Time Flies

As hard as it is to believe, today is the end of the 4th 6 weeks. We have about 12 weeks left in the 2011-2012 school year! Spring break is only three weeks away. I can always tell we are  starting the end of the school year process, when I see the Masonic Luncheon on the calendar. The luncheon is set for March 7.

With all the activities and events scheduled between now and the end of the year, the next 12 weeks will pass quickly. There will be STAAR testing , TAKS testing, baseball, softball, golf, track, concert contests, Easter holiday, livestock shows, game nights, teacher appreciation week, board meetings, prom, Top-Ten Banquet, athletic banquet, NHS banquet,  TPRI testing, Memorial Day holiday, a host of senior activities, baccalaureate, graduation, early release days, field trips, award days, and of course our staff working diligently to provide each and every student a world-class education.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Raymund Paredes Presentation

One of the sessions that I attended at Mid-Winter featured the Texas Commissioner of Higher Education, Raymund Paredes. His presentation covered many different aspects of both higher education and secondary
education. Highlights of his presentation:

  • Discussion of Generation Texas – GenTex
    • Premise: Current K-12 generation will be the greatest generation in Texas.
    • Goal: To ensure that families understand the resources available to go to college.

       

  • The bulk of students requiring developmental education is not coming straight out of high school, but is enrolling after a few years out of high school.

     

  • Developmental courses may not necessarily be needed. What may be needed is more like a “refresher” course.

     

  • Reinventing Higher Education
    • Implement outcomes based funding.
    • Make student financial aid effective and efficient.
    • Reinvent developmental education.
    • Institutionalize a lean culture of continuous improvement
    • Identify low cost, high quality degrees.

     

  • 4th year of rigorous math in high school is the best indicator of college success.

     

  • Colleges and universities are currently working on aligning courses horizontally and vertically – i. e. English 101 would be the same everywhere.

     

  • In 1973 28% of all jobs required some type of post secondary credential.

     

  • Predicted that in 2018 that 62% of all jobs and 58% of manufacturing jobs will require some type of post secondary credential.

     

  • Schools should adopt college and career readiness standards as a goal.

     

  • The youngest cohort in the US is less well educated than previous – Texas has the same problem.

     

  • To remain globally competitive, Texas will need an additional 4.1 million associate and bachelor degrees by the year 2030 to reach internationally accepted goal of 60% of the workforce with higher education attainment.

A few thoughts: I appreciated that higher education was acknowledging the fact that students may not need complete developmental courses in a subject. Perhaps all they need is a brief refresher course. “Use it or lose it” is definitely an issue in mathematics. Students that were successful math students in high school, but do not go directly to college after graduation, often find that the skills and knowledge obtained in high school diminish when they are no longer used on a regular basis.

EISD has required that students in high school pursue a 4th year of math regardless of the number of math credits that they have. This policy has been in place about 8 years now. Hearing Dr. Paredes discuss the importance of this 4th year of math reinforced what we have been doing for several years in EISD.

I do think that it is extremely important that families understand what resources are available to assist students in attaining post secondary education and training. The Generation Texas program should prove invaluable to students, their families, and schools. You can visit the Generation Texas website at http://gentx.org/.

 

 


 

Update on 15% Rule

Over the last two days, four Texas Senators, Senator Shapiro, Senator West, Senator Seliger, and Senator Patrick, have co-written a letter to Commissioner Robert Scott concerning the implementation of the new 15% rule. This rule states that end of course tests must count 15% of a student’s final grade in a course. According to TEA, this rule had to go into effect this year even though this is the transition year between the TAKS test and the new STAAR tests. By design, school districts were not going to be rated this year based on performance on the new test. This is basically the same thing that happened when we went from TAAS testing to TAKS testing a few years ago. Concerns have been expressed over holding students to the new standard when school districts were given a one year grace period.

Commissioner Scott has stated that he lacked the authority to waive the rule based on interpretations from TEA attorneys. However, the senators have expressed the opinion that Commissioner Scott does have the authority to waive the 15% requirement for this year and, in fact, that was the intent from the beginning.

As of this writing, districts have not received any communication from TEA regarding the letter from the senators. I will pass along information as it becomes available.

