Why is it always about money and failure?

159/365. Agony.<rant>

I am growing increasingly tired of the lies, misrepresentations, and half truths being spewed in Austin about public education during our Texas Legislative cycle. The pro-public ed side says we need more money. The anti-public ed side says schools are failing, teachers suck, admins get paid too much, schools waste money, and we need more tests. The anti-public ed side says we need more charter schools (nobody talks about the number of failing charters)  and offer vouchers (nobody talks about the exclusivity of private schools or requiring those who accept vouchers to follow TX mandates). It’s all about rhetoric and personal gain from their business ties. It’s not about the kids.

Everyone paints with very broad brushes. Nobody wants to pay attention to the fine details needed to move education to the next level where we are graduating college and career ready students at a high rate.

Will someone ask the most foundational of questions and build from that point?

How do kids learn best?

Let’s progress from there. </rant>

Photo Credit: Anant N S

I’m just not sure he gets it completely

Listen in on TribLive and Evan Smith’s interview with TEA Commissioner Michael Williams:

 

To answer the question of why Exemplary schools spend $1000 more per student than unacceptable schools, Williams says the reason some schools are Exemplary and some are unacceptable is based on the makeup of the students. “It’s not the dollars. It’s the characteristics of the youngsters we’re trying to train.” So….. it’s the dollars.  What am I missing here? It is about Equity across the board.

His “answers“:

  • Closing racial achievement gap. (Me: not a problem schools can solve at home and costs lots of money at schools via individual tutoring, smaller class sizes, special remediation, etc. You cannot catch kids up by pouring them into giant classes and not individualizing their instruction. That’s what the rich kids get on top of pressure from home life to be successful at school.)
  • “Put world class instruction in front of every youngster in every classroom.” (Me: costs money to train/retrain)
  • Early school readiness. (Me: Money!)
  • More time in class and not in AEP. (Me: This is as much a family issue as it is a school issue)
  • “Do more things better/faster/cheaper.” (Me: Really? This is based on his experience from what? Teachers are on burnout mode already. There are only so many hours in the day for so many kids per teacher. Toss on the massive amounts of documentation required for most kids these days, you have to add instructional staff.)

Choice/vouchers:

  • gave first speech in 1990 promoting choice
  • developed school choice proposal in 1991
  • “I won’t be promoting choice in the halls of the Capitol.”
  • “We will answer the implementation questions.”
  • On accountability structure for private schools question: “We are not doing any work in the building on school choice.”

“We have TX college readiness scores around 30%.” (Me: Where should this number be and who decides that? Why should every kid be “college ready.” I like the idea of the foundational body of knowledge, but that’s not college ready.)

Williams blames local school districts for too much testing. (Me: To think that benchmarking shouldn’t be a part of state testing shows his lack of understanding of student progress. He also fails to realize that federal law requires regular monitoring of ALL students via probes and benchmarks for RTI identification. Even if he knows it, leaving it out in his comments is tantamount to misrepresentation of the facts.)

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.

National Writing Project Grows Lifelong Learners

In 2005-6 I was in the midst of my graduate work at the University of Texas at Arlington. Working toward a Masters of Education with a Literacy Emphasis fit very well with my love of teaching reading and writing. In the spring of 2006, I was given the opportunity to be a part of the Bluebonnet Writing Project’s Summer Institute. I would earn 6 hours of Masters credit and become NWP certified at the same time. Little did I know how much more that time was worth than 6 hours of grad credit.

I was tasked with studying brain research, writing research, pedagogy research, and… you get the message. I was challenged to write in all different types of modes that would extend my skills and experiences. I collaborated with writers in my class as well as the global audience provided by the National Writing Project through their digital portals. I was able to sit and work in the presence of greatness from school districts all around Texas during those five or six weeks. My skills as a writing teacher grew to levels I never thought possible.Not only did I become a trainer consultant, but I became a technology liaison. Both have given me extended opportunities to network with educators from other states in an effort to improve professional development in both their states and ours. It is a connection that was born out of six weeks worth of work one summer, but it is one that will hopefully continue well into my teaching career.

