Tag Archives: evaluation

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: May 20, 2016

Important runoffs are happening in some parts of the state. We’ve got your election news and more in this week’s wrap-up:


Early vote pic from EAToday, May 20, is the last day to vote early in primary runoffs for Republican and Democratic races in which no candidate earned more than 50 percent of the votes on March 1. Polls close at 7 p.m. tonight. Several legislative and State Board of Education (SBOE) seats are up for grabs on Tuesday’s runoff election day.

Read our early voting blog post for a list of districts that have runoffs, tips on where to find your polling places, and more. Don’t forget to check out the runoff candidates’ profiles, including voting records and survey responses, using our 2016 Races search page.


Hotly contested runoffs capture attention of voters, political action committees, and media

Whether or not you live in SBOE District 9, chances are you’ve heard about the high-profile runoff contest taking place in that northeast corner of Texas. In the open seat to replace Thomas Ratliff (R), who is not seeking re-election, candidates Mary Lou Bruner and Dr. Keven Ellis are vying for the Republican nomination. Bruner attracted early attention from local and national media with her Facebook claims (as reported by The Texas Tribune and others) that President Obama had been a gay prostitute and drug addict. Those early Facebook posts have since been shielded from public view, but candidate Bruner has continued to shock voters with questionable assertions about public schools, including accusations about the number of substitutes holding teaching positions in a local school district and the percentage of students in special education.  Earlier this week we republished a story from The Texas Tribune about a meeting with area school superintendents who challenged Bruner on her dubious claims.

Following that meeting, an influential Tea Party group announced this week that it was retracting its earlier endorsement of Bruner. Grassroots America – We the People said in a statement, “We are all disappointed to have to take the strong measure of withdrawing our endorsement for a candidate. Since the institution of this organization in 2009, we have never had to take such an action; however, this organization requires accountability and personal responsibility from the candidates it endorses…. Unfortunately, once we viewed the raw, unedited video of Mrs. Bruner speaking to Region 7 Superintendents on May 4th and read her written statement, we had no choice but to start the process of reconsidering the endorsement.”

The fact that another Texas Tea Party group recently chose not only to reject Bruner but even to endorse Dr. Keven Ellis in this race underscores the serious concerns that many have expressed about Bruner’s ability to serve effectively on the SBOE. The publishers of the Texas Tea Party Voter Guide stated that Bruner “has gone too far and is making us all look like idiots. If she gets elected she will do more damage to the conservative movement than anything she might accomplish, so we are supporting Keven Ellis.” Interestingly, Ellis also earned the endorsement of Texas Parent PAC.

Bruner earned 48.4 percent of the vote in the March 1 primary compared to Ellis’s 31.05 percent. However, both candidates were relatively unknown at that time, and media interest in the race has put it on the radar of more voters and education stakeholders throughout the state. With Ellis appearing to capture increasing support from such diverse interests, this race will certainly be one to watch on Tuesday.

Also in the spotlight are runoffs for Senate Districts 1 and 24. SD 1 is an open seat, where incumbent Sen. Kevin Eltife (R) is not seeking re-election. Republican candidates and current state representatives David Simpson and Bryan Hughes are locked in a tight race with dueling endorsements, matching pleas for smaller government, and efforts to appeal to education voters. Simpson received the coveted endorsement of the pro-public education group Texas Parent PAC and is airing radio ads in which he touts his support for school funding and opposition to cuts to the public education budget. Hughes, meanwhile, is the only non-incumbent senator to be formally endorsed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), after Patrick originally stated that he would not get involved in the primary races. Education reform and pro-privatization groups such as the Texas Home School Coalition and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (Empower Texans) have backed Hughes, but he’s also using campaign ads to try to appeal to retired educators by featuring photos of his meetings with local retired teachers. This is a winner-take-all race on Tuesday since no Democrats or third-party candidates have filed to run for the open seat; Tuesday’s winner will take office in January 2017.

SD 24 is another open seat race worth watching on Tuesday night. State representative Susan King (R) and Dr. Dawn Buckingham (R) are vying for this Senate seat currently held by Sen. Troy Fraser (R), who announced plans to retire. This race featured a crowded six-person field in the Republican primary on March 1. King earned 27.25 percent of the vote, while Buckingham brought in 24.76 percent. Expect another close match-up in Tuesday’s runoff for the Republican nomination. The winner will face Democrat Jennie Lou Leeder in November.

