Tag Archives: reform

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Aug. 19, 2016

Catch up on this week’s education news here:


tea-logo-header-2The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released the 2016 district and school academic accountability ratings this week. While there was a very slight uptick in the number of districts needing improvement, driven in part by a 68.7% increase in the percentage of charters failing to meet standards, the number of campuses rated improvement required, the more important indicator, continued to decrease. From 2013 to 2016, the number of campuses rated Improvement Required has steadily dropped from 768, or 9% of all campuses, to 467, just 5.4% of campuses. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter breaks down the ratings here.

 


capitol building, austin, texas, usa

The Senate Education Committee met on Tuesday to hear testimony and updates on interim charges involving governance and the implementation of bills passed by the Texas Legislature last session that dealt with prekindergarten and educator preparation. The charges included the following:

Examine current school board governance policies and practices and make recommendations that could improve the focus, attitudes, and outcomes of Texas school boards, districts, and students. Study existing board training requirements for public schools and make suggestions to education school board trustees of policies that could achieve better student outcomes, particularly within the framework set for low-performing schools in House Bill 1842 (HB1842)(84R).

Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Education and make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, and/or complete implementation. Specifically, monitor the following:

  • Initiatives to build a high-quality pre-kindergarten grant program; and
  • Legislation to raise standards of teacher preparation programs and establish a more consistent, high-quality accountability system.

In comments to the committee, Commissioner of Education Mike Morath told senators that he has set a goal to cut the number of low-performing schools in half over the next five years. He spoke regularly about the importance of district leadership and said the Texas Education Agency (TEA) will take an aggressive approach to assigning and building district-level interventions, saying he believes that the harsher options are often the most effective. ATPE testified on the charge, reminding senators that while focusing on low-performing schools is important, we can’t do so with merely a band-aid approach. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter told the committee that there are systemic issues that need addressing, and we must look at the inputs of the system in addition to the outputs.

On educator preparation and prekindergarten, the agency and other invited testifiers updated the committee on the implementation of bills falling into these issue areas. There has been significant reporting on the implementation of HB 4, the Governor’s prekindergarten bill from last session. The per-student funding ultimately provided was a level far below expectations, and some districts have turned down the funding because the expense of implementing all of the bill’s quality control requirements exceeds the funding received. Still, others were present to showcase how they are using the supplemental funding to enhance or build their prekindergarten programs. At the hearing on Tuesday, some senators questioned whether the prekindergarten investment was worth it; many senators and testifiers felt it was too soon to see the benefits in Texas and pointed to a body of research on the advantages to prekindergarten.

ATPE has been a leader on raising standards for educator preparation in Texas. Last session, we filed and helped pass several pieces of legislation that raised standards for candidate entrance requirements and preparation programs throughout Texas. The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) and TEA are currently in the process of implementing some of those provisions as well as making additional rule changes. ATPE was once again before the committee this month to support raised standards. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann told lawmakers that ATPE remains focused on the issue because we cannot place ill-prepared teachers in the classroom and expect excellence. She told senators it is critical that we focus on strong training and continue to support teachers as they grow in their practice.

Watch a broadcast of the full hearing here.

 


The often controversial education reform groups Texans for Education Reform (TER) and the Texas Institute for Education Reform (TIER) have officially joined forces, merging to become Texas Aspires. The new group will maintain much of the staff, board members, funding, and priorities previously held by the two groups. Texas Aspires is expected to announce more of its vision next week. Staying on board will be former Texas State Senator Florence Shapiro and many business-focused board members who fund and direct the organization. It is unclear at this time as to whether the group will maintain its almost two-dozen lobby contracts that propelled the group’s influence during previous legislative sessions. Watch for more on Teach the Vote as Texas Aspires begins to position itself ahead of next session.

