The consortium has met twice since my last report. There was a meeting in Dallas on January 25 and Austin on January 29th. There are three areas that I would like to report on in this submission.
• Development of new learning standards. Members of the THPSC met with representatives of ACT on the 25th. ACT would like to partner with the consortium in the process of creating new learning standards that are both college/career ready and allow for a level of flexibility that teachers can use to be creative/innovative in designing next generation lessons.
• The discussion included the need for a grade 3-10 curriculum that is measurable at each grade level as well as the ability to show a cumulative improvement in skills year after year.
• Members of the steering committee reported on the progress and discussion with state and federal officials to secure the waivers needed to continue with our work. The conversations were informative but at this time the waivers have not been acted upon, for or against our request.
• There will be a need to look at the curriculum and assessment for those students within the consortium that currently take STAAR Alt/M assessments. Several of the districts represented accepted the task of researching solutions for our special needs populations.
• Members of the consortium discussed the work being done in multiple graduation pathways by many groups across the state. It was decided that this work was not inside the scope of work laid out for the THPSC in HB 1557. The consortium will concentrate on technology integration (including student e-portfolios), learning standards, assessment and accountability with confidence that the graduation pathways created will fit within the framework of the new system.
• There was conversation about local accountability and what an authentic reporting process would look like for districts to keep all stakeholders informed of the educational progress being made at the desired intervals during the school year. This would be a minimum of one report per year but the idea of a method that included continual updated progress was more appealing to THPSC members. The use of some type of “dashboard” approach was part of the conversation.
• Focus on closing the achievement gaps for sub-populations was covered and the thought that new learning standards and transformed classroom delivery systems would be the best tool to close the gap. Students that find the learning process interesting, relevant and dare we say, fun, will show greater improvement in all desired learner outcomes.
Work continues within the six sub-groups of the consortium. There will be a new website link introduced soon that includes timelines, FAQS and progress reports of ongoing work. This link will be featured on the main page of every consortium school district to allow teachers and the public to track our progress. Two very important dates are fast approaching. February 13-14 will be the next meeting of the THPSC and a white paper detailing the elements needed in a bill to be presented to the legislature will be completed. March 1,2013 is the target date for filing the bill that will outline the proposed work of the consortium over the next four years. The passage of this bill will be the critical starting point that will allow 23 school districts to fully commit to the development of the Texas Public Schools next generation Education system! It is important to know that the bill will not line out the next generation system. It will lay out the process of how we will work to create a system that does not exist and is not similar to anything currently in use. There will be provisions to assure that our students are learning and keeping pace with the rest of the state. As our students are subjected to lessons with true depth and complex-learning standards, there is no doubt that they will meet the expectations of the current state-approved readiness standards. Finally, let me say that what is being proposed by the consortium is not easier or an anti-accountability pushback bill. The purpose of this group of schools is to transform schools from the current 19th/20th century teaching model of sit/get /test/test more to a system where there is engagement of the students at all levels and in all subject areas. Teachers will truly facilitate the education of their students and will be held accountable to the parents and stakeholders in their communities. The new system will have greater accountability, stronger evidence of learning for each child and will successfully prepare the graduate to be a critical thinking problem solver when he/she enters the workforce at any level.
As we move forward, the Texas High Performance School Consortium will need your support and voice in the legislature. Whenever possible, encourage your Senators and Representatives to support our efforts and allow the intent of HB 1557 to move forward for a better education system for every student in the State of Texas.
I would like to offer a different perspective on Lt. Governor Dewhurst and Senator Patrick’s announcements made in Wednesday’s press conference. The expressed goal of Senator Patrick is to rescue public school students that are being subjected to a level of educational abuse that is unacceptable. He stated in Wednesday’s press conference, “students in poverty in low-performing schools have the same right as any other Texas family”. It is a good statement that no one could or should have a problem with. There are questions that need to be asked.
- What is happening at the schools these students of poverty are going to attend that is different than where they are coming from? Answer – The private schools that will accept “some” of these students are not held to the same standard of accountability as Texas Public Schools for curriculum, graduation requirements and/or mandated assessments.