A few of Tuesday’s House runoffs are also winner-take-all races, in which the primary winner will face no opposition in November. In HD 5, Republicans Cole Hefner and Jay Misenheimer are in a runoff to determine who will succeed Rep. Bryan Hughes (R). HD 73 features a runoff between Rep. Doug Miller (R) and challenger Kyle Biedermann (R). In HD 120, the winner of the primary runoff between Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D) and Mario Salas (D) will decide who takes this House seat previously held by Ruth Jones McClendon (D) in January 2017; this is despite the fact that another, separate election is taking place this year to determine who fills McClendon’s vacant seat for the remainder of this year. HD 139 is another open seat for which both regular and special elections are taking place in 2016. After a vacancy was left for the House seat of Sylvester Turner (D), now mayor of Houston, Jarvis Johnson (D) won a special election earlier this month to serve out the remainder of Turner’s term, but Johnson faces a runoff on Tuesday against Kimberly Willis (D) for the upcoming full term to begin in January 2017.

Check out profiles of these and other runoff candidates using our 2016 Races search page.


Related: Supreme Court’s school finance ruling highlights importance of 2016 elections

Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

A week has passed since the Texas Supreme Court ruled that our state’s school finance system meets the constitutional minimum standards. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson writes about why your vote is the only thing left to compel legislators to take any action to improve the way we fund our schools. Josh also explains why discussions of two legislative committees this week about the possibility of new spending restrictions are another cause for concern. Check out his latest blog post here.


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

FEDERAL UPDATE

It was a busy week for education in Washington, D.C., as discussions continued over how to implement the nation’s new federal education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann has written an update on ESSA, including the latest debates over the law’s “supplement not supplant” language, as well as new legislation relating to school nutrition. View Kate’s blog post here.

 


RULEMAKING UPDATE

In his first few months on the job, Commissioner of Education Mike Morath has put forth administrative rules pertaining to a number of controversial topics. First, the commissioner finalized rules begun by his predecessor to implement the state’s new recommended teacher appraisal system known as T-TESS. ATPE has filed a legal challenge against the T-TESS rules, arguing that they violate existing state laws, the Texas Constitution, and public policy expectations. That petition has been referred to the State Office of Administrative Hearings so that an Administrative Law Judge can decide the merits of ATPE’s case. In the meantime, be sure to check out our T-TESS resource page on ATPE.org to learn more about the new evaluation rules and how they might affect you.

Related: The Hawaii State Board of Education voted this week to remove student test scores from its teacher evaluation system. Hawaii was one of several states that had incorporated student growth measures into a new teacher evaluation system in recent years, partly in order to satisfy criteria for an NCLB waiver. Texas’s T-TESS rules were similarly design to match NCLB waiver conditions that are no longer applicable, which ATPE cited in our requests for Commissioner Morath to revise T-TESS and reconsider the student growth measure language in the rules.

Commissioner Morath has also proposed rules for Districts of Innovation (DOI), implementing 2015 legislation that allows acceptably-rated school districts to claim exemptions from numerous education laws. ATPE has submitted comments on the proposed rules, urging the commissioner to address serious concerns about implications for educators’ and school districts’ immunity protections in school districts that claim entitlement to blanket waivers of all exemptible laws in the Texas Education Code. We’ve got updated information on some of the districts that are pursuing DOI status on our comprehensive DOI resource page on ATPE.org.

Also in the works at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) are rules to implement a 2015 law that requires video surveillance equipment in certain classrooms serving students in special education programs. Yesterday, TEA officials held a public hearing on proposed commissioner’s rules for implementing Senate Bill 507. ATPE previously submitted written comments on the proposed rules, which have not yet been finalized. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on these and other rules as developments occur.

Related: The Texas Tribune hosted an interview with Commissioner Morath on Tuesday. The event was sponsored in part by ATPE. View video from the event here.


Next week, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability meets Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Austin. View the commission’s agenda here. We’ll have more on the meeting next week, along with complete results of Tuesday’s big runoff election day, here on Teach the Vote.

ThinkstockPhotos-485333274_VoteIf you live in a runoff district, don’t forget to go vote early today or vote on Tuesday!

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: April 29, 2016

It’s been a big news week for ATPE, and here’s a recap of current education stories we’re closely following:


Elections 2016 Card with Bokeh BackgroundWe are approaching two important elections during the month of May. First, the local uniform election date is May 7, followed by the May 24 election date for primary runoffs.

Early voting began this week and runs through May 3 for the first local election date. Many local school board races are on the May 7 ballot around the state, along with special elections in House Districts 120 and 139.

The next election will be the runoff election for party primaries in which no candidate earned more than 50 percent of the vote on March 1. Early voting for that May 24 runoff election will begin on May 16. Use our 2016 Races search page to find and view candidates’ profiles. New information has been added recently to several runoff candidates’ profiles. How do you know if there’s a runoff in which you can vote next month? Don’t miss our recent blog post on runoffs with lists of all the runoff candidates and tips on who is eligible to vote in a primary runoff election.


