Archives for category: Texas

Tom Ratliff, a member of the Texas state Board of Education, wrote this article for the Longview News-Journal. It is a warning to parents not to assume that charter schools are better than public schools. On average, he says, the opposite is true.

 

Public schools ranked higher for financial accountability:

 

During the 2012-13 school year (the most recent year of the rating), Texas’ traditional public schools far outperformed charter schools in both academic and financial measurements. Don’t take my word for it, look at the information straight from the Texas Education Agency:
Financial accountability: bit.ly/1rIFYsm
Academic accountability: bit.ly/1pXZ3RZ
To summarize these reports, I offer the following:
The FIRST rating is the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas and, according to the education agency, is designed to “encourage public schools to better manage their financial resources in order to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.” I think we all agree, that’s a good thing to measure.
According to the agency, the FIRST rating uses 20 “established financial indicators, such as operating expenditures for instruction, tax collection rates, student-teacher ratios, and long-term debt.” How did the schools do? Glad you asked.
Traditional ISDs: 89 percent ranked “superior” and 1.2 percent ranked “substandard.”
Charter schools: 37 percent ranked “superior” and 20 percent ranked “substandard.”
Yes, one out of five charter schools ranked “substandard” on how they spend the tax dollars supporting them, while almost 9 out of 10 ISDs ranked “superior”.

 

And public schools outperform charter schools academically too:

 

Let’s shift our attention to academic performance. If the academic performance is good, the taxpaying public might be more understanding of a low rating on a financial measure. Unfortunately, the charters do not compare well there, either, under the 2014 TEA Accountability System.
Traditional ISDs: 92.6 percent met standard, while 7.4 percent did not.
Charter schools 77.7 percent met standard, while 17.3 percent did not.
Again, almost one out of five charter schools failed to meet the state’s academic standards.

 

And then Tom Ratliff asks the best question of all:

 

“Where is the outrage from groups like the Texas Association of Business or the Austin Chamber of Commerce?” Those groups rarely miss an opportunity to criticize the shortcomings of traditional ISDs. Why not express concerns when numbers like these relate to charter schools? If these numbers were attributable to ISDs, you can bet those groups would be flying planes around the Capitol and holding press conferences like they have in the past. A little consistency would be nice when asking for taxpayer-funded schools to perform as expected.”

 

Ratliff points out that his father wrote the original charter law. It is refreshing to see a policymaker looking at the data and seeing that competition does not translate into better education or more accountability. By the way, Tom’s father Bill Ratliff –former Lieutenant Governor of Texas–is already a member of the blog’s honor roll for his willingness to speak up and think for himself. A good Texas family.

A teacher in Texas wrote this comment, which depicts (to me) a system where data matters more than teachers or learning or children, either the system is on autopilot or is run by people who confuse numbers with learning.

“They recruited from NC and from Spain (for bilingual teachers) this year because they did expect vacancies. I think it’s important to mention that all are not based on EVAAS because not everyone has those standardized scores. They are also based on Stanford testing in 1st and 2nd grade and for classes like PE, a district made assessment. I teach Kinder and am still waiting to find out what growth they calculated for my scores last year (and yes, they were bubble-in multiple choice tests). No one could explain to me how it was going to work, what percentage growth was required to be considered effective and how that was going to be calculated– so I’m very anxious about it. I was rated highly effective in the professional and instructional areas but who knows. We are supposed to use 2 different assessments for more validity but that doesn’t happen-they end up using the reading and math versions of the same test given the same week. I did wonder how many vacancies they had to start the new school year yesterday?”

Morgan Smith wrote the best article I have seen so far on the decision by Judge John Dietz ruling that school funding in Texas is inequitable and unconstitutional. This article includes links to the decision and findings.

I repeat what the judge said last year because it is so simple yet eloquent as an explanation of our civic duty to our children. Note also that the judge ruled against the appeals of charter advocates and referred them to the Legislature:

“Though Dietz made no public remarks on Thursday, his decision is a reprise of an earlier oral ruling in February 2013. From the bench at the time, Dietz discussed what he called the “civic, altruistic and economic” reasons for supporting public education.

