More than 100 bills that deal with education were passed during the 2013 legislative session. The Texas Education Agency has produced a briefing book that describes the impact of new education laws.
The State Board of Education (SBOE) met last week and spent a great deal of time discussing two major bills, HB 5 and SB 2. The legislature has tasked the SBOE with writing the rules for the bulk of the changes to graduation requirements and has shifted authority for selecting new charter schools from the SBOE to the commissioner of TEA. The SBOE generally meets 4 – 5 times a year, but many of the rules must be written in time for the start of this school year. So the SBOE announced last week that it will conduct a work session to discuss HB 5 graduation requirements on August 1st from 10:00 to 4:00 in the William B. Travis Building in Austin. The meeting will be open to the public but no public testimony will be taken on Work Session items. However, public testimony may be given on the resolution the board will consider regarding Advanced Course Status for 2013-2014. Work Session Agenda SBOE members have been invited to participate in the interviews for new charter schools. These interviews will take place in early September.
CSCOPE is in the news again. CSCOPE is an Internet-based curriculum developed for Texas schools and teachers by state-funded education service centers and utilized by many small school districts who do not have the expertise to develop their own curricula. It became controversial because some elements of the curriculum aroused the concern and opposition of conservative groups.
In May, Sen. Dan Patrick, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, reached an agreement with the education service centers to discontinue the use of the CSCOPE lesson plans, raising concerns among some of the 875 or so school districts that relied on it use. It may be too late to start over and develop a new curriculum, with the start of the 2013 – 2014 school year rapidly approaching, so many districts have requested waivers from state accountability standards.
At the July meeting of the State Board of Education, SBOE general counsel David Anderson and education commissioner Michael Williams determined that (1) There was no state law or intellectual property issue that prohibited districts from using CSCOPE and (2) CSCOPE’S lesson plans, as a result of their widespread use, are now in the public domain. It is a matter of local control. School districts may choose to use CSCOPE materials or not. So CSCOPE survives after all.
Sen. Patrick is working now to address this determination by SBOE. SBOE member Thomas Ratliff has accepted Sen. Dan Patrick’s invitation earlier this year to debate the issue of CSCOPE. We’ll keep you apprised of new developments.
Commissioner of Education Michael L. Williams today announced the four components that will be part of the new 2013 state accountability system for school districts, campuses and charters in Texas. The first ratings under this system will be issued by the Texas Education Agency on August 8, 2013.
“I have heard the criticism of the previous accountability system, with its overemphasis on a school’s lowest performing areas and its blind spot to what a district or charter might be doing well,” said Commissioner Williams. “The new system makes use of multiple indicators to provide parents and taxpayers a more detailed overview of the successes, as well as areas of necessary improvement, for each school district, charter and campus.”
The revised system will still use student assessments, but also makes use of additional indicators to provide parents and taxpayers greater detail on the performance of a district or charter and each individual campus throughout the state. The 2013 accountability system will use a performance index framework that considers four areas (including student groups that are part of that index):
Student Achievement – Represents a snapshot of performance across all subjects, on both general and alternative assessments, at an established performance standard. (All Students)
Student Progress – Provides an opportunity for diverse campuses to show improvements made independent of overall achievement levels. Growth is evaluated by subject and student group. (All Students; Student Groups by Race/Ethnicity; English Language Learners; Special Education)
Closing Performance Gaps – Emphasizes advanced academic achievement of the economically disadvantaged student group and the lowest performing race/ethnicity student groups at each campus or district. (All Students; Student Groups by Race/Ethnicity)
Postsecondary Readiness – Includes measures of high school completion, and beginning in 2014, State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) performance at the postsecondary readiness standard. This measure emphasizes the importance of students receiving high school diplomas that provide the foundation necessary for success in college, the workforce, job training programs or the military. (All Students; Student Groups by Race/Ethnicity; English Language Learners; Special Education)
District and campuses with students in Grade 9 or above must meet targets on all four indexes. Districts and campuses with students in Grade 8 or lower must meet targets on the first three indexes (excluding Postsecondary Readiness).
Districts, campuses and charters will receive one of three ratings:
Met Standard – Met accountability targets on all indexes for which they have performance data in 2013
Met Alternative Standard – Met modified performance index targets for alternative education campuses or districts
Improvement Required – Did not meet one or more performance index targets
For eligible campuses that achieve the rating of Met Standard, distinction designations in the following areas will also be assigned for outstanding academic achievement in reading/English language arts and mathematics:
Top 25 Percent Student Progress
Academic Achievement in Reading/English language arts
Academic Achievement in Mathematics
These distinction designations will be based on campus performance in relation to a comparison group of campuses.
