Tag Archives: superintendents

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Oct. 2, 2015

October and the weekend have arrived! Here are education stories that made the news this week.

ATPE representatives visited the U.S. Department of Education this summer to discuss the state's ESEA waiver

ATPE representatives visited the U.S. Department of Education this summer to discuss the state’s ESEA waiver request. Texas received an extension of the waiver this week but learned that our state has been placed on “high-risk status.”

In 2013, Texas asked the U.S. Department of Education to waive certain outdated accountability provisions in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The federal government granted us flexibility on a temporary basis, conditioned on Texas’s agreeing to change the way it evaluates educators. As TEA has been developing and piloting a new state-recommended system for evaluations of teachers and principals (T-TESS and T-PESS), the state has sought and received short-term extensions of the waiver. Now, the feds are giving Texas a January 2016 deadline to show that it is prepared to meet the Obama administration’s demands on requiring all schools to use the state’s new evaluation model and base personnel decisions upon it. Commissioner of Education Michael Williams says it’s not that simple though. Read more in our blog post earlier this week about the state’s commitment to local control. Also, view ATPE’s press release about the news.


If you plan to submit written feedback to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) about its troubling plan to allow superintendents to become certified despite having no master’s degree or prior experience as an educator, the public comment period ends Monday, Oct. 5. ATPE has been a vocal opponent of the proposed rule change and submitted formal written comments to the board yesterday. Read more about the proposal that’s on the agenda for SBEC’s next meeting on Oct. 16 and view our complete written comments in ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann’s blog post from yesterday. Click here for more details on how you may submit your own comments to SBEC via e-mail between now and Monday.


From Washington, D.C., it was announced today that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will step down in December. That’s one of many education news highlights you’ll pick up when you follow Teach the VoteATPE, and members of our lobby team on Twitter and other social media sites. Here’s a recent sampling:



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next steps:

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

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

Happy Friday! Here’s a review of some education stories that made the news this week.

This week ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson provided an update on our efforts to address federal laws that reduce educators’ Social Security benefits. Sanderson writes, “The cost of completely repealing the GPO and WEP has proven to be prohibitive, and no federal legislation that would repeal either provision has ever been successful.” However, working alongside U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and the Texas Retired Teachers Association, ATPE is lobbying in D.C. for a bill that Sanderson explains “would repeal the existing arbitrary WEP formula and replace it with one that actually reflects the contributions employees have made to Social Security.”

We republished an article yesterday from The Texas Tribune‘s Kiah Collier about the pending school finance litigation. Collier writes that “the consensus among experts and insiders is that a decision will come early next year and likely will require a 2016 special legislative session because it will favor, at least in part, the 600 school districts suing the state. That could mean that a school finance fix is in place before the next school year.” The article also discusses the impact of the 2016 elections on the timing of such a ruling and a possible special session.

Don’t forget that the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is still accepting public comments on its proposal to allow superintendents to become certified despite having no prior experience as a teacher or principal. You may submit written comments via e-mail to SBEC now through Oct. 5. Click here for more details.

View additional stories you may have missed from Teach the VoteATPE, and other public education supporters on social media this week:

Tweets for 9-18-15 wrap-up


Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Sept. 11, 2015

Did you enjoy this shortened work week? Here’s a recap of this week’s top Texas education news.

The State Board of Education (SBOE) met Wednesday through Friday of this week. ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter attended the meetings and provided an update for Teach the Vote earlier today. Among topics discussed by the board were the length of STAAR tests, how graduation rates are calculated, and funding a long-range education plan.

As we have reported on Teach the Vote, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is considering changing its rules for becoming certified as a superintendent in Texas. The proposal would eliminate requirements for graduate degrees and prior experience as a teacher and principal. We encourage ATPE members concerned about the controversial proposal to submit written comments to SBEC now through Oct. 5. Click here for instructions on how to submit your comments via e-mail.

hb 2186 testimony infographicNational Suicide Prevention Week has been observed this week. Many Texas public schools marked the occasion with training programs, and several ATPE representatives spoke to the media about renewed efforts to help prevent suicide among schoolchildren.