ThinkstockPhotos-455285291_gavelATPE filed a petition against the commissioner of education on Monday challenging his newly adopted rules to implement T-TESS as the state’s new recommended appraisal system. As we’ve been reporting here on Teach the Vote, the new rules were published last week in the Texas Register and are scheduled to take effect July 1, 2016, unless legal challenges by ATPE and other groups delay the roll-out of the new system.

Read our T-TESS blog post from Monday, which includes background information on ATPE’s legal challenge and why we take issue with aspects of the T-TESS rules. Also, be sure to check out our new T-TESS resource page on ATPE.org, where you’ll find details on the T-TESS design, history of the changes, links to news articles, and additional resources.


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) held a public hearing earlier this week on proposed rules implementing the state’s new law providing for Districts of Innovation. Part of 2015’s House Bill 1842, we’ve been reporting on how the law allows certain acceptably performing school districts to propose local innovation plans and claim exemptions from numerous state laws found in the Texas Education Code (TEC). School districts that claim the waivers could operate in virtually the same manner as a charter school.

Monty Exter

Monty Exter

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testified at Monday’s public hearing, raising concerns about unintended consequences in school districts that seek blanket waivers from all the statutes that are exemptible under the new law. He also pointed out districts could likely try to exempt themselves from aspects of the state’s school finance system, which would create “chaos” in how public schools are funded. Monty urged the commissioner to place additional safeguards into the rules to ensure that districts adopting innovation plans make their intentions clear to stakeholders who will be affected by them, including students, educators, and parents. Read more about the hearing in Monty’s blog post from Tuesday, and also check out ATPE’s quick video interview with him about innovation districts.

TEA is also accepting public written comments on the proposed rules. Submit your input by Monday, May 2, using the TEA website where you can view the commissioner’s proposed rules.


Next week, the House Public Education Committee will hold an interim hearing. The committee will meet on Tuesday in a joint hearing with the House Committee on Economic & Small Business Development. The committees will discuss partnerships between institutions of higher education, public schools, and the workforce that promote college and career readiness. The committee will hear both invited and public testimony. ATPE will be at the hearing and will report on any developments. The hearing begins at 10:00AM and can be watched live here.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: April 22, 2016

Here’s a summary of this week’s education news highlights:

 


ThinkstockPhotos-481431733As we’ve been reporting for a few months now, there are two big elections happening during the month of May. First, the local uniform election date is May 7, followed by the May 24 election date for primary runoffs.

Early voting begins next week for the May 7 local elections, which are different from the primary runoffs. Many local political subdivisions conduct their elections on this date, including some school board positions. There are also two special elections taking place on May 7 in legislative districts with vacancies. House District 120 and House District 139 are both open seats due to resignations of Reps. Ruth Jones McClendon (D) and Sylvester Turner (D) respectively. The winners of those two special elections will serve out the remainder of the representatives’ terms for this year, but may not necessarily be the same candidates who will take those seats for the next full term beginning in January 2017. Visit  our 2016 Races page to view the candidates in these races with indications of whether they are running in the special election, the regular 2016 election, or both.

Early voting for the May 7 election ends Tuesday, May 3.

Monday, April 25, is your last day to register if you intend to vote in the May 24 primary runoff elections. Visit VoteTexas.gov to find out how to register to vote. If you aren’t sure whether or not you are eligible to vote in a particular party’s runoff election, please read our blog post on runoff voting to learn more about voter eligibility.

Early voting for the May 24 primary runoffs will begin on May 16. If you happen to live in a runoff district (mostly in the central and eastern parts of the state), now is the time to study up on the candidates who are running in your area. Use our 2016 Races search page to find and view candidates’ profiles. Several runoff candidates just recently participated in our ATPE candidate survey, so be sure to check out what they have to say about major education issues including testing, teacher evaluations, vouchers, and educators’ healthcare benefits.


We reported last week that the State Board for Education Certification (SBEC) was meeting on Friday, April 15. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann attended the meeting and wrote a summary for Teach the Vote on actions taken by the certification board. Read Kate’s blog post from Tuesday to learn more about changes to certification exam rules and future comprehensive revisions that are planned for the regulations that apply to educator preparation programs.

Also this week, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann provided an update on the conclusion of negotiated rulemaking for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Washington, D.C. Learn more about how the new federal law is being implemented in Kate’s blog post from yesterday.