How important was this training to me? Well, if you consider that I live 3 hours from UT-A and commuted, I’d say it was pretty darned important.

From that experience with the National Writing Project, I’ve become a lifelong learner. I realized the impact of networking with other professional educators to build my skills, learn new methods of instruction, and how to impact my students in great ways through literacy. Thousands of students and untold numbers of educators have been touched by the National Writing Project through just my experiences in the last five years.

What value can you place on the positive changes that have taken place due to the National Writing Project’s untiring devotion to training educators nationwide? These are changes that happen one year and disappear the next. These are lifelong changes that can be directly attributed to the work NWP and those who have been trained by them have done.These are changes that go beyond any multiple choice test and right into the lives of teachers and students on a daily basis long after the tests have been scored and filed away for another year.

Do the right thing. Continue to fund this project for its proven, positive results. You want to fund the best programs available for the taxpayers’ dollars? Fund the National Writing Project.

Hiring the Right Staff…Or Not

Photo Credits: Me

With NECC coming up sooner than it seems, and Malcolm Gladwell being the keynote speaker, I decided I had to make a move to learn a little more about this guy. 

I finally had some time to read through Malcom Gladwell‘s article in the New Yorker titled “Most Likely to Succeed.” I was excited about the possibilities after reading the tag line “How do we hire when we can’t tell who’s right for the job?” My hope that I would finally learn the secrets to hiring the right staff was short lived as I read through the article, though.

Once you get through the overly done metaphor of scouting a quarterback being compared to finding the right teacher, you find that Gladwell builds on a number of misguided beliefs bantered around already far too much in political circles as foundations of good education.

First of all, Gladwell jumps right into the fire by saying that “one of the most important tools in contemporary educational research is ‘value added’ analysis.” As he says, it uses standardized tests to determine the connection between a student’s test scores and a classroom teacher’s performance. More specifically, he uses a class average as the comparison between two third grade teachers. Not only does he not take into consideration the different make-up of student needs, he goes so far as to name the kids “Janes, Lucys, Johns, and Roberts.” That extends his description of the students as average with the use of average names.  When was the last time any teacher walked into a classroom full of kids with names like that?

I give Gladwell credit for the admission, “It’s only a crude measurement. A teacher is not solely responsible for how much is learned in a classroom, and not everything of value that a teacher imparts to his or her students can be captured on a standardized test.” Yet, he jumps right back into the poor side of the argument using the term “nonetheless.” Why nonetheless? Why not, “Standardized tests just don’t cut it.” Nope. He decides that it is just okay to base teacher performance on student tests. We will find out whether a teacher is “good or poor” based on one test on one day.

He then extends that argument even more giving it credence by sharing input given by an economist who talks about ranking our kids against other countries. That again? When other countries test their kids, ALL of their kids, like we do (or vice versa) then we can have this discussion. Until then, it is an apples and oranges comparison and not worthy of more print. I prefer to not create a nation of standardized test takers anyway.

As an added bonus, the economist shares that we can increase test scores by replacing the bottom six to ten percent of our teachers with teachers of “average quality.” Would this argument not continue through infinity? It’s like saying we need to bring up those below average. Won’t half the population always be below average?

After some more drivel about scouting, he gets back to some real research about what makes a good teacher. “Withitness.” Now, as stupid as that sounds, it is pretty accurate. It might be the teacher who allows the little kids at reading time to get excited about the book and lean in toward the book even though it might be against normal class procedure. She is identifying a level of engagement and running with it. It might also be the teacher who stops one of the kids as he/she heads out the door to make sure everything is okay after noticing odd behavior in the classroom. Or it might be the teacher who mentions student names and specific honors seen over the weekend at the academic event or ball field.  Or it might be all of the above and then some, which is far more likely, but that is withitness. 

I had the opportunity to testify before an Interim Select Committee on Accountability in Austin, Texas, last spring. Near the end of my testimony, the chairman of the committee asked me a simple question: “What makes a teacher a good teacher?” My answer was just as simple, but not really: “I know it when I see it.” While it may seem an odd answer, those of us in education realize that it is VERY difficult to vocalize what a good teacher is doing that makes a good teacher. Sure, we can do checklists all day long. What is missing is what that truly looks like in a good teacher. A poor teacher can get through a checklist. It takes experience to know the difference.

