This Week

This week marks the end of the 4th 6 weeks. Students have a holiday on Friday while staff members have an end of the six weeks workday. Bulldog Extra will meet from 3:30 – 5:30, Monday – Thursday. This week also has a full slate of  golf, softball, and baseball. The Bulldogs will be hosting their annual baseball tournament on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. In addition, the EISD Board of Trustees will hold their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Monday – Bulldog Extra – 3:30 – 5:30; Boys Golf at Cedar Creek

Tuesday – Bulldog Extra – 3:30 – 5:30; Girls Golf at Cedar Creek; Varsity Baseball v. Kaufman – 4:30; Softball v. Grand Saline 6:00; School Board Meeting – 7:00 PM, HS Library

Wednesday – Bulldog Extra – 3:30 – 5:30

Thursday – End 4th 6 Weeks; Bulldog Extra – 3:30 – 5:30; Early Childhood Family Reading Night; Eustace Baseball Tournament

Friday – Teacher Workday (No school for students.); Softball v. Rice – 5:00; Eustace Baseball Tournament

Saturday – Eustace Baseball Tournament; JV Baseball at Kaufman – 11:00

I hope everyone has a great week!

Legislative Update

Below is an update from the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). This update contains information about bills that are to be heard by the House Committee on Public Education. All of these bills have to do with either graduation requirements, assessments or both. Note the similarities and differences. The HB 659 (Strama) still has the end of course test counting 15% of the second semesters final grade (as opposed to 15% of the overall grade). The other bills either eliminate completely or provide local districts the option of using the 15% or not. Note also that there is a great deal of emphasis on career and technology courses in several of the bills. I believe that the bills filed by Aycock and Patrick, et al will receive a great deal of consideration.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

House Pub Ed Lines Up Assessment Bills

The House Public Education Committee will meet at 2 p.m. or upon final adjournment of the House on Tuesday, February 19, to consider the following bills:

HB 5 (Aycock, et al.) would create one foundational degree on which students may
earn endorsements in certain fields, including STEM, business and industry,
public services, and arts and humanities. HB 5 would also:

  • allow districts to partner with community colleges and industry to develop
    rigorous courses that address workforce needs, provide technical training
    and count towards graduation;
  • eliminate the requirement that all students must pass Algebra II and ELA III to
    receive a high school diploma;
  • eliminate the 15 percent rule;
  • grant current ninth and tenth grade students the benefits of the new structure;
    and
  • allow all high school graduates to be eligible for automatic admission to Texas
    public four-year universities because all student graduate under the same
    diploma.

In terms of assessments and accountability, HB 5 reduces the number of end-of-course assessments required for graduation from 15 to five: Algebra I, biology, U.S. history and English II (reading and writing). The bill also would eliminate the cumulative score
requirement for end-of-course exams and would allow satisfactory performance on
Advanced Placement, SAT and ACT exams to satisfy graduation requirements. HB 5
would do away with the current accountability ratings and institute an A-F
system that takes into account academic performance, financial performance, and
community and student engagement.

HB 224 (Huberty, et al.) would repeal the requirement that a student’s performance on
an end-of-course assessment accounts for 15 percent of the student’s final
grade in that course.

HB 251 (Guillen) would prohibit the commissioner from lowering a district or
campus performance rating due to a limited English proficient student’s
unsatisfactory performance on an assessment for three years after the student
initially enrolls in a school in the U.S.

HB 399 (Krause) would allow school districts to designate the advanced
career and technical courses that may count toward certain math and science
curriculum requirements.

HB 554 (Strama) would require the release of questions and answers from
state assessments every year, as opposed to every third year as stipulated by
current law.