On Tuesday, April 19, the House Appropriations Committee held an interim hearing to discuss revenue and factors that have an impact on the state’s economy and budget. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson attended the meeting and reported on it as follows: The House Appropriations Committee heard from the Comptroller and Legislative Budget Board regarding the Texas economy and the Economic Stabilization Fund, commonly known as the Rainy Day Fund. While more jobs are still being created in Texas than lost, ripple effects from the price of oil and natural gas being depressed have resulted in lower state revenue collections than what was previously projected. Going into the 2015 legislative session, the state had roughly $8 billion in excess revenue available to be included in the two-year budget. Going into 2017, the excess revenue will be approximately $4 billion, with only $600 million being General Revenue that is unrestricted. The remaining $3.4 billion is dedicated to specific purposes. Several pressing issues will be present in the legislature in 2017, including a looming school finance decision from the Supreme Court, a nearly $1.8 billion deficit in TRS-Care, approximately $700 million in Medicaid underfunding, and the potential to redesign active employee health insurance through TRS Activecare, among other needs. The budget is the only piece of legislation that is constitutionally required to pass, and based on the revenue projections, the 2017 budget has the potential to be eerily similar to that of 2003 and 2011 when massive cuts were chosen over increased funding. The choices of our elected officials will directly affect the 5.2 million students and nearly 700,000 employees of Texas’s public schools.


Final commissioner’s rules to implement T-TESS as the state’s new recommended appraisal system were published today in the Texas Register. The rules are intended to take effect on July 1, 2016. However, ATPE and other educator groups are currently pursuing legal options that might have an impact ultimately on implementation of the new rules. We’ll keep you posted on those developments in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, there is a good deal of misinformation regarding T-TESS being reported in the media, but ATPE has developed a resource page to help educators learn more about the new T-TESS system and how it’s designed. Check out our T-TESS resources at atpe.org/T-TESS.


We’ve also been reporting lately on some school districts’ efforts to become Districts of Innovation using a new law that passed in 2015. Passed as an eleventh-hour addition to House Bill 1842, the law on innovation districts allows certain acceptably performing school districts to propose local innovation plans and claim exemptions from numerous state laws found in the Texas Education Code (TEC). School districts that claim the waivers would operate in virtually the same manner as a charter school. ATPE has raised serious concerns about the plans in districts that are considering becoming innovation districts, since blanket waivers could cause teachers to lose many of the statutory rights they currently enjoy, such as contracts and minimum salaries; cause parents to lose access to certain information about their children’s education; and possibly even affect immunity provisions that protect school districts and individual employees of those districts from being sued.

The commissioner has proposed rules for innovation districts and will conduct a public hearing at the request of ATPE and other entities on on Monday, April 25. Stay tuned for updates next week. If you’d like to submit your own public comments on the commissioner’s proposed rules, you have until May 2 to submit those to TEA.

 


On Wednesday of this week, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability met in Austin. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter reported on the meeting as follows:

The commission heard from Dr. James Pellegrino, Distinguished Professor of Education Liberal Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor Co-Director, Learning Sciences Research Institute University of Illinois at Chicago. Among other things, Dr. Pellegrino walked the commission through the differences in formative, interim, and summative testing, explaining what the purposes, benefits, and limitations were of each.

The commission also entertained a “discussion” on the A-F grading and rating system for schools. They brought in Christy Hovanetz, Senior Policy Fellow, Accountability, Foundation for Excellence in Education. Unfortunately, it was more of a sales pitch than a discussion, since the Foundation for Excellence in Education is the organization that former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush (R) created to sell the idea of A-F and other Florida reforms to policymakers around the country.

Lastly, the commission had a discussion with Lori Taylor, Associate Professor and Director of the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics and Public Policy, The Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University, FAST (Financial Allocation Study for Texas) and Paul Haeberlen, President and Chief Operating Officer, Education Resource Group. The talks focused on incorporating elements of FAST, which is the comptroller’s school efficiency matrix, into the academic accountability system. The conversation highlighted policy questions around the differences between rewards and sanctions and focusing on absolute performance versus either productivity or efficiency.

Video archives of all the Commission meetings can be found here.


ThinkstockPhotos-173786481_bluebonnetsHappy Earth Day!

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

There has been much activity on the education front this week. Here’s a summary of the latest developments from your ATPE lobby team:


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

Earlier this week, ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson gave invited testimony before the Joint Interim Committee on TRS Health Benefit Plans regarding rising costs of TRS ActiveCare, the health insurance program for active education employees. It was one of three legislative committees that held meetings on Wednesday to discuss various aspects of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS). Check out the latest blog post from Josh for more details on the committees’ discussions.


SBECThe State Board for Education Certification (SBEC) is meeting today, April 15. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann will provide a full report for Teach the Vote after the meeting, but meanwhile you can check out the board’s lengthy agenda here. Hot topics for discussion today include planned future changes to the rules pertaining to educator preparation programs (EPPs), final adoption of new standards for obtaining a principal certificate, finalizing a new rule limiting certification candidates to five attempts to pass a certification exam and considering requests for waivers of that limit, approval of accreditation statuses for all of the state’s EPPs, and an update on possible future changes to the design of certain “Core Subjects” certification exams. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates and follow @ATPE_KateK on Twitter for more.

