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.