“It’s important to note that while the new system bases accountability on a index framework, the state will emphasize the importance of closing achievement gaps and addressing the needs of all students in Texas,” said Commissioner Williams. “Those districts and campuses that are leaders in improving achievement for all its students will be easily identified under this system.”
Because all aspects of the performance index framework cannot be fully implemented at this time, 2013 will be considered a transition year. Accountability advisory groups will reconvene later this year to finalize recommendations for accountability ratings criteria for 2014 and beyond.
In addition, work will continue on the conversion of this new system into an A-F rating system for 2014.
Changes required by bills passed during the legislative session will be incorporated into the system.
For a detailed overview of all components of the 2013 state accountability system, visit the
Texas Education Agency website at http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/account/2013/index.html.
Recent News Stories
Texas faces long odds in getting test exemption for top achievers
(Dallas Morning News © 07/30/2013)
A plan to reduce testing for higher-performing elementary and middle school students was one of the feel-good bills of the 2013 legislative session. But several experts believe it will never see the light of day in Texas schools. The measure was passed with much fanfare, as parent groups and school districts urged lawmakers to scale back high-stakes testing across the board.
Mississippi the Latest State to Doubt Common Core
Common Core Standards, once beloved by education reformers, are getting a second look in more states after hefty criticism. The Associated Press reports that the doubters now includes lawmakers in Mississippi.
Texas gov. calls 3rd special legislative session
(San Antonio Express-News © 07/31/2013)
Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday called the Texas Legislature back for a third special session, less than an hour after the House failed to garner enough votes to approve a transportation funding he has asked lawmakers to pass.The last time the Legislature had three special sessions was in 2005-2006 over school finance issues.The House and Senate gaveled back into session within minutes of receiving Perry’s proclamation calling them back to work.
Thomas Ratliff Takes on Tea Party Over CSCOPE Panic
(Texas Observer © 07/31/2013)
As the Great CSCOPE Controversy of 2013 continues on its baffling way, State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff has emerged as the embattled program’s most outspoken defender at the state level—one of the very few elected officials willing to wade into tea party waters and pick a fight. Democrats have mostly stayed out of the controversy over the state-produced curriculum tool and its supposedly un-American, anti-Christian classroom lessons. As Rep. Dawnna Dukes put it on the House floor in May, ”CSCOPE is not a concept that Democrats even know about.”
TEA Seeks Federal Clarification on HB 866 Waiver Request
Commissioner Williams is seeking clarification from the U.S. Department of Education regarding the authority to waive specific provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. House Bill 866 directed the Texas Education Agency to seek the necessary waivers to reduce or eliminate testing requirements for certain students in grades 3-8.
USDE Awards $12 Million in Grants to Support Charter School Facilities
The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that it awarded three grants totaling $12 million to three different organizations that are working across the country to help charter schools obtain facilities through the purchase, lease, or donation of real property, the construction of a new facility, or the renovation, repair or alteration of existing facilities under the Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program (Credit Enhancement).
HISD to request waiver to fund virtual school
(Huntsville Item © 07/25/2013)
The Huntsville ISD Board of Trustees will consider today applying for a waiver with the Texas Education Agency that would allow the district to operate a virtual school and still receive funding. HISD has been planning to add virtual school campuses to expand distance learning curriculum, but House Bill 1926 passed in the 83rd Texas Legislature made provisions that stalled the process.
Dewhurst, Patrick Continue Push to End CSCOPE
(Texas Tribune © 07/25/2013)
An extended drama over a controversial curriculum tool used by Texas public schools took a new turn Wednesday as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst entered the fray with aletter to the State Board of Education and a key state senator pushed to add the issue to the special session agenda. We were all told that our CSCOPE problems were behind us,” Dewhurst said in the letter. Over the past few weeks I have learned this could not be further from the truth.”
West Hardin signs to warn: Some school staff armed
(Beaumont Enterprise © 07/24/2013)
The West Hardin Consolidated school district ordered signs on Tuesday that will alert parents and campus visitors that some members of the district’s staff are armed. In June, the district’s school board approved a policy that will allow certain teachers and administrators to carry concealed weapons on campus. The decision came in the wake of the 2012 Newton, Conn. shooting.
Technical college faces questions and a paradigm shift
(Texas Tribune 7/28/2013)
SWEETWATER — Striking a tone that has become increasingly fashionable among Texas politicians, House Speaker Joe Straus urged his fellow lawmakers at the outset of this year’s legislative session to “expand opportunity in Texas this session by improving coordination among high schools, community and technical colleges and the private sector so that no young person feels destined to spend life drifting from one low-skilled, minimum-wage job to the next.” But amid talk of expanded technical education, Texas State Technical College West Texas — one of the four institutions that make up the state’s college system dedicated to technical education and work force development — has been shrinking.
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