 


ATPE wishes all educators beginning a new school year a very happy back-to-school! Best wishes to you and all Texas students! Welcome back to school poster

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 3, 2016

Happy Friday! Here are some of this week’s blog highlights from Teach the Vote:

 


Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

On our blog this week, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann writes about ongoing efforts to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in Washington. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has proposed new federal rules to implement certain accountability aspects of the law, which would require states to respond by implementing their corresponding accountability systems in the 2017-18 school year. ATPE has also written to ED Secretary John King offering input on testing and educator quality issues affected by ESSA. Read Kate’s blog post to learn more.

A delegation of ATPE state officers and staff members will be traveling to D.C. this month for meetings with the Texas congressional delegation and ED officials. Talks will focus not only on ESSA implementation but also on the continuing efforts to address Social Security reform and the unfair Windfall Elimination Provision through Congressman Kevin Brady’s (R-TX) ETPSA bill.

 


Josh Sanderson

Josh Sanderson

In the wake of a disappointing ruling from the Texas Supreme Court that our state’s school finance system is constitutional, education stakeholders are wondering if there will be any impetus for lawmakers to take steps to improve the flawed system next session. This week, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) called for two House committees to add new interim charges to their agenda this year in an effort to keep school finance at the forefront of legislative planning for 2017. ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson wrote about the new interim charges on our blog this week, noting that insufficient school funding leads to “immense pressure on local taxpayers, classroom teachers, and students.”

Under the directive this week from Speaker Straus, the House Appropriations and Public Education Committees are jointly being asked to study the following:

  • Current law requires the elimination on September 1, 2017, of Additional State Aid for Tax Relief (ASATR), which was intended to offset the cost of tax-rate compressions enacted in 2006. Review how this loss of funding would impact school districts.
  • Study the use of local property taxes to fund public education and its effects on educational quality and on Texas taxpayers. Specifically, recommend ways to reverse the increasing reliance on recapture payments to fund public education statewide.

On the Texas Senate side, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) responded to the new House interim charges by issuing a statement emphasizing his focus on education reform priorities, which include private school vouchers. Advocating a reform package deal, Patrick wrote, “Everyone knows education policy reform and school finance reform must go hand in hand.”

Read more about the school finance interim studies in Josh’s blog post from yesterday.

 


ThinkstockPhotos-470725623_voteThere is news out today regarding last week’s primary runoff elections, including a few contests that were close enough to result in calls for recounts.

As we reported following the May 24 runoff election night, Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) lost his election to challenger Briscoe Cain (R) by a mere 23 votes. That prompted a request for a recount, which Harris County election officials completed today, confirming Cain as the winner of the runoff for House District 128. Meanwhile, another recount request is still pending in House District 54, where Killeen mayor Scott Cosper (R) defeated Austin Ruiz (R) in the Republican primary runoff by a margin of only 43 votes. We’ll bring you the results of that recount when it’s completed.

Related: The Texas Association of Community Schools (TACS) shared a voting update today with fellow members of the Texas Educators Vote coalition, including ATPE. In the update, TACS’s Laura Yeager writes about the low turnout in the recent runoff elections as well as how much some groups spent to try to defeat pro-public education candidates this year. Laura writes, “A recent article in the Quorum Report stated that education reformers spent $3.2 million to defeat pro-public education candidates, including those that support Speaker Joe Straus. While educators generally don’t have millions of dollars to throw into elections, they do have upwards of 700,000 votes, which can and should carry as much weight as pure dollars. We are grateful for the culture of voting that has been developing across the state, and we will need to continue to cultivate it for the general election and in years to come. Only when all educators use their hard earned right and privilege of voting, will we be able to fight the vast amount of money being poured into elections by education reformers that lines the pockets of business and slowly kills public education as it is imagined in the Texas Constitution.” We agree wholeheartedly with Laura’s assessment, and we hope that Texas educators’ participation in the 2016 elections will be enough to counter the privatization and other dangerous reform proposals that are certain to arise in the 2017 legislative session.