This is where Gladwell allows some good ideas to come through even if he did not extend them to logical possibilities. He is absolutely correct that our government is too busy trying to certify every Tom, Dick, and Mary that wants to be called a teacher. Then they complain that teacher quality is low. Gladwell brings in an example of financial advisers and training and yada, yada, yada. Basically, the financial companies spend about $150,000 over three or four years to train up each finalist for financial adviser positions with mentors working with them, yet they still have a lower than expected success rate. He even admits that it is a tough sell for schools to pull that off. I have several issues with this model.

For one thing, the poor kids in those classrooms will suffer. Consider that the “teacher” just cannot cut it. He/she has ruined three or four years worth of kids in that subject. Obviously, not all of the kids would suffer, but for the sake of argument, we can all agree they got cheated in some form or fashion. And, on top of that, schools do not have that type of money to waste on a bet like that.

So why would I hammer Gladwell over trying to get schools to do an internship/apprenticeship like this? Well, it seems as though he suggests that we do this AFTER college. I don’t get that. Why would we not “cull the herd,” if you will, BEFORE they get to the classroom?

I happened to go through a program just like that, and cull they did. In a program at the University of Texas at Tyler that limited entry to thirty students, our graduating class only had eleven left. The program had us in classrooms in Title 1 campuses from the second semester on. Internships and apprenticeships are a part of that program. Well, were a part of that program. It was expensive to do. UTT did it for as long as they could before they did away with it and settled for a hybrid version for the entire education program. While that brought up the quality of the larger program, it dropped the quality compared to that which most of us experienced prior to the change. It was hard. It had rigor. It had high expectations. Most of all, it got respect. A graduate of that program, aptly called Professional Development School, from an experience standpoint was not considered a first year teacher once entering his or her own classroom. Mentors from both the university and the schools in which we worked during our program spent countless hours helping develop professionals and counseling those who had no business in the classroom.

That is the model we should be using. I am all for internships and apprenticeships in pre-service programs. I think it would be the best investment most universities could make in improving the quality of their programs and graduates, ultimately improving the quality of teachers overall. 

I also find Gladwell’s mention of the financial industries “Million Dollar Round Tables” out of place. The round table award is for successful financial advisors.  I am guessing he thinks there should be something similar in education. Wonderful. I’d love to see it.  If so, how do you determine the recipients? Please don’t tell me standardized test scores. There are too many issues with that thinking. The vast majority of kids in a state take the same test regardless of the fact that they are dyslexic, recent to the country, too low to qualify for special ed, mother died the week before, came to school sick as a dog, etc.  And even the university group that Gladwell discusses clearly shows how abstract good teacher qualities are with the term “withitness.” Standardized test that one for me.

Gladwell does end with a very profound statement before moving back into his football example:

What does it say about a society that it devotes more care and patience to the selection of those who handle its money than of those who handle its children?

So my takeaways from this article are these:

  • We need to improve our higher ed programs in the area of pre-service teacher training. Interneships and apprenticeships are great ways to do just that due to the fact that mentors will get to see candidates in real world situations.
  • Internships and apprenticeships are expensive. The public is not willing to pay for schools to do it, and frankly, my personal opinion is that waiting that long is too late anyway. The state should be paying to develop these programs at the university level.
  • Regardless of the fact that companies make widgets and are profit machines to generate further advances in their field and schools are far different from that, we will continue to see folks making that comparison in order to sell books, generate high paying speaking engagements.
  • Upon reflection, I cannot believe that Gladwell offered this article up as any part of a solution. It was more of a conversation starter.

So, let’s get to the point of that conversation. We are here for student academic achievement. What is the best way to insure that that happens at the highest level? How do we get to that end through hiring staff? I’m not sure I got much out of this article to move us in that direction.

What?


Photo Credit: jonjomckay

I am really trying to understand this. Truly.

Congress promises $1 billion in new funding for ALL public schools to share for technology infrastructure. You know, the same infrastructure that hiccuped during the inauguration due to overload.

Now, the United States Post Office is saying it might need a $6 billion boost just to stay even for this year.

