A Chance to Breathe


Photo Credit: Darren Kuropatwa

Rarely do schools get legitimate opportunities to be a part of the legislative process in Texas. You can argue we always have the opportunity, but I can equally argue that our input is rarely welcomed or invited by many in leadership in Austin. But thanks to the work of Sen. Carona and Rep. Strama during the 82nd Session, the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium was created. White Oak ISD is one of the fortunate, hard working, twenty-three applicants chosen to play a part. The bill, the child of work from TASA’s Public Education Visioning Institute, offers member schools the chance to have a say in these four key areas:

  1. Digital learning–Engagement of students in digital
    learning, including, but not limited to, engagement through the use of
    electronic textbooks and instructional materials and courses offered
    through the Texas Virtual School Network;
  2. Learning standards–Standards that a student must master to be successful in a competitive postsecondary environment;
  3. Multiple assessments–Various methods of determining
    student progress capable of being used to inform students, parents,
    school districts, and open-enrollment charter schools, on an ongoing
    basis, concerning the extent to which learning is occurring and the
    actions Consortium participants are taking to improve learning; and
  4. Local control–Ways in which reliance on local input
    and decision-making enable communities and parents to be involved in the
    important decisions regarding the education of their children. 

The biggest piece of this work is centered around the next accountability system. If the bill works out as planned, the consortium members will draft a plan to be approved in the upcoming 83rd Texas Legislative session. That plan should provide consortium members some needed respite from the current testing system with the goal of utilizing that freedom in implementing a new system built around the bigger picture of the child’s learning and not just one day. That data will then be brought back to the TEA commissioner and the Texas Legislature for further recommendations in the accountability system updates.

I am fully aware that there are detractors already lining up to dismiss the work of this group. They are protecting their special interests and ignoring what should be the focus of the public education system: educating each student to his or her full potential. What gets lost in this is that these special interests think all kids have the same potential. They ignore the special needs of students above or below the norm. They wishfully think that every single child has the intrinsic goal of attending college and thus force curriculum and testing onto them with that in mind. They believe that students dropping out of school due to a “failing public education system” is improved by even more testing.

If these special interest groups would pull their heads out of the sand long enough to view the real world outside of their fancy office windows and stack of campaign checks, they’d realize we have a wonderfully diverse population in Texas. It is one full of future career professionals such as doctors, lawyers, educators, business men/women, and engineers. It is equally full of creative citizens who will ply their trade in welding, plumbing, electrical work, and carpentry. They’ll keep the infrastructure of our great state moving forward with a growing citizenry. No great state can be complete without successful citizens in all of these areas and more.

The fact that open-minded legislators, such as Sen. Carona and Rep. Strama, were able to push through a bill offering hope to an education system continually burdened with multiple choice tests shows just how much we need to change. Our system will not improve by piling on more of the same, regardless of what some say. It will improve by changing to meet the needs of our current customers: students with the broadest options for careers that our country has ever known.

Let’s get to work creating a system that holds schools accountable for that.

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