Earlier this year, ATPE worked successfully to pass House Bill 2186 by Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), which aims to help educators become trained to spot and react to the warning signs of suicide in students. We asked Rep. Cook to carry the bill on behalf of one of our members, Coach Kevin Childers from Fairfield ISD. Coach Childers lost his teenage son Jonathan to suicide in 2013, and their family’s story was featured in a recent issue of ATPE News. The new law that ATPE lobbied to pass this year is officially called the Jason Flatt Act, in memory of Jonathan Childers.

With suicide as the second leading cause of death for teens, prevention and education are critically important. Click on our infographic above to learn more about the teen suicide epidemic and our efforts to stop it. For additional coverage of National Suicide Prevention Week, watch News 4 San Antonio’s interview with Kevin Childers; KGBT’s story on McAllen High School’s #youmatter suicide prevention initiative this week; KXXV’s report on the new training requirements for educators featuring ATPE Media Relations Coordinator Stephanie Jacksis; KWTX’s article featuring ATPE Region 12 Director Jason Forbis talking about how educators can help spot those warning signs; and this week’s post on Inquisitr.com featuring ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey also discussing prevention of teen suicide. Additionally, click here to read ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson’s post about TEA guidance recently issued for implementation of the new suicide prevention training law.

For additional resources to #stopsuicide, please visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or the  American Association of Suicidology.

Finally, here are a few more highlights you may have missed this week from Teach the Vote and ATPE on social media:

Tweets for 9-11-15 wrap-up


Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Sept. 4, 2015

Before we highlight some of this week’s education news stories, we at ATPE want to wish everyone a restful and enjoyable Labor Day Weekend!

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) today released statewide passing rates for the STAAR math exams in grades three through eight. The agency reported that math passing rates rose compared to the previous year for grades three, four, and seven, but declined in grades six and eight. Passing rates for grade five were considered stable. Click here to view TEA’s full press statement.

TEA also released updated guidance today for school districts on changes to testing requirements. The “To the Administrator Addressed” correspondence notes changes to the contract awarded to vendors to administer the state’s assessment program, provides information on policies for the use of calculators during certain math and science exams, and gives details on some changes enacted as a result of legislation passed earlier this year. Regarding math standards, TEA writes, “The Student Success Initiative (SSI) grade-advancement requirements are being reinstituted for mathematics in the 2015–2016 school year.” The agency did not provide any information, however, about a new pilot program to allow for locally-developed assessments of students’ writing skills in lieu of the STAAR writing tests, which was part of Rep. Gary VanDeaver’s HB 1164 that also passed the legislature this year. Today’s correspondence also includes the schedule for release of STAAR tests in 2016. Read the full letter here on the TEA website.

In other testing news, TEA issued a press release yesterday touting an increase in the number of Texas students taking SAT and AP exams. TEA writes, “The 179,131 Texas public school students who took the SAT in 2014-2015 reflects an increase of 9.2 percent from 2013-2014. For the third consecutive year, more Hispanic students (73,635) than white students (59,921) took the SAT in Texas public schools. In addition, the 255,250 Texas public school students who took AP exams in 2014-2015 represents an increase of 13.3 percent from 2013-2014. That percentage increase is more than double the national growth of six percent.” Read the full press release here.

The public comment period on a proposal to water down certification requirements for superintendent candidates opens today. As we have reported before on Teach the Vote, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) gave preliminary approval last month to a proposed rule change that would remove teaching and principal experience, among other critical skills, from the requirements to become a certified superintendent in Texas. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann testified against the proposed change that would allow individuals to become superintendents without first obtaining a principal’s certificate, a master’s degree, and at least two years of experience working as a classroom teacher. The ATPE Legislative Program, written and adopted by our members each year, recommends that administrators have at least five years of teaching experience. SBEC will make a final decision on the proposal at its October 16 meeting, but not before the public has an opportunity to submit input on the controversial move. Any interested members of the public can submit written comments to SBEC; find additional details on how to submit your formal comments here. The public comment period will remain open through Oct. 5.

