter 74 of the Texas Administrative Code (TAC). These rules establish a transition plan for students who enter high school before the 2014-15 school year, and enables them to choose either the new foundation high school program (created by HB 5) or the previous system that encompasses the minimum, recommended or advanced high school programs. The commissioner’s rules also provide more detail on HB 5’s provision allowing current high school seniors to graduate under the new foundation high school program even if they do not meet the graduation requirements of the old system.

The commissioner also adopted new rules under Title 19, Chapter 101 of the TAC, which allow students to substitute certain tests in place of the end-of-course exams they would otherwise be required to pass for graduation. The new rules specify which tests can be allowed as substitutes.

These new rules officially take effect Dec. 16. Read the full text of the rules and more background information here.

ATPE statement regarding SBOE vote on graduation requirements

The Association of Texas Professional Educators applauds the recent State Board of Education decision to support rigorous, alternative higher math courses that incorporate higher math concepts and customize the learning to each endorsement instead of requiring Algebra II for all Texas students. We urge the board to work diligently in the next few years toward the approval of additional inventive courses that will provide students with even greater flexibility to achieve mastery of the math concepts needed for post-secondary success. It is imperative that Texas continue to follow a policy of college and career readiness and not college or career readiness. All students should be exposed to the content and skills required to pass college entrance exams while also retaining the flexibility to tailor their education to their interests or their work toward industry certificates. The global economy will not wait for us to catch up; we must overtake it.