So….. new technologies gets 1/6th the stimulus money of snail mail? New technologies are available 24/7 while snail mail may go down to 5 days of delivery and WILL cost more to use? And have you even tried to get to the post office before they close these days?

Can someone say Sacred Cow?

Textbooks, Technology, and Funding Revisited

The discussion on the TECSIG list serve has begun to echo some of the thoughts I have shared on here recently. The conversation began on the list serve when the Austin American Statesman posted an article titled “Should textbooks or technology be Texas’ spending priority?”  The money quote for those that advocate on behalf of public education within the Texas legislature is this one:

A 19th-century concept of learning is holding back Texas from bringing school technology into the present, some legislators say.

State Representative Dan Branch, also a member of the House Public Education Committee, shared that he felt “A textbook is a vehicle for content.  That vehicle is quickly becoming a horse and buggy.” Then the Statesman threw out this staggering statistic:

Since 1992, the state has allocated each year $30 per student for technology, which totals about $134 million in the current budget.

The bill for textbooks in the 2008-2009 budget was $496 million and will reach $913 million in the upcoming budget. Almost all of the $1.15 billion from the Permanent School Fund in the 2010-11 budget will be needed to pay for textbooks.

Why do we keep paying the textbook companies SO MUCH money when the things are virtually outdated almost immediately. Why do we not focus more attention within the curriculum and instruction side on how technology can help make the instructional process of delivering that content more efficient and timely.  Well, here is a TED Talks video from Richard Baraniuk that takes this thought a bit further:

So maybe opensource textbooks are a little too far fetched for what we do in public schools, you know, with standards and all. Rice University has been doing it for awhile now, though. But what it does not curtail us from doing is being proactive and collaborating on resources that we KNOW are good for what we are doing in our classrooms. If we cannot count on the textbook companies to be forward thinking and designing a textbook system that allows us as teachers and students to have access to the most recent changes in our field of study, then we must as educators find, create, and share resources that will do that for us. It is called collaboration. It is called being proactive and affecting positive change.

With that in mind, Seth Godin posts this morning on the worst business mistake he ever made. He ignored the internet when it was in its early stages. He wrote books about it and even taught others how to utilize it, but he ignored it himself. He calls it simply his “biggest business mistake.” So why did he ignore it then? Consider his reflection:

Because the rules of this new business didn’t match the rules of my existing business. (emphasis his)

Does this correlate to ANYTHING we are doing in Texas education? Does it correlate to ANYTHING we are doing in TCEA? Does it correlate to ANYTHING you are doing in your classroom?

Just a reminder to Texas educators. The 81st Texas Legislature convenes in January. What are your plans to be a part of it?

Ask and Ye Shall Receive!

Photo Credit: Tommy Merritt’s site

Oddly enough, on the day I blogged about TAKS changes the legislature is considering, I got a response from one of my state representatives from a questionnaire I sent out a little while back. Tim Holt blogged about doing the same thing with his state rep candidates, and I think Kyle Stevens might have joined in as well. I took the challenge and did the same.

I live in one House District while working in another. The advantage to this is that I get to work with both state representatives legitimately. I sent the questionnaire to both of them. One, State Rep. Tommy Merritt, Longview, completed his and returned it via email today. Thanks so much for doing that, sir. I have to say, my work with Rep. Merritt over the years has been mostly positive as it pertains to public education. Even when he votes opposite of what I would prefer, he shares his reasons. It is better than I get out of most state reps that cover our region of the state. One has a standard response of “I will vote with the recommendation of the committee.” That is political speak for “I have to see what the leadership wants me to do first before I can take a position.” But I digress.

So, get ready for more education conversation than you found in ALL of the presidential debates combined.  Rep. Merritt is unopposed in this race. Well, let me rephrase that. He had a last minute alternate party candidate join the race ONLY because he did not want to just see one name on the ballot. He is not actively campaigning.  Please find below the questions and answers directly copied and pasted from the email. I have made no changes to either of our parts of this (questions are in bold print):

Q1: Do you favor the current method of funding schools in Texas? Why or why not?  (If you do not favor the current method, what method will you suggest?)
I don’t favor the current “target revenue hold-harmless” method of funding schools because it does not reflect the actual cost of educating our children. Because of target revenue funding, more than 90% of school district funding is determined by a snapshot of what existed in the 2005-06 school year. We already have a formula system in statute that would provide a sound basis for an equitable, cost-based system. We need to fund it at an appropriate level and move away from the target revenue concept.