 



Commissioner of Education Mike Morath made news this week with announcement of several new hires at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to comprise his senior staff. Read TEA’s press release about the new employees here. Media outlets were quick to report that Morath’s new executive team hails largely from the charter school environment, and the changes in the organizational structure are marked by the departure of several long-time TEA staffers known for their considerable expertise in complex areas of education policy, such as school finance and student testing. For more, check out a related story from our friend Lauren McGaughy over at the Dallas Morning News.

Monty Exter

Monty Exter

In other news pertaining to TEA, we posted an update on Monday to our earlier blog post about STAAR testing and concerns about test administrators being forced to time students’ bathroom breaks. As ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter reported, TEA’s newest communication to school districts explains that breaks will not have to be timed for the May administration of the exams. Read more here.

 


We got our first look this week at the commissioner’s final adopted rules for implementation of T-TESS, the state’s new recommended appraisal system for teachers. The adopted rules are being published in the Texas Register this month and will take effect on July 1, 2016. We’ll be posting comprehensive information about T-TESS on our website in the next few days, but you may click here to view the adopted appraisal rules in the meantime.

As we reported recently, the commissioner has also proposed rules for “Innovation Districts” allowed now under House Bill 1842 that passed last year. A public comment period on the commissioner’s proposed rules ends May 2. ATPE has requested and TEA has agreed to hold a public hearing on the proposed rules on April 25.

The new law on innovation districts allows certain acceptably performing school districts to propose local innovation plans and receive exemptions from numerous state laws. Several school districts are already in the process of considering and developing innovation plans and seeking authority to waive various statutes in the Texas Education Code (TEC) that protect educators, students, and parents. If approved by a school district, waiver authority outlined in a district’s innovation plan could result in teachers losing many of the statutory rights they currently enjoy and parents also losing access to information about their children’s education.

For example, a proposed strategic/innovation plan recently shared by Spring Branch ISD indicates that the district seeks authority to be exempted from most of Chapter 21 of the TEC, which provides for teacher contract rights, the minimum salary schedule, the right to a duty-free lunch, and much more. (The plan states, “SBISD seeks exemption from all permissible provisions of the TEC as allowed in the statute.”) ATPE has encouraged educators in the district to speak out about the district’s proposed plan this month and urge the school board to reject it or rewrite the plan in such a way that educators’ and parents’ rights would be better protected. We’ll be providing additional information about innovation districts in the coming days.

 


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann reported this week on the continuations of negotiated rulemaking for the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Washington, D.C. U.S. Secretary of Education John King also appeared again before a Senate committee to talk about the new federal law. Read Kate’s post from yesterday to learn more.

 


Here are some upcoming meetings and events of interest:

  • On Tuesday, April 19, the Senate Education Committee will hold an interim hearing to discuss digital learning opportunities and barriers. NOTE: This meeting has been postponed. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates when it’s rescheduled.
  • Also on Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee will meet to talk about what’s often called the state’s rainy day fund, as well as factors that could impact the Texas economy and state budget, such as declining oil prices.
  • April 25 is the deadline to register to vote in the primary runoff elections taking place in May. Check out our recent blog post on runoff voting to learn more about voter eligibility, or visit VoteTexas.gov to find out how to register to vote. Also on April 25, early voting begins for the May 7 local elections, which are different from the primary runoffs.
  • As noted previously, the Texas Education Agency will hold a public hearing on April 25 to hear public testimony on proposed commissioner’s rules for Innovation Districts.
  • Pastors for Texas Children is hosting three community meetings in west Texas to discuss the value and future of public education. The first is taking place in Abilene on April 25, followed by Amarillo on April 26, and Lubbock on April 27. Note that the location of the Abilene event has moved from Pioneer Drive Baptist Church to First Baptist Church. Click here to register to attend.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: April 1, 2016

Today is April 1, but we’re not fooling when we tell you it was a busy week at the Texas State Capitol. ATPE’s lobby team has the latest news affecting public education:


 

Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson attended several hearings on Wednesday where the topics of discussion included the state’s budget and the Teacher Retirement System (TRS). Of particular interest was how to fund TRS-Care, which is facing a considerable shortfall heading into the next legislative session. ATPE was among several education groups to testify about the healthcare funding needs of our state’s active and retired educators. Read Josh’s blog post from yesterday to learn more.

 


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

The Senate Education and Higher Education Committees held a joint interim hearing this week on teacher pipeline issues and the ongoing implementation of 2013’s House Bill 5, which overhauled the state’s graduation requirements and accountability system. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann provided testimony to the committee. Read her blog post this week to learn more about the hearing on Tuesday.