HB 640 (Patrick, et al.) would remove the requirement that a student’s performance
on an end-of-course (EOC) assessment account for 15 percent of the final course
grade. Districts would have discretion as to whether to consider performance on
an EOC when determining whether the student satisfied graduation requirements.
Students in any graduation program would be required to take EOC assessments in
Algebra I and English III only, and could partially or completely satisfy the
EOC requirement by successfully completing one or more dual credit courses
through an institution of higher education. A student’s performance on an EOC
could not be used for class ranking or as a sole college admission criterion. A
general academic teaching institution could take EOC performance into
consideration in addition to other criteria, however. The commissioner would
adopt rules allowing a student to satisfy EOC requirements by satisfactory
performance on an AP test, IB exam, SAT, ACT, or other assessment instrument
determined to be as rigorous as an EOC exam. If the commissioner fails to adopt
rules to this end, the student would be deemed to have satisfactorily completed
the EOC requirement by earning a determined score on the aforementioned tests.
The commissioner could require a student to achieve a particular score on the
required EOCs in order to graduate under the advanced or recommended programs.
A student who failed to perform satisfactorily on the Algebra I or English III
EOC would be required to retake the exam. If the student is deemed unlikely to
satisfy the performance requirements, the student would enroll in a college preparatory
class.

HB 640 would amend the performance indicators set forth in the Education Code by adding career and technology licenses and certifications, associate degrees, and dual credits earned, as well as students who satisfy college readiness benchmarks as indicated by IB, AP, SAT, and ACT performance. District and campus performance would no longer be based on PEIMS data and assessment results. The commissioner could suspend assignment of accreditation statuses and performance ratings for the 2012-13 school year.

HB 596 (Villarreal) would allow school districts discretion as to whether to
include performance on an EOC exam up to 15 percent of a student’s final grade.
This bill would repeal the language regarding achieving a satisfactory cumulative
score on EOCs in the foundation curriculum in order to receive a high school
diploma. It would also amend the EOCs required for the different graduation
programs. Specifically, students on the recommended high school program would
be required to take the following EOCs: English III; Algebra II; biology,
chemistry, or physics; and world geography, world history, or US history.
Students taking the advanced high school program would be required to take the
same EOC assessments as those on the recommended program, however, the
commissioner would determine how performance on an AP test, IB exam, SAT or
other instrument could satisfy the EOC requirements for English III and Algebra
II. The EOC requirements for the minimum high school program would be the same
as the recommended program although Algebra I would replace Algebra II. ARD
committees would determine whether a student in a special education program
would be required to pass an EOC in order to receive a diploma. A student who
fails to achieve the score requirement on an EOC could, but is not required to,
retake it. Recognized and exemplary district and campus ratings would no longer
take into account performance on assessment instruments, including those in
grades 3-8 and EOC exams. Ratings could consider postsecondary readiness as
long as they did take into account student performance on assessment
instruments. A district could not spend more than 10% of instructional days in
a school year on administering state assessments or local assessments to prepare
students for the statewide tests.

HB 659 (Strama) would amend the current assessment provisions, mainly
regarding EOC assessments. A student’s performance on an EOC would account for
15 percent of his second semester grade instead of 15 percent of the final
grade for the course. With the exception of the English I, II, and III EOC’s,
which would be writing assessments, all EOCs would be administered in the final
week of the school year. The commissioner would adopt a standardized procedure
for using performance on an EOC for determining the course grade in order to
achieve statewide uniformity. Questions and answers from assessment instruments
would be released yearly and results would be released not later than the 21st
day after administration of the test. Districts, DAEPs, and JJAEPs would be
required to allow an eligible student to retake an EOC by computer. This bill
would repeal the language regarding achieving a satisfactory cumulative score
on EOCs in the foundation curriculum in order to receive a high school diploma.
Instead, a student would be required to achieve a certain score set by the
commissioner only on the English II and Algebra I exams in order to graduate
under the minimum, recommended or advanced high school programs. A student who fails to achieve that score could retake the Algebra I or English II EOC each time
the assessment is administered. If it appears that a student, on completion of
11th grade, is unlikely to pass the Algebra I or English II EOC, the student
would be enrolled in a content area college preparatory course.