ATPE Lobbyists Josh Sanderson and Monty Exter wrote on our blog this week about the Texas Supreme Court’s Tuesday hearing in the latest school finance case. Sanderson, who attended and live-tweeted his updates from the hearing, explained in his blog post that differences in the funding levels available to districts under the current school finance system represent “a glaring disparity.” Exter provided links to documents and other news stories relating to the lawsuit, which is the latest in a long line of school funding cases spanning three decades in Texas.

ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey and several ATPE leaders were featured in media reports about the school finance case heading back to court this week.  A press statement by ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey was published in Houston Style Magazine, while ATPE State Secretary Carl Garner gave an interview to Fox 4 News in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area on Tuesday. Austin’s KXAN News reported on how inadequate funding often leads schools to seek waivers of the state’s 22:1 class-size limit in elementary grades; ATPE Lobbyist Josh Sanderson and ATPE member Stephanie Stoebe were featured in that news story on Monday.

Minnesota Congressman John Kline (R) has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2016. Kline has chaired the House Committee on Education and the Workforce since 2010; that committee is overseeing efforts in the House to reauthorize the outdated Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). In a statement issued yesterday, Kline said, “I look forward to continuing my efforts to replace No Child Left Behind” during the remaining 16 months of his term. Kline is chairing a conference committee that has been established to try to iron out differences between two bills passed by the U.S. House and Senate to reauthorize and overhaul ESEA/NCLB. The House passed a Kline-authored bill known as the Student Success Act, while the Senate passed its own version called the Every Child Achieves Act earlier this summer.

Follow us on Twitter!

Follow us on Twitter!

Stay tuned to our Teach the Vote blog and follow us on Twitter for updates on the continuing reauthorization efforts this fall.




Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Aug. 21, 2015

The weekend has arrived and for many ATPE members, the last few days of summer before the school year starts. We wish everyone a fantastic new school year! Here are some of this week’s education stories.

Qualifications to become certified as a school superintendent in Texas continue to be the focus of media attention this week after ATPE objected to a proposed rule change by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). The board has taken a preliminary step to eliminate current requirements for superintendents to have a master’s degree, prior certification as a school principal, and at least two years of experience as a classroom teacher. On Monday, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann, who testified against the proposed revision to water down the certification standards, was a guest on Time Warner Cable’s Capital Tonight television program to discuss the issue. Kuhlmann was also mentioned in an article on the national website Watchdog.org this week positing that the new standards would make it possible for even Donald Trump to become a superintendent. Though business groups naturally believe that schools should be run as businesses and be headed up by those with business backgrounds, educators have overwhelmingly expressed to ATPE their opposition to the board’s proposal, believing that previous classroom experience is also an important factor in leading school districts to success. SBEC will take a final vote on the proposed rule change in October. Watch for more information in September on an opportunity to submit comments on the proposed rule.

With state agencies working to implement scores of new laws taking effect this year, rulemaking is in full swing. Many bills that get passed by the Texas Legislature also require state boards and agencies to adopt new administrative rules in order to put the laws into full effect. Entities such as SBEC, the Texas Education Agency, and the Teacher Retirement System often convene advisory groups of educators to help them draft new rules. As a result, ATPE has several opportunities to nominate our members to serve on stakeholder committees. If you’re an ATPE member interested in serving as an advocate for your profession, be sure to fill out our Advocacy and Media Volunteer Interest Form on ATPE.org to be considered for opportunities to share your input and expertise.

Don’t forget to follow @TeachtheVote and members of the ATPE lobby team on Twitter for all the latest education news.

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: Aug. 14, 2015

Follow us on Twitter!

Follow us on Twitter!