 


Monty Exter

Monty Exter

Earlier this week, some students experienced significant issues while taking the online version of the STAAR test. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter reports that upon returning to the system after having left it for a variety of reasons, students found that the work they had already completed on the test was gone. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) quickly released a public statement from Commissioner Mike Morath on Tuesday acknowledging the problem and the fact that it was unacceptable of both the agency and ETS, the state testing vendor, to allow such an issue to have occurred.

On Wednesday, TEA released another statement providing some technical instructions from ETS. Of particular note, the agency also stated in bold typeface, “For students who were not able to complete an online test because of the technology issues related to the STAAR online testing platform, districts are not required to have the students complete the test(s) and should feel under no obligation to do so.” The technical difficulties with the online STAAR testing come on the heels of existing criticism over test administrators’ being require to clock students’ break times during the test and growing concerns about the STAAR tests being unfair to students in special education programs.

 



If you’re planning to submit public comments on the Commissioner of Education’s proposed rules for the state’s new recommended appraisal system for principals, your deadline is Monday, April 4. Click here to view the proposed rules for T-PESS, which would take effect during the 2016-17 school year.

The commissioner has also proposed brand new rules for “Innovation Districts” authorized under last session’s House Bill 1842. The new law allows certain acceptably performing school districts to propose local innovation plans and receive exemptions from various state regulations. Public comments on those rules will be accepted through May 2. Click here to learn more.

Rules implementing a new pre-Kindergarten grant program have now been finalized. Click here to view the commissioner’s adopted rules, including responses to comments submitted by ATPE and other stakeholders after the rules were proposed.

ThinkstockPhotos-126983249_surveillanceNext week we expect to see the official filing of a new rule proposal from the commissioner to guide the implementation of last year’s Senate Bill 507 requiring video surveillance cameras in certain special education settings. Commissioner Morath has already asked the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to provide an opinion on some questions that are considered open to differing interpretations based on the language of the bill. These include clarifying the specific settings in which the video surveillance is required and who may obtain access to the video footage. That request for an OAG opinion remains pending.

ATPE also expects to share an announcement soon about the release of adopted commissioner’s rules implementing the new T-TESS recommended appraisal system for teachers. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates.


On the agenda for next week, the State Board of Education will be meeting in Austin starting Tuesday, April 5. View its agenda and find links for watching live streams of the hearing on the TEA website here. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter will be in attendance and will provide updates for Teach the Vote. Also next week, the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) holds its meetings Thurday and Friday, April 7-8. View the TRS agenda and other materials here, and watch for updates from ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson. Negotiated rulemaking on the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) also continues next week in Washington, D.C.


Finally, join us in celebrating ATPE’s 36th birthday today!

HBD ATPE

Will Texas join states reconsidering evaluation in light of relaxed federal requirements?

Several state legislatures are taking steps to change their teacher evaluation systems in light of new flexibility available to them under federal law. The issue of how to evaluate or appraise teachers has been a topic of great interest for Texas lawmakers in every recent legislative session. Now that the Texas Education Agency is in the middle of developing and piloting a new state-recommended evaluation model, many are watching to see how a newly-appointed commissioner of education will react and how the current primary election could alter the composition of the 85th Texas legislature that will have power to intervene.

With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December came a reduced emphasis on student growth measures tied to teacher evaluations. Prior to ESSA becoming law, however, many states were tied to requirements pushed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) under Secretary Arne Duncan’s waiver process. Those waivers specifically required that states seeking waivers, which included Texas, tie teacher evaluation systems to student standardized test scores. States did so in exchange for flexibility from the onerous and outdated policies of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the nation’s previous law governing education that was, at the time, long overdue for a rewrite.

However, the passage of ESSA made the flexibility from NCLB unnecessary and reduced the pressure for states such as Texas to meet federal expectations of educator evaluation systems. In fact, the new law puts no requirements on states’ teacher evaluation systems. It also allows states to use funding to create educator evaluation systems but does not require that states create such a system. This has allowed several states to rethink the teacher evaluation policies previously enacted because of requirements tied to the waivers and NCLB, which was more specific with regard to creating educator evaluation systems.

The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) is an organization focused on enhancing public education within its 16-member region that includes Texas. According to the SREB, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Tennessee all have bills moving through their respective legislatures that would significantly alter their educator evaluations systems. The SREB said that while state lawmakers are primarily looking to provide flexibility to districts, more specifically, some of the states are looking to reduce the amount that student test scores weigh in an educators evaluation. The SREB offers a bill tracker that highlights all relevant bills filed in the board’s member states on this and other topics. Georgia, for instance, has a bill filed that would reduce the use of standardized test scores to no more than 10 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.