The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is gearing up to make significant changes to educator preparation and certification rules over the new few months. First, on Thursday, June 9, the board will convene for a work session to consider the role of educator preparation programs (EPPs), the educator preparation experience through both traditional and alternative EPPs, national trends, and other matters relating to educator preparation and certification. No public testimony will be taken on Thursday, but SBEC will hold its regular board meeting on Friday, June 10. View the agenda here, which includes anticipated rule changes for the criteria to enter an EPP and the accountability system for EPPs. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on SBEC rulemaking actions from ATPE’s lobby team.

On Monday, June 13, the House Pensions Committee is holding an interim meeting in Houston, TX; the Texas Education Agency is conducting a public hearing on proposed changes to rules for the Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS); and the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability is holding yet another work session to develop its recommendations to the 85th Legislature. We’ll have updates on these and other events affecting public education on our blog.

16_Web_SummitSpotlightHave you registered for the ATPE Summit, taking place at the Austin Convention Center, July 20-22? This year’s summit will feature professional development and leadership training sessions, including advocacy updates from the ATPE lobby team; an opportunity for ATPE members to shape our organization’s legislative program and bylaws; plus plenty of other lively, informative, and entertaining activities. Learn more at ATPESummit.org

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/.

Vote for candidates who will improve teacher compensation

This is the eleventh post in our A Dozen Days, A Dozen Ways to Vote Your Profession series.


At issue: Teacher compensation plays an important role in efforts to recruit and retain high-quality teachers, as discussed in a recent editorial by ATPE State President Ginger Franks. Nationwide, the average teacher salary exceeds $56,000, while Texas teachers are paid an average of $48,000. If Texas ever expects to become a global education leader, our teacher salaries must be at least equal to and preferably greater than the national average, which means that we still have a long way to go. Keeping salaries competitive with other professions and private industry is also critical to maintaining an adequate supply of teachers, especially in hard-to-staff subject areas like science and math. Studies have shown that funding additional stipends to entice high-performing college students and professionals to teach those subjects is a successful strategy to improve teacher quality. Differentiated pay for educators who undertake advanced training or other professional duties outside their normal instructional activities, such as mentoring a new teacher, can also help with teacher retention.

The state minimum salary schedule for teachers needs to be protected: While differentiated pay and targeted bonuses can and should be used strategically, it is essential that we maintain an adequate base pay structure for all teachers. The state’s minimum salary schedule (MSS), which fosters teacher retention by ensuring gradual pay increases over a 20-year span, has been under attack in recent legislative sessions. Critics of the MSS, including well-funded reform groups like Texans for Education Reform, Texans Deserve Great Schools and Educate Texas, falsely claim that its experience-based formula prevents school districts from adopting their own pay scales and strategic compensation plans that reward the best teachers. We disagree, and we hear frequently from educators who believe that the MSS provides an incentive to stay in the classroom and who would prefer it to be expanded rather than eliminated.

We must elect pro-public education candidates who understand the important function of the minimum salary schedule: Legislators who’ve attempted to repeal the salary schedule dismiss educators’ concerns as “institutional resistance to change” and ignore the fact that the MSS was designed to be merely a floor for teachers’ salaries across their first 20 years of teaching. The MSS was adopted with the intent that districts would pay teachers above the state minimums according to their own locally developed criteria. Most districts do pay above the MSS, with the excess payments often structured as performance-based increases. If the Legislature would comply with its constitutional obligation to adequately fund public education, more districts would probably be able to offer strategic payments above the state minimums. Moreover, in the decades that the school finance system has been in and out of litigation, pay increases for teachers have been few and isolated, but the MSS is what has made it possible to direct funds to the classroom where they are most needed. The MSS also helps stabilize the Teacher Retirement Statement (TRS), which is tied directly to the existing salary schedule.

Your future earnings as an educator depend on the participation of the education profession in this primary election: Too many of our legislators have bought into reformer rhetoric about teacher compensation. Educators cannot afford to remain a silent majority on this issue. View your legislators’ profiles on Teach the Vote to find out how they voted in 2013 on issues such as merit pay (see “Senate Vote #3”) or requiring a state survey of teacher salaries (see “House Vote #4”). Although the March 4 primary elections are only two days away, there is still time for you to talk to your friends and family about what’s at stake in this election. Don’t forget that in 21 legislative races, the November general election will be irrelevant, and the winner will be decided Tuesday. The legislature won’t stand up for better teacher pay unless the members of the education profession send a message now. This Tuesday, vote your profession.

“The Myth Behind Public School Failure” from YES! Magazine

In the rush to privatize the country’s schools, corporations and politicians have decimated school budgets, replaced teaching with standardized testing, and placed the blame on teachers and students.

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by Dean Paton
YES! Magazine, Spring 2014

Until about 1980, America’s public schoolteachers were iconic everyday heroes painted with a kind of Norman Rockwell patina—generally respected because they helped most kids learn to read, write and successfully join society. Such teachers made possible at least the idea of a vibrant democracy.

Since then, what a turnaround: We’re now told, relentlessly, that bad-apple schoolteachers have wrecked K-12 education; that their unions keep legions of incompetent educators in classrooms; that part of the solution is more private charter schools; and that teachers as well as entire schools lack accountability, which can best be remedied by more and more standardized “bubble” tests.

What led to such an ignoble fall for teachers and schools? Did public education really become so irreversibly terrible in three decades? Is there so little that’s redeemable in today’s schoolhouses?

The beginning of “reform”

To truly understand how we came to believe our educational system is broken, we need a history lesson. Rewind to 1980—when Milton Friedman, the high priest of laissez-faire economics, partnered with PBS to produce a ten-part television series called Free to Choose. He devoted one episode to the idea of school vouchers, a plan to allow families what amounted to publicly funded scholarships so their children could leave the public schools and attend private ones.

You could make a strong argument that the current campaign against public schools started with that single TV episode. To make the case for vouchers, free-market conservatives, corporate strategists, and opportunistic politicians looked for any way to build a myth that public schools were failing, that teachers (and of course their unions) were at fault, and that the cure was vouchers and privatization.

Jonathan Kozol, the author and tireless advocate for public schools, called vouchers the “single worst, most dangerous idea to have entered education discourse in my adult life.”

Armed with Friedman’s ideas, President Reagan began calling for vouchers. In 1983, his National Commission on Excellence in Education issued “A Nation At Risk,” a report that declared, “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

It also said, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

For a document that’s had such lasting impact, “A Nation At Risk” is remarkably free of facts and solid data. Not so the Sandia Report, a little-known follow-up study commissioned by Admiral James Watkins, Reagan’s secretary of energy; it discovered that the falling test scores which caused such an uproar were really a matter of an expansion in the number of students taking the tests. In truth, standardized-test scores were going up for every economic and ethnic segment of students—it’s just that, as more and more students began taking these tests over the 20-year period of the study, this more representative sample of America’s youth better reflected the true national average. It wasn’t a teacher problem. It was a statistical misread.

How the Reagan administration flunked math (click image to view larger)

How the Reagan Administration Flunked Math (click image to view larger)

The government never officially released the Sandia Report. It languished in peer-review purgatory until the Journal of Educational Research published it in 1993. Despite its hyperbole (or perhaps because of it), “A Nation At Risk” became a timely cudgel for the larger privatization movement. With Reagan and Friedman, the Nobel-Prize-winning economist, preaching that salvation would come once most government services were turned over to private entrepreneurs, the privatizers began proselytizing to get government out of everything from the post office to the public schools.

Corporations recognized privatization as a euphemism for profits. “Our schools are failing” became the slogan for those who wanted public-treasury vouchers to move money into private schools. These cries continue today.

The era of accountability

In 2001, less than a year into the presidency of George W. Bush, the federal government enacted sweeping legislation called “No Child Left Behind.” Supporters described it as a new era of accountability—based on standardized testing. The act tied federal funding for public schools to student scores on standardized tests. It also guaranteed millions in profits to corporations such as Pearson PLC, the curriculum and testing juggernaut, which made more than $1 billion in 2012 selling textbooks and bubble tests.