Q2:  Gathering from your history in the legislature, you suggest additional funding for education programs. How will you propose to pay for such programs while lowering property taxes but not generating more income via a state income tax?
As the Texas economy continues to grow faster than the rest of the nation, the increased revenue at current property tax rates should be funneled back into public education by increasing the funding yields that provide the foundation for an efficient funding system. This will go a long way in enabling districts to meet funding challenges such as those created by inflation and increasing accountability standards—and, it helps districts avoid tax rate increases because it provides more money for the district at the same tax rate.

Q3: Texas schools are behind other states in spending for technology. How will you suggest that the legislature help schools get up to the same level of technology spending that other states have been at for years and be prepared for future technology needs?
First, we need to recognize the reality of the current situation. Until the 2002-03 school year, public schools were eligible for grants from the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund (TIF). Districts would not necessarily receive a grant each year, but the average annual disbursement was about $30 per student. In addition, the Available School Fund provided a $30 per student technology allotment. Now, five years later, that $60 per student average has dropped below $30—based on a “sum-certain” appropriation.
This funding level is inadequate and should be raised to at least $150 per student, perhaps with a phase-in of a $50 per student technology allotment in 2009-2000, $100 in the second year of the biennium, and $150 per student for each year thereafter, dedicated from the Available School Fund.
The third component must be efficiency. We must make sure that every technology dollar is spent wisely, but true efficiencies will not come from outside the system. They must evolve from collaboration among stake holders, from the sharing of resources, and from the use of innovative teaching.

Q4: In our part of the state, there are many families without access to the internet due to the lack of infrastructure (fiber) running into our rural communities. Yet, much if not all of the state educational information is located on the internet. We are effectively not allowing these parents to be part of the education of their children. How will you address this issue?
Given current technology and the size of Texas, providing fiber-access to every parent, regardless of where they live, would be an impossible task, as you know. An answer may eventually lie in newer technologies like broadband over cell or broadband over power lines, but those are commercial builds for the obvious reasons.

While technology has certainly enhanced communication between parents and public schools and plays a very important roll, the higher question of ensuring parent participation in the education of their children is not limited to internet access. Regular contact with your child’s teacher is the essential component.

Q5: School districts across the state must respond to unfunded mandates from both the state and federal levels. For instance, in a few years, the state will require all student statewide testing such as End of Course and TAKS tests to be administered online. The state is not providing any additional monies to districts to make sure they have the equipment, bandwidth, and facilities to provide for this. Can you address exactly what you will do to help districts with unfunded mandates, both from the state and the federal levels?

If a thing is worth mandating, then it is worth the funding it takes to respond to the mandate. If a thing is not worth funding, then it shouldn’t be a mandate.

Unfunded federal mandates should be addressed with your Congressman. State mandates that are without benefit, whether they are unfunded or not, should be eliminated.

The first step is for those directly involved in public education—educators, parents, and other taxpayers—to identify the mandates that should be eliminated. If the case can be made, then I will work to eliminate them.

Q6: How do you plan to address the continuing teacher and administrator shortages?  Which of these are viable plans in your estimation:
Recruit teachers from other countries.
Rehire retirees with few restrictions.
Help districts reimburse individuals who go to or return to school to become certified teachers.
Help districts reimburse individuals who return to college while still teaching to earn administrator certification.

All of the strategies you mention are good strategies for eliminating teacher and administrator shortages. The best approach, however, must begin with competitive salaries.

Q7: One of the greatest expenses in any school district is the installation of technology followed by the maintenance and eventual replacement of said technology.  What is your plan to give districts relief from the costs associated with these instructional and administrative tools?
Appropriate technology is essential in any school district, as are faculty and staff salaries, healthcare, transportation, and on and on. A school funding plan written with intent to address a specific cost will most likely fail to address other, equally important costs. Adequately funding a cost-based formula system—which includes solid, dependable funding for technology—should be our goal.