- If this is such a better method of providing an education, why are the Public Schools held to a set of inhibiting requirements? If the state’s system is the best method of measuring success in education, it stands to reason that every student in the state of Texas should be held to that standard to insure the best educated workforce for our economy. Answer – This campaign is not about what is best for all students in the state. It is about tax savings for entities that support the Senator and an agenda to move state tax dollars into private school systems and the families that already have students enrolled.
- Will all low economic disadvantaged students have an opportunity to benefit from this system? Answer – No! The students that are most effected by poverty will not be able to pay the difference between the voucher and tuition. Students in rural areas will not have a non-public school to exercise the “choice” that will be offered to some. Students with disabilities, both physical and instructional, will be left out of this system because the private school has the right to choose whom they will accept. So the plan promoted by Senator Patrick and Lt. Governor Dewhurst will most benefit those students already enrolled in private schools and a very select few others that may be accepted through the selection process. This is not a plan for Texas; this is a plan for loyal donors to the party!
- What is a low-performing school? For most people, the term brings visions of chaos in the classroom, no instructions for any students, no discipline in place, or in other words, a complete failure to provide an education to students. Answer – A school campus or district will be labeled AU if any sub-population of students by race, language or economic status numbers more that 30 students and fails to meet the minimum standard on the current state approved assessment instrument (TAKS for now, STAAR on the way). So, “low performing” is an indication that as few as 30 students did not do well on a one shot, multiple choice, bubble sheet exam that has no relevance to what the majority of experts in education are promoting as 21st century learning.
The Senate Leadership team also promoted the funding of “scholarships” with funds created by private business in an effort to justify a hands-off approach to the state accountability requirements placed on Public Schools. The fact that this private business fund will come with a 25% tax break, in their minds, does not equate to the use of taxpayer funds for private school finance! Then we are told, as superintendents, we should “go the extra mile with the tax-credit plan” because it does not take money away from the public schools. REALLY! The last time I checked (I check daily), the only way White Oak ISD receives an increase in funds is through an increase in enrollment. In my mind, a decrease in enrollment will equate to a decrease in funds at the local level. A decrease in tax dollars paid by businesses in the state will most certainly equate to further cuts to all programs funded by the state.
The Texas Legislature does not have a constitutional responsibility to grow the private school industry and promote the success of private sector educational enterprises. The Texas Legislature is expected and required to abide by the Constitution of the State of Texas Article 7 Section 1 that states; SUPPORT AND MAINTENANCE OF SYSTEM OF PUBLIC FREE SCHOOLS.
A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.
The faculty, staff and administrators that make up the approximately 600,000 employees of the Texas Public System are not opposed to scrutiny, accountability and/or competition with any other educational entity. We are opposed to being held to a completely different standard and then being labeled as “failing” in an arbitrary and unjust manner. Every challenge that has been placed before us has been successfully completed and that will continue to be the case. What I ask of my representatives is simple, seek the will of the people in House District 7 and Senate District 1 and represent those interests with a passion! Your constituents believe in their local public school system and have said so over and over again. They have passed referendums against high stakes testing, passed Tax Rate Elections to increase local funds and approved bond referendums to provide improved learning environments for students and staff. The Public Schools of the State of Texas are not only successful, but they are leading the way in finding ways to provide a 21st century educational experience for their students. Many times, this is taking place in spite of our legislators instead of with legislative support. I want to extend my thanks to Representative David Simpson and Senator Kevin Eltife for their loyal and vocal support of the Texas Public Schools. It is my hope that many more will follow their leadership.
Texas High Performance School Consortium Update
All hands were on deck for the third meeting of the consortium on November 27th. 100 team members from the 23 consortium schools looked at the issues involved with crating new learning standards, assessments and an accountability system. We are constantly aware that this process and the work being done is, at first, for the students of the 23 districts and ultimately, for all the students in the state of Texas. It is not a responsibility that any of the members take lightly.
We worked in teams for the better part of the day identifying the problems that will need to be solved in this process. Six categories were used to break the problem into workable units.