Happy Friday! Here’s a recap of education stories you might have missed this week from the Teach the Vote blog and the ATPE lobby team on Twitter.


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) this week published test questions from the 2015 administrations of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). The released tests include STAAR exams for reading in grades 3-8; writing in grades 4 and 7; science in grades 5 and 8; social studies in grade 8; Algebra I; English I; English II; biology; and U.S. history; plus some STAAR test questions for math in grades 3-8. TEA stated in a press release, “Because the mathematics tests have undergone major revisions, there are not enough approved test questions in reserve to permit the release of full tests this year.” View the released test questions here on TEA’s website.


Several newsTweet 8-7-15 outlets this week reported on the State Board for Educator Certification’s recent move to make it easier for individuals with no previous education experience to become certified as school superintendents. Under current SBEC rules, one must first be certified as a principal (which requires two years of prior experience as a classroom teacher) and hold a master’s degree in order to be admitted to a superintendent certification program in Texas. SBEC voted last Friday, Aug. 7, to formally propose a rule change that would do away with those prerequisites. ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann, who testified against the proposed change at last week’s board meeting, is featured in several of the news reports, such as this one from Lubbock’s Fox 34 News/MyFoxLubbock.com. ATPE members have long supported the premise that superintendents need education experience in order to be effective. ATPE’s Legislative Program, in fact, includes a recommendation that the state require administrators to have at least five years of classroom teaching experience. The SBEC board is expected take a final vote on the rule change in October. To learn more about the proposed change, read our blog post from last week.


ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter was a guest on KURV 710 News Talk Radio’s afternoon feature, “The Drive Home with Davis & Roxanne” on Aug. 13. The program, which aired live in the Rio Grande Valley yesterday, covered the topic of teacher shortages that have been reported in some parts of the country. Exter explained that Texas has not suffered shortages in the same manner Tweet 8-13-15as some other states, but enrollment in teacher preparation programs certainly did decline following the Texas Legislature’s massive education budget cuts in 2011. Exter and the radio hosts talked about several reasons that teachers often cite for leaving the profession and challenges they face in the classroom, including student discipline concerns, paperwork and other onerous requirements associated with student testing, plus inadequate training and support for new teachers. Exter also explained how teachers can benefit from becoming members of professional organizations such as ATPE.


Non-profit news reporting website The Texas Tribune, which ATPE has sponsored in the past, is featuring a series of reports this month on new laws taking effect in September. The “31 Days, 31 Ways” series included two stories this week on impending changes to Texas education laws. First, the Texas Tribune showcased a new truancy law aimed at reducing criminal penalties for students who fail to attend school. Tweet 8-11-15That article, which is also republished on our Teach the Vote blog, includes a flowchart to help you understand the new truancy processes for students and educators. In addition, yesterday’s Texas Tribune featured a story on changes to the state’s school accountability system. The article discusses Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock’s House Bill (HB) 1842, passed earlier this year, which modifies the timeline and actions associated with progressive sanctions against campuses that are not meeting academic standards. For instance, the new law requires TEA to close or appoint a board of managers to operate schools that have been academically unacceptable for five years. ATPE staff members were briefed by TEA officials this week on implementation of the new law; they noted that the board of managers requirement would not take effect until the 2018-19 school year and cautioned that implementation of some aspects of the bill may be hampered by the legislature’s failure to put money into the budget for HB 1842.

SBEC votes to water down superintendent certification standards, looks to baseball and business for guidance

SBECIf you visit the website of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and look up its description of the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), you’ll read that SBEC “was created by the Texas Legislature in 1995 to recognize public school educators as professionals and grant educators the authority to govern the standards of their profession.” For multiple legislative sessions, SBEC has been threatened with the possibility of being disbanded by the legislature through the sunset review process. Again and again, educator groups have come to the defense of SBEC, defending educators’ rights to set the standards for their own profession through a board that is made up primarily of educators. That’s why it’s disappointing when SBEC takes actions that are so clearly inspired by outside business interests and those with no education experience whatsoever. Today, unfortunately, was one of those days, as SBEC took a step that will make it easier for individuals with no education experience to take on important leadership roles in public education.