“We realize that others provided for us when we were children. We realize that children are without means to secure their education. Just as others provided for us when we were in school, now is the time when we provide for others,” he said, going on to describe the societal benefits of a well-educated population: lower crime rates, fewer people who need public assistance and a greater state income.

“The judge ruled against the two parties in the lawsuit that did not represent traditional school districts. He held that the issues raised by Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education — a group representing parents, school choice advocates and the business community that alleged that the current system was inefficient and overregulated — were better solved by the Legislature. He also ruled against the Texas Charter School Association, which argued that the state cap on charter school contracts and charters’ lack of access to facilities funding was unconstitutional.”

Joe Smith, a retired superintendent in Texas, has an influential blog, where he pointed to “the enormity” of the decision.

This is the best story yet on the Texas story today, in which Judge John Dietz said that the current funding system was inequitable. Of course, his decision will be appealed as some folks would rather not pay more money to educate the children of Texas. The story appears in the Texas Tribune.

Here is a great quote from the decision and the article:

“As he presented his ruling, Dietz discussed what he called the “civic, altruistic and economic” reasons for supporting public education.

“We realize that others provided for us when we were children. We realize that children are without means to secure their education. Just as others provided for us when we were in school, now is the time when we provide for others,” he said, going on to describe the societal benefits of a well-educated population: lower crime rates, fewer people who need public assistance and a greater state income.”

State Commissioner of Education Michael Williams issued a statement I response to court ruling that held state funding inadequate and unconstitutional. Be it noted that Commissioner Williams is not an educator. He is an ally of the Bush family, a real good tie in Texas. In his last post he regulated the oil and gas industry.

TEA News Releases Online Aug. 28, 2014

Statement of Commissioner Michael Williams regarding ruling in school finance case

AUSTIN – Commissioner of Education Michael Williams issued the following statement regarding today’s ruling in the school finance case:

“Today’s decision is just a first step on a very familiar path for school finance litigation in Texas. Regardless of the ruling at the district court level, all sides have known this is an issue that will again be resolved by the Texas Supreme Court. Texas is committed to finding solutions to educate every student in every classroom. However, it should be our state leaders making those decisions, not a single judge. Any revisions to our school finance system must be made by members of the Texas Legislature. The Texas Education Agency will continue carrying out its responsibilities in providing funding for our public schools based on the current system and ultimately the legislative decisions made at the end of this legal process.”

http://www.tea.state.tx.us/news_release.aspx?id=25769815887

Here is a good article explaining Judge John Dietz’s decision that school funding in Texas violates the state constitution.

“State District Judge John Dietz decided in favor of the more than 600 school districts who sued the state. They argued the Legislature has consistently underfunded schools while imposing new and expensive academic requirements for students.

“In his ruling, the judge also pointed to inequities in the system that leave some lower-wealth school districts with far less money to spend on their pupils than their wealthier counterparts across the state.

“The court finds that the Legislature has failed to meet its constitutional duty to suitably provide for Texas public schools because the school finance system is structured, operated and funded so that it cannot provide a constitutionally adequate education for all Texas schoolchildren,” Dietz wrote in his 21-page final judgment in the case.

“The court enjoins further funding under the system until the constitutional infirmities are corrected.”

“Dietz also said lawmakers erred by sharply limiting the taxing ability of school districts, which amounts to an illegal statewide property tax.

“Schools will not be immediately affected, as Dietz put the ruling on hold until July 1. The decision is expected to be appealed directly to the Texas Supreme Court, which last ruled on school finance in the fall of 2005. That order forced the state to revamp its method of funding education so that it was less reliant on local property taxes.

“If the high court affirms Dietz’ new ruling, it would force the Legislature back to the drawing board. That would probably not occur until after the upcoming legislative session in January.

“The judge originally found the funding system unconstitutional in February of 2013 after a 12-week trial pitting the state against school districts – including dozens from North Texas. But he withheld his final decision in the case after legislative leaders indicated they would address the issues raised by Dietz during their 2013 session.