Last month, ATPE encouraged Education Commissioner Mike Morath to consider delaying the adoption of TEA rules that would solidify the state’s new teacher evaluation system, T-TESS. Particularly, ATPE asked Morath to reconsider 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. The state has yet to say how it plans to proceed, although the rules could be adopted any day.

As you go to the polls during this primary election, remember that the candidates you elect will have the ability to make big decisions about criteria that should be a part of the new teacher evaluation system for Texas going forward. The future of education will be determined by this election in several ways; this is just one. Visit our 2016 Races search page here on Teach the Vote to find out where your candidates stand on major issues such as evaluating teachers and what role standardized tests should play. When you go to the polls, vote for the candidates who support your classroom, students, and profession.

Legislative hearings on education took place this week in Texas and D.C.

Education-related hearings took place this week both in Texas cities and in the nation’s capital. Here’s a recap of the topics that were covered.

Congress holds first ESSA oversight hearing

The U.S. House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education met on Wednesday for a hearing entitled “Next Steps for K-12 Education: Implementing the Promise to Restore State and Local Control.” Four individuals were invited to testify at the hearing; the panel of witnesses included a statewide education official, a school superintendent, and two legal representatives.

United States Capitol BuildingThe hearing is the first Congressional oversight hearing on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Congress passed ESSA in December and President Obama signed the bill into law quickly after. Congress has since turned its focus to ensuring the U.S. Department of Education (ED) implements the law in the way lawmakers intended. Today’s hearing was an initial step.

ATPE’s federal lobby team covered the hearing and reported that the primary takeaway was a familiar theme to ESSA: While lawmakers and witnesses praised the transfer of power to state and local authorities, some still cautioned that the flexibility associated with that transfer raises the potential for neglect of at-risk students. Members continue to disagree over the role the federal government should play in ensuring every student receives an adequate and equal education. Democratic Members tended to continue to stress that the federal government does have a responsibility to ensure that there is equitable treatment and evenhanded disbursement of funds; while two of the witnesses and some Republican members felt that the responsibility was now solely in the hands of the states.

Another line of disagreement when addressing the federal government’s role dealt with ED’s rulemaking and regulation-writing authority. Some stressed that the federal government is not prohibited from acting when states fail to meet federal requirements, but others felt that student success is higher when state and local authorities maintain the power.

Later this month, members of Congress will have the chance to express these disagreements with ED directly. Acting Secretary of Education John King will visit the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to testify on ESSA implementation. That hearing is scheduled to take place on Feb. 25, the day after King visits the committee to discuss the President’s budget proposal. Teach the Vote will continue to provide relevant updates on these and other actions pertaining to ESSA implementation.

 

Texas Senate and House Public Education Committees

The House Public Education Committee met on Tuesday in Austin to discuss two interim charges pertaining to best practices in middle school grades and high performing students. The first invited panel addressed the interim charge pertaining to initiatives in middle school grades and consisted of individuals focused on researching, developing, and implementing research-based best practices for middle school classrooms.

Anne Wick, the Senior Advisor for Middle School Matters at the Bush Institute, explained what her organization is doing to with regard to middle school grades. She highlighted that students at risk of failing to graduate high school can be identified in their middle school years. The Institute is working with the University of Texas to focus best practices on research-based methodologies. Dr. Sharon Vaughn, who leads the research project, testified on the university’s work to develop a field guide, saying that the idea was to focus on best practices grounded in high quality research. The final panelist, Farrah Gomez, represented San Angelo ISD where the best practices are being implemented in classrooms.

Several members of the committee asked questions regarding the staff’s commitment to the partnership. Ms. Gomez stressed that educator buy-in was a significant piece of implementation and that involving teachers in the identification of the methods ultimately used in the classroom allowed teachers to have ownership in the process. Another key piece that Ms. Gomez highlighted is the district’s focus on support. She said that supporting teachers central to leading the project is important to its success. Gomez added that while the district has seen gains in test scores, the focus is not on evaluations based on assessments.

In addition to staff development and support, the committee members and public testifiers addressed the need for balancing autonomy and consistency, the role of counselors, education for administrators, mental illness and wrap-around services, and the success of the community schools in middle schools, among other issues.

The second panel of witnesses was invited to address high performing students. Representatives from the Texas Education Agency, the Texas High Performing Schools Consortium, and the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented made up the panel.

The TEA representatives spoke about what the agency is doing with respect to high performing students. Robert Bayard of the Texas High Performing Schools Consortium spoke as a district program director for high performing students. Mr. Bayard shared his first-hand insight on the importance of students demonstrating the information they learn without the pressures of high stakes tests being attached. He said high performing students need to be liberated from “meaningless assessments” but also described how this could benefit other students. Priscilla Lurz of the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented focused her testimony on the array of services offered, but also suggested that disaggregating the data of high performing students would allow school districts to focus on their needs and address any issues raised. She also recommended a variety of non-test-based measures. The committee members discussed with TEA how the accountability system could accommodate these recommendations.