 

Investment Training and Comptrollers Award

Over the last two days, I attended a training session on the Public Funds Investment Act. This training is required by the state every two years for public officials that are in charge of public funds. During the training, the Public Funds Investment Act is reviewed along with any changes in the law. Current economic trends are examined and best practices are reviewed. The training is not designed to make the attendees “experts” in investing; instead, the training provides relevant information about the roles and responsibilities of those involved in investment decisions. While different allowable types of investments are reviewed, the overall purpose of the training is to emphasize the importance of safety of investment over return on investment.

Gold Leadership Award

I received notification today that EISD has been awarded the Gold Leadership Circle Award for 2013. This award is given by the state comptrollers office and is based on the level of financial transparency provided by the entity. This is the 4th year in a row that EISD has received the Gold Award. Out of a possible 20 points, EISD received 18 points on its level of financial transparency demonstrated by the amount of information posted on the district’s website. This award is the culmination of many people working to make EISD’s financial records easily available for all to view. I want to thank the EISD Board of Trustees, our business manager, Carol Warren, our payroll officer, Debra Meyners and our accounts payable officer, Kara Weaver. A special thank you goes to our webmaster, Michelle Cavazos, for her work in putting all of this information together on our website. If you have not visited our website, I encourage you to take a few minutes and examine the information available at www.eustaceisd.net.

 

This Week

In sports, we are at the transition between basketball and softball and baseball. Golf tournaments and track meets are also on the horizon. The district’s after school tutoring program, Bulldog Extra, continues to meet Monday – Thursday.

Monday – Bulldog Extra – 3:30 – 5:30; Softball v. Waxahachie Faith Family – 6:30

Tuesday – Bulldog Extra 3:30 – 5:30; Boys Basketball v. Palmer – 4:30

Wednesday – Bulldog Extra – 3:30 – 5:30

Thursday – Bulldog Extra – 3:30 – 5:30; Valentine’s Parties – Primary; Softball at Brownsboro Tournament

Friday – Deadline for Placing Senior Ads; Baseball Scrimmage at Grand Saline – 5:00; Softball at Crossroads – 6:00

Saturday – Baseball Scrimmage at Athens – 12:00; Softball at Brownsboro Tournament

I hope everyone has a great week!

Basketball Tonight and Educational Spending

Tonight, the High School boys travel to Dallas Faith Family. The JV game is scheduled to start at 4:30. The boys only have one district game left after tonight.

There are and have been reports in the media where some people have claimed that the state of Texas has doubled the spending on public education over the last decade. These claims are easy to make because most people do not have the information readily available to examine the accuracies of such claims. A piece of evidence was introduced in the school finance trial that addresses this issue. Moreover, this evidence was not produced by the plaintiff school districts but was actually a product of information provided by the Legislative Budget Board, the Texas Education Agency, and the Department of Commerce.

The chart below shows the amount spent on education in Texas from 2004 to 2013. In the line graph, the dollar figures have been adjusted to account for inflation. While it is true that since 2004, the amount spent on education has increased, over the last few years, the amount has been relatively flat. As the chart shows, in the years between 2004 and 2007, local revenue (mostly property taxes) accounted for more education revenue than from the state. With changes in the school finance system, local property taxes were lowered and the state, by design, was supposed to pick up a larger portion of the overall cost of education. The 2013 projections show that the local funds are again beginning to approach the amount that the state is providing to school districts. One other point that needs to be considered is that over the period covered by the graph, the number of students in state increased from about 4.3 million to around 5 million.

As I have stated many times, I do not think that it is reasonable or fair to ask the property owners of EISD to increase the amount of their taxes just to get to the point of state aid that is being provided to other districts. I believe that the recent ruling by Judge Dietz has shown similar conclusions. It is important for everyone to know the true numbers about school finance.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Legislative Update

Yesterday was a big day in educational news from Austin. I received an email from our Senator, Robert Nichols, concerning the 15% rule and Representative Jimmie Don Aycock filed a bill that overhauls graduation requirements for high school students.