SBEC is holding its regular meeting today, Aug. 7. Shortly before lunch, the board voted to give preliminary approval to a rule change that would allow someone to become a school superintendent despite having neither experience as a classroom teacher and principal nor managerial experience. The change was apparently instigated by one of two stakeholder groups that TEA convened late last year to recommend revisions to 19 TAC Chapter 242, Superintendent Certificate, Rule §242.20 on “Requirements for the Issuance of the Standard Superintendent Certificate,” and Rule §242.25 on “Requirements for the First-Time Superintendent in Texas.” One stakeholder group was believed to be composed primarily of business leaders, which favored allowing non-educators to fill superintendent vacancies. An additional stakeholder group made up of administrators and school board trustees also made a recommendation to the board, but their recommendation only allowed for non-principals who have three years of specific managerial experience within a school district to seek superintendent certification. That latter recommendation was also included as a separate pathway to superintendent certification. Neither pathway, however, would require any teaching experience.

ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann

Kate Kuhlmann

At today’s meeting, ATPE Lobbyist Kate Kuhlmann testified that successful superintendents need both teaching and managerial experience. “Every superintendent needs a strong understanding of how education works, the needs of every student, and how administrative influence can change educational outcomes,” Kuhlmann told the board. “This is something that can only be gained from first-hand experience in the classroom.” Sharing input from an ATPE member who serves as an assistant superintendent, Kuhlmann outlined the types of daily decisions made by superintendents that require both managerial experience and the “perspective of classroom teaching.” ATPE was the only educator group to testify against the proposed rule change for new superintendents today.

The most outspoken advocate on the board for the rule change to allow “non-traditional” superintendents to be hired without need for a waiver was public SBEC member Laurie Bricker of Houston. Bricker expressed her belief that school boards should have authority to hire someone like Michael Dell or Bill Gates to serve as a their superintendents. She authored a last-minute substitute motion, ultimately accepted by the board, that removed language that would have required a school board of trustees to post publicly its reasons for hiring any such “non-traditional” superintendent under the new rules being proposed today. Dr. Rex Peebles, Assistant Commissioner for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, who serves as a non-voting member of SBEC, spoke against that change, arguing that transparency to the community and especially to faculty members working within the school district should be required. Bricker rejected a suggestion by SBEC member Suzanne McCall, a teacher, to add a requirement for TEA to approve the hire of any “non-traditional” superintendent, which McCall viewed as an extra layer of oversight and protection. Bricker was adamant that elected school board trustees alone should have blanket authority for hiring superintendents. Another public member who serves on the SBEC board, Leon Leal, compared the proposal to Major League Baseball, arguing that professional baseball teams have been very successful after being given authority to hire managers who were not former players.

In the end, SBEC members McCall and Kathryn Everest, a school counselor, were the only ones to vote against the motion to water down the superintendent certification rules. Next, the proposed rule change will be published for public comments and SBEC will have another opportunity to approve it on second and final reading at its next meeting. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates.

In more positive news, the board approved allowing at least one classroom teacher and one counselor to serve on its Educator Preparation Advisory Committee (EPAC). The request to add teacher representatives to the existing committee was made by ATPE’s Kate Kuhlmann in testimony today. The committee, made primarily of representatives of educator preparation programs (EPPs), meets quarterly to provide input on issues relating to EPPs. The EPAC has existed since 2006, and SBEC only recently voted to add some school district representatives to the committee. Today’s action in response to ATPE’s request will ensure that classroom teachers can also participate in discussions about preparing future educators and the need for any regulatory changes.

Today’s SBEC agenda also included discussions of future changes to certification exams and rules pertaining to admission to an educator preparation program. Some of those changes were necessitated by legislation passed earlier this year. How the board handles disciplinary cases involving educators was an additional topic of discussion today.