The Senate Education Committee also held an interim hearing this week in McAllen, Texas. The committee met Wednesday to discuss legislation concerning the placement of cameras in special education classrooms and legislation involving support for counselors and middle school students. The committee’s vice-chairman, Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) of nearby Brownsville, authored last year’s Senate Bill 507 requiring the addition of cameras in certain classrooms and has also filed several bills over the years relating to school counselors. Senators also received a briefing on English Language Learners at the meeting.

 

The Texas Legislature’s interim is busy and you can expect more updates from Teach the Vote as developments unfold.

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.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Dec. 18, 2015

Here are recent stories that made news in another big week for Texas education:


As we reported last week, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), has been signed into law, officially reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), previously known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

While the ESSA is not a perfect solution, many educators are optimistic that the new law will help reduce the emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal policies going forward. Of course, many questions linger, especially here in Texas where plans are already underway to implement a new teacher evaluation system. The new evaluation framework, called T-TESS, has been based largely on criteria linked to the state’s ESEA/NCLB waiver, which will expire formally in 2016. Draft commissioner’s rules to implement T-TESS have been posted recently, and the Texas Education Agency is accepting public comments on them now through Jan. 11, 2016Read more about the ESSA and its potential impact on Texas’s testing and teacher evaluation policies in our blog post from last week.

In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is beginning the implementation process for the new federal law and welcoming new leadership. John B. King, Jr. takes over as Secretary with the departure of Arne Duncan this month. ED has established a webpage with ESSA resources here, where you may view the actual text of the bill, read a White House fact sheet on ESSA, or even submit questions to the department about the new law. Publication of a “request for information” in the Federal Register on Dec. 22 also commences a 30-day public comment period on the federal law. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote in 2016 for future updates on ESSA implementation.


The U.S. Department of Education is not the only education agency undergoing personnel changes at the top. Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that he has selected Mike Morath to become our state’s next Commissioner of Education. Commissioner Michael Williams is resigning at the end of this month. Morath will be relocating to Austin from Dallas, where he has been serving on the board of trustees for Dallas ISD. We wrote about the governor’s pick on our blog earlier this week. For insight into Morath’s priorities as commissioner, check out the KERA News interview that is also featured on The Texas Tribune‘s website here.


The U.S. Senate is expected to vote today on a bill that would extend several tax credits for 2015, including the teacher tax deduction for classroom supplies. The deal is part of a major spending bill that was negotiated by congressional leaders earlier this week in order to avoid a government shutdown and fund services through September 2016. The bill includes a variety of tax breaks valued at approximately $600 billion within the $1.1 trillion plan. Under the pending proposal, elementary and secondary school teachers who dip into their own pockets to buy classroom supplies will be allowed to deduct up to $250 from their federal income taxes for those expenditures, and this time the deduction will be made permanent. The U.S. House already approved the spending measure yesterday, and the upper chamber is expected to give it a favorable nod today.


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

In last week’s wrap-up, we shared a few highlights of actions taken by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) during its Dec. 11 meeting. Of particular interest was an agenda item to re-adopt a rule pertaining to certification requirements for Texas superintendents. SBEC’s original attempt to rewrite the rule was rejected by the State Board of Education (SBOE) after ATPE and other educator groups complained that the rule watered down the standards. In addition to adopting a second revision to the rule last week, SBEC also took several actions relating to educator discipline and educator preparation programs. This week, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann, who attended and testified at the lengthy hearing, has provided more detail on the board’s deliberations that day. Read her latest blog post here.


Monty Exter

Monty Exter

The Texas Legislature passed a bill in 2015 that requires school districts to place video surveillance camera systems in certain classrooms serving students in special education programsSenate Bill (SB) 507 by Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) takes effect in 2016. With attention turning to how districts are implementing the requirements, NPR News did a feature story about the new law this week. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter was quoted in the story, which notes that some Texas school districts could incur millions in costs to comply with the law. The legislature did not provide any additional funding to equip classrooms with the camera equipment that is required. Read the full article here, courtesy of NPR. For additional background information, check out ATPE’s FAQs about SB 507 as compiled by our Governmental Relations and Member Legal Services staffs earlier this year.


The ATPE office will be closed for the holidays from Dec. 21 through Jan. 1, 2016. We will resume normal office hours on Jan. 4, 2016. We at ATPE wish you a wonderful holiday season and look forward to sharing more news with you in 2016. Watch for exciting updates coming soon to Teach the Vote, including profiles of candidates running in the 2016 elections for the legislature and State Board of Education. We’ll see you in the new year!

Holiday Decorations Card