- High Priority Learning Standards and Digital Learning Environment
- Assessment and Accountability
Each working groups looked at the topic from the standpoint of how it will be created, implemented and explained to districts stakeholders. There were discussions about the resources needed to create a viable product that meets the needs of our students in an ever-changing work and higher education environment. The bulk of the conversation was dedicated to the identification of problems and obstacles that will need to be solved during the research and development of the new system. As a result, we have a much clearer understanding of just how big the elephant is that we are gong to have to eat one bite at a time!!
This was the most productive day, in my opinion, that the consortium has been involved in to this point. The conversations of the day, the “to do list” created, the framing of many of the issues and the growing consensus of the group with regard to the big picture, altogether made me feel like we put a dent in the body of work.
All of the information from this meeting and the work done by the original New Visioning Group was used to create the first document presented to Commissioner Williams last week. That document is our “table of contents” as we move forward with the development of our next generation system.
A critical issue at this point is getting the necessary waivers that will allow members districts the latitude to be creative in this process. SB 1557 tasks the consortium schools with creating something new. This cannot be done inside the existing accountability and assessment system. It is my hope that the next post you read will be the announcement of Commissioner Williams support for the consortium and the granting of waivers needed to move forward. Please continue to speak to your representatives about the need for a new system and put in a request for support of the Texas High Performance School Consortium – Leading the way to a 21st Century Education!
Raise Your Hand Texas (http://www.raiseyourhandtexas.org/) CEO Dr. David Anthony, published a listing of the Texas Association of Business 2012 Board of Directors. It is thirteen pages long and contains over 200 members that are on the board and/or some advisory position. I believe this gives the supporters of the Texas Public Schools an excellent opportunity to measure the depth of support for the TAB Education Policy Statement promoting vouchers, high stakes testing, unlimited charter schools, teacher evaluation/pay tied to test results, larger class sizes and the privatization of the public school process. I have included the body of a letter sent to the TAB Board Members in the Longview, Kilgore and Tyler area. I do not believe that all 200 contacts are supportive of the TAB position on public schools. I hope to inform those in my area and allow each of them to be up to date on this issue. I would encourage anyone interested in supporting the work of Texas Public Schools to use this information to inform TAB members in their local area.
The TAB Policy Statement can be viewed here.
The TAB Board of Directors list can be viewed here.
Body of the Letter:
I received information that lists you as a member of the Texas Association of Business Board of Directors. I am very interested in your perspective on the TAB Policy Statement on Texas Public Schools (copy included). The lead-in statement announces TAB as “leading the fight for bettering our state’s schools and creating better accountability measures within them”. The statement indicates that the TAB is in the process of creating an accountability system for Texas Public Schools. I am contacting the members of the Texas Association of Business in East Texas to find out if they/you support the policy statement included in this letter.
White Oak ISD is a member of the Texas High Performing Schools Consortium. We are the only East Texas school district to have been selected. This consortium was created through the passing of Senate Bill 1557 in the 82nd Legislative Session. Our charge is to develop and implement new teaching standards, assessment system and accountability system for the state. There are twenty-three districts that represent just over 200,000 Texas Public School Students in the consortium. It is our firm belief that the current assessment system of STAAR/EOC is not a model for improving the education of our students. The use of outdated, 20th century testing systems is the problem and not the cure for creating a strong, well-educated and innovative workforce for the 21st century.
Needless to say, I do not agree with the “mission” of TAB President/CEO Bill Hammond and his claims to be a proponent of a strong public school system. He is a proponent of private business. He is interested in the use of public funds to make a profit in the private sector. Although the members of the TAB are not educators, you are well-educated people. The research is there and readily available that debunks the claims of more standardized testing creates better-educated students.
I would ask that you take the time to review the information on the New Visioning Institute, http://www.transformtexas.org/#, and see for your self the powerful work being done by professional educators. If you are not a supporter of the TAB Education Policy Statement, let it be known. The school children of the state of Texas deserve more than to be pawns in a for-profit scheme disguised as a concern for better education. Thank you for your time and any consideration you may give to this matter.
Michael E. G