Here is the text from the email received from Senator Nichols:

This afternoon, the Senate passed an amended version of SB
135: relating to the use of a public school student’s performance on an
end-of-course assessment instrument in determining the student’s final grade
for the course. Senator Van de Putte added an amendment that strikes from law
“that each school district shall adopt a policy that requires a student’s
performance on the end-of-course assessment instrument to account for 15
percent of the student’s final grade for the course.” The bill passed
unanimously and now is being sent to the House for a vote.

Below is a summary of the bill filed by Representative Aycock. The summary comes from the Texas Association of School Boards:

House Public Education Committee
Chair Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) announced that he will be filing an omnibus bill, House Bill 5, that promises significant changes to graduation requirements, student assessments and school accountability laws.

 Read a summary of the bill as provided by Chairman Aycock.

 “Representative Jimmie Don Aycock’s unveiling of House Bill 5 comes at a critical time for school districts,” said Catherine Clark, associate executive director for TASB Governmental Relations. “With our students and schools caught in the accountability limbo that is the turbulent implementation of STAAR, school leaders are looking to the
legislature to provide leadership on this issue.”

 Similar to Sen. Kel Seliger’s Senate Bill 225, HB 5 would create one foundational degree on which students may earn endorsements in certain fields. Aycock’s bill would include endorsements in STEM, business and industry, public services, and arts and humanities.

 “The bill provides a framework that will help high school students graduate ready for college and careers and recognizes the inherent gifts of our students by providing multiple pathways to graduation,” Clark said.

 HB 5 would also:

  • allow districts to partner with community colleges and industry to develop
    rigorous courses that address workforce needs, provide technical training
    and count towards graduation;
  • eliminate the requirement that all students must pass Algebra II and ELA III to
    receive a high school diploma;
  • eliminate the 15% rule;
  • grant current ninth and tenth grade students the benefits of the new structure;
    and
  • allow all high school graduates to be eligible for automatic admission to Texas
    public four-year universities because all student graduate under the same
    diploma.

In terms of assessments and accountability, HB 5 reduces the number of end-of-course assessments required for graduation from 15 to five: Algebra I, biology, U.S. history and English II (reading and writing). The bill also would eliminate the cumulative score
requirement for end-of-course exams and would allow satisfactory performance on
Advanced Placement, SAT and ACT exams to satisfy graduation requirements.

 “Representative Aycock’s bill reduces overreliance on standardized tests, allowing teachers to focus on educating their students while using assessments to determine how best to help children move forward as opposed to the current system that uses assessments to hold children back,” Clark said.

Aycock noted that this bill is far from complete.

 “This is not a bill final. This is a starting point for discussion, and for a broad discussion, on many of these issues,” Aycock said. “I think we have picked a starting point for the discussion. And I have no doubt we’ll be hearing from people who will advocate for more testing and people who would advocate for less. That’s part of the process.”

 HB 5 would do away with the current accountability ratings and institute an A-F system that takes into account academic performance, financial performance, and community and student engagement.

 All members of the House Public Education Committee have signed onto the bill as co-authors.

 “Overall, the bill reduces reliance on state tests at the same time that it holds students, schools, and districts accountable with a system that takes into account educational performance, financial performance, and student and community engagement,” Clark continued. “Representative Aycock’s bill is an excellent step forward.”

I believe that both of these bills are positive indications that our elected officials are listenting to the concerns of parents and educators and are trying to make the necessary adjustments in our testing and accountability system. Further updates will follow.

2012 Preliminary Property Values

The State Comptroller’s office recently released the preliminary 2012 property value findings. Eustace ISD is considered a “split district” because it has property in two counties: Henderson and Van Zandt. However, the vast majority of the property in EISD is contained in Henderson County. Below is a table that compares the final 2011 property values with the preliminary 2012 property value findings. This table represents the totals from both Henderson and Van Zandt counties.

Category 2011 Final Value                       2012
Preliminary Value
       Difference
Single Family
Residences
$453,533,100 $475,854,520 $22,321,420
Multi-Family
Residences
$214,730 $214,730 $0
Vacant Lots $34,796,490 $34,293,730 -$502,760
Rural Real
(Taxable)
$86,967,710 $83,710,270 -$3,257,440
Commercial
Real
$8,754,050 $8,969,050 $215,000
Industrial
Real
$0 $10,688,451 $10,688,451
Oil, Gas,
Minerals
$1,889,000 $5,969,295 $4,080,295
Utilities $16,295,801 $18,675,818 $2,380,017
Commercial
Personal
$4,365,870 $4,359,950 -$5,920
Industrial
Personal
$1,989,295 $2,799,138 $809,843
Other Personal $13,156,770 $4,018,890 -$9,137,880
Intangible $0 $0 $0
Residential
Inventory
$1,453,140 $756,160 -$696,980
Special
Inventory
$3,080 $8,000 $4,920
Subtotal $623,419,036 $650,318,002 $26,898,966
Less Total
Deductions
$118,374,055 $119,367,085 $993,030
Total Taxable
Value
$505,044,981 $530,950,917 $25,905,936

As you can see, the preliminary taxable values for 2012 show an increase of almost $26,000,000 in value. The largest increases come from the categories of single-family residences, industrial real, and oil, gas, and mineral. While these are preliminary values for 2012, historically, the actual values do not vary that much from the preliminary values.

Eustace Middle School UIL Academic Awards 2013

Recognition and awards for the students competing in UIL Academics. EMS won the UIL Academic competition held in December 2012.
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Judge Rules in School Finance Lawsuit

State District Court Judge John Dietz has issued his bench ruling for the school finance lawsuit filed against the state. Below is a summary of Judge Dietz’s rulings. Overall, Judge Dietz declared that the current system is inadequate (does not provide enough funding), inequitable (does not distribute the funding in an equitable manner, and establishes a state ad valorem tax (a state wide property) that violates the state constitution. Eustace ISD has been a member of the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition from the outset. Note that each group that filed a lawsuit against the state is addressed separately in the ruling. There were two groups that did not have rulings in their favor: Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education and Texas Charter Schools Association.

Overall, the ruling is almost exactly what the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition argued. While this ruling is a first step, it is anticipated that the state will appeal the rulings to the Texas Supreme Court. Speculation is that there may be a ruling from the Texas Supremen Court in October 2013.

TEXAS TAXPAYER AND STUDENT FAIRNESS,et af.

The current school finance system violates certain provisions of the Texas Constitution in that it:

  • fails to provide substantially equal access to revenues necessary to provide a general diffusion of knowledge
  • is not adequately funded
  • created a state ad valorem tax

EDGEWOOD INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al.

The current school finance system violates certain provisions of the Texas Constitution in that it:

  •  is financially and quantitatively inefficient
  • is constitutionally unsuitable for the provision of a general diffusion of knowledge for low income and English Language Learner students
  • low wealth school districts no longer have meaningful discretion in setting their tax rates
  • constitutes a statewide ad valorem tax

FORT BEND INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al.

The current school finance system violates certain provisions of the Texas Constitution in that it:

  •  is inadequate and unsuitable because it is not structured, operated, and funded so that it can accomplish the general diffusion of knowledge
  • is inefficient, inequitable, and unsuitable and arbitrarily funds districts at different levels below the constitutionally required level of the general diffusion of knowledge
  • prevents districts from exercising “meaningful discretion” in setting their tax rates

CALHOUN COUNTY INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al.

The current school finance system violates certain provisions of the Texas Constitution in that it:

  •  is inadequate and fails to provide the resources needed to achieve a general diffusion of knowledge
  • prevents districts from exercising “meaningful discretion” in setting their tax rates

TEXANS FOR REAL EFFICIENCY AND EQUITY IN EDUCATION, et al.

Judge Dietz declined to declare for this plaintiff.  Judge Dietz state that the issues raised by the Efficiency Intervenors clearly reflect policy decisions within the sound discretion of the Legislature. 

TEXAS CHARTER SCHOOLS ASSOCIATION,et af.

Judge Dietz ruled against this plaintiff in that the Legislature is within its discretion to fund charters differently than traditional public school districts..