A Response to Bill Hammond

Mr. Bill Hammond, President and CEO of the Texas Association of Business, recently delivered a letter to all the legislators in Texas concerning the testing and accountability system. A copy of the entire letter can be viewed at this link: http://www.texasisd.com/article_122387.shtml.

In his letter, Mr. Hammond contends that all of the measures in HB 3 should be enforced immediately. Specifically, this is referring to counting the end of course tests as 15% of the students’ final grade. He states that “recent actions by opponents of a quality public education system in Texas are poised to set our state on a tragic course.”

He goes on to state that. “it’s time for the people with the most at stake in our education system – our students and their families, our state’s employers and Texas taxpayers – to stand up and make their voices heard.”

Okay, I am a parent of two school aged students (one 9th grader and one 6th grader) and  I am certainly a taxpayer at the local, state and federal levels. So, as Mr. Hammond suggests, I am going to make my voice heard.

As a parent, I absolutely and completely am opposed to counting any type of standardized test as part of my children’s final grade in a course. Here is why: Mr. Hammond has stated on several occassions that counting the test 15% of a student’s grade would provide “motivation” for the students to do well. Forgive me, sir, but it is not your business, nor the legislature’s business, to try to motivate my daughters. That is my job and my wife’s job. If “motivation” could be legislated, then we would not be facing any challenges in education. My suggestion is that you let the parents raise their own children.

Mr Hammond also states that, “If these local administrators would cut out all their own time-consuming ‘benchmark’ testing and practice and srill testing that drive parents and teachers crazy, we’d be left with very little, but highly valuable, testing at the end of the year.” Wow!! This statement is coming from the president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business. Following this same logic into business tells me that architects and engineers do not need to inspect building projects until the end of the project. No sense in wasting valuable time making sure things are done right during the actual construction phase! Business people should not be keeping up with monthly trends, revenues, or expenditures: just wait until the end of the year to see how your business is doing.

Finally, (I promise this is the last thing), Mr. Hammond makes the statement that, “Clearly, the status quo education and accountability  system is not acceptable. Texas is on a road to ruin if we do not raise our standards in public education. Today, only 16 percent of 9th graders in Texas public schools are career and college-ready as they graduate from high school.” I did not mis-type this quote. First, 9th graders are not ready to graduate. They still have 3 more years of high school. Second, let’s assume that the intent of the message was that only 16% of graduates are college ready and that this is an accurate figure. If this is true, I  cannot think of a more indicting statement to show that our past high stakes testing is not producing the intended outcomes. We have been through the TABS, the TAAS, and the TAKS testing schemes. Why do we think that moving to the STAAR test is all of a sudden going to solve all of our problems? Mr. Hammond makes the point himself if only 16% of our graduates are college and career ready.

Make no mistake, I do believe that schools should absolutely be held accountable for the qualtiy of education that they are providing our children. We are given parameters in which to operate. We are told how we will be “graded” publicly. Are we not supposed to make every effort to achieve the highest rating possible? When we believe that the score on a test is a true indication of the quality of education that our students receive, these are the things that happen. We have got to move beyond that in Texas and acknowledge that true quality can and should be shown throughout the year. Yes, a quality standardized test can be part of it; but, only part. It’s time for Texas to again take the lead and move beyond just test scores. I look forward to that happening.

Until that happens, rest assured that EISD will continue to work diligently to provide each and every child with a world-class education.

 

There will be a video posted on the Eustace ISD YouTube page of the boys basketball senior night at some point this morning. The address for our YouTube page is http://www.youtube.com/user/EustaceISD.

This Week

Monday – There was a softball game scheduled at Malakoff at 5:00. Not sure if they will be able to get this in due to the weather.

Tuesday – Class parties – Primary; Boys basketball at Leon – 5:00 – last game of the season

Thursday – Softball at Athens Tournament

Friday – End 4th 6 Weeks; Softball at Athens Tournament; Baseball scrimmage v. Grand Saline – 5:00

Saturday – Baseball scrimmage at Athens – 10:00 AM

I hope everyone has a great week!

 

 

STAAR Resources

via Technology Tidbits by Twyla Felty

Teachers are working hard this year to prepare students for the upcoming STAAR and end-of-course exams, and this means they also need new, fun-filled, up-to-date resources to compliment classroom instruction as well. DynaNotes, a company that creates and sells instructional materials, has made some valuable tools available for FREE online!

The DynaNotes workroom currently has online tools available for 5th grade Science, 8th grade Science, and Biology end-of-course. However, the site also lists all other STAAR tests and states that free downloads and content are coming soon! So, keep an eye on DynaNotes in the future, and I will get back to you as they continue to add to their list of resources.

By the way, this great STAAR resources was given to our 8th grade Science teacher through her PLN. Get involved with your Professional Learning Network to learn and  share what you know.

Notes from Equity Center Meeting

One of the presenters at the Equity Center meeting last week was Representative Jimmie Don Aycock. Representative Aycock’s district is in the Central Texas area and includes the counties of Lampasas, Burnet, and Bell. I would like to share some of Representative Aycock’s thoughts about education and the state in general:

  • Currently, revenue in Texas is up.
  • Unemployment is down.
  • Tax revenue is determined by the Ways and Means Committee – no education committee is involved in taxes.
  • Likely to have many changes in the legislature in the coming session.
  • Representative Aycock talked about the “tool box for the legislature.” These are ideas that were all presented as solutions to the school funding issue in the last legislative session:
    • Change tax policy and increase revenue.
    • Redistribution (taking from wealthy districts and giving to poorer districts).
    • Increase local property tax.
    • Cutting programs.
    • Reducing requirements.
    • Consolidating districts.
    • Redefine state role in the general diffusion of knowledge.
    • Taxpayer Grant Program – pay parents for taking students out of public schools.
    • Changing the accountability system.
    • Reporting requirements.
    • Reducing NIFA and EDA funding (this funding helps districts pay for new instructional facilities and helps pay for bonds that have been issued for building purposes).
    • Curriculum development.
    • Adjustments or elimination of the small and mid-sized school formulas.
  • Need solutions for the long term.
  • Sees trend for more career and technology courses and more vocational education.
  • Believes that there might be a record high drop out rate with this years 9th graders due to the requirements of the end of course tests.
  • Must provide a good value to the students and to the taxpaying public.
  • Legislature and schools must move past the antagonistic roles that have developed of the last few years and get to the point where we are communicating and listening.
  • Public will eventually fund what it values.

I appreciate that Representative Aycock took the time to visit with us and to share his thoughts. His honesty about certain topics was certainly refreshing and appreciated. I certainly concur with his observation that the legislature and school districts must work closely together and that both share an equal burden in communicating and listening.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Adequacy versus Equity

Today, I want to talk about the differences between adequacy and equity. At the fundamental level, adequacy is having enough funding to meet the constitutional requirement in Texas of a “general diffusion of knowledge.” However, adequacy must also be seen in the light of current standards and expectations. While funding may be adequate to ensure a general diffusion of knowledge, is there adequate funding to ensure that our students are learning at the appropriate level to meet the standards of the new STAAR test? Is there adequate funding to ensure that our students are meeting the college and career readiness standards? If the answer to these questions were “Yes”, then the funding system would be considered adequate.

A funding system can be adequate without being equitable. As we saw in the example from yesterday’s post, equity is not present in a funding system that provides more state funding for one district than another based on factors from the 05-06 school year. There is no reason to expect a student in one district to be “worth” more than a student in another district based solely on where that student lives. While it is difficult to objectively calculate adequacy, equity can be calculated precisely.

I had a great email yesterday regarding my post. The email asked what the solution to providing an equitable solution would be. Should the state take money from the better funded districts and redistribute that to the lower funded districts? Or, should the state provide additional funding to the lower funded districts to try to bring them up to the level of the other districts? This is the essence of the equity debate. How do we achieve equity in the state of Texas? Do we take money away from some or do we provide more money to others? If the districts funded at a higher level are stating that they do not have enough funding to provide an adequate education (and that is exactly what they are saying), then the answer is clear: the only solution is to add additional money to the lower funded districts in order to bring up their overall state funding.

As always, I welcome your questions or comments. Please feel free to contact me at cholcombe@eustaceisd.net.