“Lawmakers did increase school funding by $3.4 billion in the current biennium. However, that did not make up for the $5.4 billion that was cut in 2011 to offset a severe shortfall in state revenue. Lawmakers also dropped 10 of the 15 high school tests that were slated to be required for graduation.

“Additional hearings were held by Dietz earlier this year to decide whether the actions of the Legislature would temper his earlier decision.

“They didn’t.

“In his original ruling, the judge suggested it could take an extra $2,000 per child to meet all state standards – a total price tag of $10 billion to $11 billion a year.

“Education costs money, but ignorance costs more money,” he summed up. “It is the people of Texas who must set the standards, make sacrifices and give direction to their leaders about what kind of education system they want. The longer we wait, the worse it gets.”

Judge John Dietz ruled that the state of Texas is failing to provide adequate funding to its public schools and is violating the state constitution. He also ruled that school choice and vouchers are not a substitute for needed funding.

The Legislature cut school spending by $5.3 Billion in 2011 and never restored the cuts after the economy recovered.

In a recent article in the Houston Chrinicle, we read that business is mighty disappointed in the schools. They say they aren’t getting the trained employees they need. They think the schools are too easy. Some want more money spent in the schools that do well, as a reward.

No one seems to care that the Legislature slashed $5.3 Billion from the schools in 2011 and–despite a good economy–never restored it.

Here’s a challenge for those Texas businessmen who claim they can’t find workers because of the schools. Visit your local school. Spend a few days there. Ask them about their needs. Take the high school math test. Publish your scores.

If public schools are “failing,” find out who cut the budget and insist that it be restored as soon as possible. Nobody gets healthier on a starvation diet.

Next year, students of Hispanic descent will be a majority in the public schools of Texas. Yet the voices of Latino parents, educators, and advocates are seldom heard in legislative hearings. Instead, it is usually business leaders calling the shots.

A new organization called the Latino Coalition for Educational Equality has emerged to express their views and to release the results of a survey.

What issues are at the top of their agenda: adequate funding and well-prepared teachers.

“School finance is, by far, the biggest priority the groups identified, and the report summary echoes a lot of what the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) has argued in its piece of the everlasting school finance lawsuit: that Texas’ school funding is based on what lawmakers want to spend, not what a quality education actually costs, and that cuts in school funding have meant scaling back bilingual education programs.

“Interestingly, the teachers surveyed here are all bilingual teachers—either working in school districts or enrolled in teacher prep programs—and they were far more concerned with teacher quality, school accountability and access to books than school funding. Lopez says that’s a reflection of their more direct interaction with classrooms. “School finance obviously is intertwined in every issue,” she says. “You can’t advocate for more materials and more appropriate materials or resources without it being a school finance issue.”

“Teachers and advocates also agreed, according to the report, that “increasing the number of well-prepared Latina/o teachers” should be a top priority—a finding that squares with research suggesting that Hispanic teachers tend to stay in high-needs schools longer, bringing stability to classrooms as well as a cultural relevancy that helps students relate to lessons.

“It’s also worth noting what’s not listed among the top priorities: charter school chains, vouchers and full-time online schools, which the report dismisses as “privatization experiment efforts” that siphon money away from the schools most kids attend. In other words, if you ask Latino teachers and activists—and not Sen. Dan Patrick—there are plenty of “civil rights issues of our time” more pressing than school choice.

“It’s not that teachers and advocates were opposed to charter schools or any particular group of reformers, Lopez says, just those “who come in who have no historical participation in a community, and see it as a potential market.”

Jeffrey Weiss and Matthew Haag report in the Dallas Morning News about a cheating scandal at one of Dallas’s top-rated schools:

“Umphrey Lee Elementary was recognized as one of the best schools in Dallas, based primarily on the students’ STAAR results. But Dallas ISD officials concluded that was a sham, a distinction propped up by teachers feeding students answers on most of the 2012-13 state assessment tests.
Five teachers and an instructional coach resigned while under investigation last October. And by the end of the school 2013-14 school year, the students’ STAAR results had plummeted, dropping the school from the state’s top rating to as low as they go.”

Campbell’s Law strikes again. When test scores are made the measure and the goal, they distort the very thing being measured and incentivize unethical behavior.

When will we ever learn?

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