Q8: What is your stand on electronic textbooks as opposed to traditional paper texts?
Each has benefits, neither is a remedy. Both should be used in the best way to meet the needs of children.

Q9: Student assessment like the TAKS test has mutated over the years from a simple student diagnostic to a high stakes program where people’s jobs are placed in jeopardy if scores are not met. Do you support high stakes testing such as the TAKS test? Why or why not? How do you see these tests changing in the future?

I voted for SB1031 replacing the TAKS test with end of course exams for high school students. In addition, I support replacing the TAKS test for middle and elementary students with end of course exams. A single test should not determine a student’s or teacher’s success or failure.

Q10: What can you do specifically to help House District 7 schools and parents during your legislative session in Austin?
Listen to the concerns expressed by schools and parents. Communicate their input and feedback to my colleagues and vote for legislation that supports their needs.

Thank you for your time.
I look forward to reading and posting your responses.

Scott S. Floyd, M. Ed.
White Oak ISD Instructional Technologist
903.291.2220
http://scottsfloyd.edublogs.org

Big props to Rep. Merritt for taking the initiative to respond to my inquiry. I appreciate this candor in several of the responses.  As always, I look forward to working with him during the upcoming session.  I will leave the commentary to the comment section. Who is the first to weigh in on this?

“The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong”


Photo Credit: DairDair

Can it be that the pendulum is finally swinging back the other direction?  This just in from Charles at Off the Kuff:

TAKS changes coming

Stepping out of campaign coverage for a second, here’s a look ahead to some TAKS tinkering the Lege will take up next year.

Texas public school students could face less pressure on the TAKS test under a proposal that key lawmakers unveiled Tuesday to overhaul the state’s school accountability system.

Under the plan, elementary and middle school students would no longer have to pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test to advance to the next grade level.

Schools still would be held accountable for low test scores, but they would get credit for improvement — even if students fell short of certain targets.

While several parents and school leaders praised the proposed changes to the school grading system as being more fair, others expressed concern that Texas would be lowering its standards. The Legislature is expected to consider the idea, offered by a special House-Senate committee on school accountability, next year.

“What this proposal does is eliminate the high-stakes testing in elementary schools, and I think that’s a very positive development,” said Spring Branch Superintendent Duncan Klussmann.

[…]

The revamped school grading system, which would require extra help for the struggling students, also would base annual performance ratings on three years of test scores instead of a single year and would give credit for student improvement. Districts would get judged on their financial health, too.

Pasadena ISD Superintendent Kirk Lewis applauded the move to averaging scores, noting that under the current system a school could be stigmatized with a low rating if it barely missed the mark in one subject one year.

“I think it will be helpful in taking some of the pressure off the schools,” Kirk said. “I believe in accountability … but the tweaks they’re making, it appears it would be a positive improvement over what we’ve got.”

Legislative leaders concede weaknesses in the current system — which rates schools on TAKS scores, graduation rates and dropout rates — and they heard complaints from educators and parents during hearings around the state this year.

“We found that the TAKS was the main focus of a lot of our education efforts, and it’s a minimal-skills test,” said House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands.

Standardized testing has its place, but I think the consensus after ten years of it here in Texas is that it’s become an end rather than a means to an end, and that it’s high time some effort was made to scale it down a little. I think bigger changes than this are ultimately needed, but this is a step in the right direction. Kudos to Rep. Eissler for listening to the feedback from parents and educators.

My comments on this:
This could be good news for those with elementary-aged students who just might not need that kind of pressure. It is also great news for elementary teachers who have been forced to be a part of the pressure-packed system. I can say fairly confidently that this is in large part to the new leadership that the House Public Education Committee has found after the previous chair’s defeat during election time. While I have had the opportunity to testify before the Interim Committee on Accountability, I would not have expected much movement on our suggestions, yet so quickly. Glad to see it was taken serious. Thank you, Chairman Eissler. I look forward to working with you more in the coming session.

My post title comes from a quote by Carl Gustav Jung – The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong