I hope at least my Texas readers will be interested in an update on the efforts by many of us to advance standards and accountability based reforms in Texas K-12 education. We made good progress on our objectives during the 82nd Texas Legislature this spring and are hard at work in assisting with the implementation of the resulting legislation and other aspects of regulatory oversight and advocacy.
The centerpiece of the work of the Texas Institute for Education Reform (TIER) and our coalition, the Texas Coalition for a Competitive Workforce, was House Bill 3, a hard fought overhaul of the Texas school accountability system. The bill was over 200 pages in length and there are many moving parts, but the major breakthrough from which all else flows is that for the first time in Texas a high school diploma at the recommended curriculum level will represent “post-secondary readiness”, defined as a melding of college and 21st century career readiness without the need for remediation. Folks, this may appear elemental, but it is big. What follows is that from this graduation standard there will be benchmarked standards at every grade level, assessments that are vertically scaled so that we can track each student’s pathway toward the ultimate exit standard, and accountability on the part of educators for student progress along the “ramp” to this post-secondary readiness objective.
As you might imagine, it is one thing to have such standards and accountability in place in the law, but quite another to properly implement them. And that is the phase of our work in which we have been heavily engaged since the end of the legislative session in early June. In fact, we have developed the following agenda for our program of work over the interim period leading to the next legislative session:
* Work with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Commissioner of Education, the State Board of Education, and other appropriate officials to ensure that the discretionary aspects of the reforms embodied in HB 3 are implemented in accordance with our recommendations and legislative intent.
* Assist the appropriate officials in their work to upgrade the state’s education data systems in order to provide the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the enhanced accountability system.
* Work with the TEA to ensure appropriate standards for the use of the new Texas Projection Model, which tracks student growth toward proficiency on the post-secondary readiness “ramp”.
* Assist the TEA in developing more rigorous and relevant career and technology courses that will improve the options for students who choose to pursue a high school pathway to industry or commercial certification.
And, while the implementation of new legislation is important, we will also be working hard on other policy developments with a view toward the next legislative session as well as policy enhancements through the various rule-making authorities in the interim:
* We will work closely with the Texas charter school association to develop policy to strengthen charter schools as competitive alternatives by closing ineffective charters, providing equitable funding for successful charters, and increasing or eliminating the cap on charters.
* We will continue to advocate for measures that will enhance educator quality, partly through the implementation of new legislation and partly through working with the TEA, the State Board for Educator Certification, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop rules that will lower barriers to entry, more properly evaluate and compensate teacher effectiveness, assess and improve teacher preparation and professional development programs, and improve the quality of campus leadership.
* We will be actively engaged as a policy resource on such interim legislative study issues as expansion of pre-kindergarten and public school finance.
If all of this seems ambitious, it is. But we must pursue these policy deliberations and enhancements with all deliberate speed and we cannot delay them any longer, because to do so would be a disservice to our kids and our future.
And while all of this is proceeding at the state policy level, let me add a point about federal initiatives. I have been critical of the Obama administration in a number of deserving respects in terms of major policy disagreements, but I must say that his public education policy pronouncements and those of his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, have been right out of TIER’s “play book”. The Race to the Top competition that has been established for the states encompasses a number of priorities that are absolutely essential, namely:
* Creating common, internationally benchmarked standards and holding educators and students accountable for meeting them.
* Nurturing effective teachers who are supported by effective leaders and removing those who are proven to be ineffective.
* Generating statewide longitudinal data systems to support the necessary sophistication of the accountability systems.
* Turning around or reconstituting chronically failing schools through aggressive intervention.
Our organization applauds the Obama team for its leadership in this initiative, we support these objectives and this competition for funding among the states for their implementation, and we have encouraged our state’s leadership to aggressively pursue this funding.
Now a short commercial–this is a never ending battle and we need your help, including your financial support, so please visit our web site at www.texaseducationreform.org and sign up.