In 2008, the economy collapsed. State budgets were eviscerated. Schools were desperate for funding. In 2009, President Obama and his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, created a program they called “Race to the Top.”

It didn’t replace No Child Left Behind; it did step in with grants to individual states for their public schools. Obama and Duncan put desperate states in competition with each other. Who got the money was determined by several factors, including which states did the best job of improving the performance of failing schools—which, in practice, frequently means replacing public schools with for-profit charter schools—and by a measure of school success based on students’ standardized-test scores that allegedly measured “progress.”

Since 2001 and No Child Left Behind, the focus of education policy makers and corporate-funded reformers has been to insist on more testing—more ways to quantify and measure the kind of education our children are getting, as well as more ways to purportedly quantify and measure the effectiveness of teachers and schools. For a dozen or so years, this “accountability movement” was pretty much the only game in town. It used questionable, even draconian, interpretations of standardized-test results to brand schools as failures, close them, and replace them with for-profit charter schools.

Resistance

Finally, in early 2012, then-Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott kindled a revolt of sorts, saying publicly that high-stakes exams are a “perversion.” His sentiments quickly spread to Texas school boards, whose resolution stating that tests were “strangling education” gained support from more than 875 school districts representing more than 4.4 million Texas public-school students. Similar, if smaller, resistance to testing percolated in other communities nationally.

Then, in January 2013, teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School announced they would refuse to give their students the Measures of Academic Progress Test—the MAP test. Despite threats of retaliation by their district, they held steadfast. By May, the district caved, telling its high schools the test was no longer mandatory.

Garfield’s boycott triggered a nationwide backlash to the “reform” that began with Friedman and the privatizers in 1980. At last, Americans from coast to coast have begun redefining the problem for what it really is: not an education crisis but a manufactured catastrophe, a facet of what Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalism.”

Look closely—you’ll recognize the formula: Underfund schools. Overcrowd classrooms. Mandate standardized tests sold by private-sector firms that “prove” these schools are failures. Blame teachers and their unions for awful test scores. In the bargain, weaken those unions, the largest labor organizations remaining in the United States. Push nonunion, profit-oriented charter schools as a solution.

If a Hurricane Katrina or a Great Recession comes along, all the better. Opportunities for plunder increase as schools go deeper into crisis, whether genuine or ginned up. 

WhyCorporationsWantOurPublicSchools-YesMag

Infographic: Why Corporations Want Our Public Schools (click image to view larger)

The reason for privatization

Chris Hedges, the former New York Times correspondent, appeared on Democracy Now! in 2012 and told host Amy Goodman the federal government spends some $600 billion a year on education—“and the corporations want it. That’s what’s happening.

And that comes through charter schools. It comes through standardized testing. And it comes through breaking teachers’ unions and essentially hiring temp workers, people who have very little skills.”

If you doubt Hedges, at least trust Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul and capitalist extraordinaire whose Amplify corporation already is growing at a 20 percent rate, thanks to its education contracts. “When it comes to K through 12 education,” Murdoch said in a November 2010 press release, “we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.”

Corporate-speak for, “Privatize the public schools. Now, please.”

In a land where the free market has near-religious status, that’s been the answer for a long time. And it’s always been the wrong answer. The problem with education is not bad teachers making little Johnny into a dolt. It’s about Johnny making big corporations a bundle—at the expense of the well-educated citizenry essential to democracy.

And, of course, it’s about the people and ideas now reclaiming and rejuvenating our public schools and how we all can join the uprising against the faux reformers.


Dean Paton wrote this article for Education Uprising, the Spring 2014 issue of YES! Magazine. Dean is executive editor of YES! Educators are eligible to receive a free one-year subscription to YES! Magazine.YES! Magazine’s stories and positive solutions will inspire your students to make a difference in their own lives and in their communities. Click here for more details and to sign up