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.

Jason Stanford is a journalist in Austin, Texas, who follows the testing wars with keen interest, probably because he has children in school.

Having followed the blowback in Texas, where parents and educators together convinced the legislature that their zeal for testing was unreasonable, Stanford decided that standardized testing is not a good way to hold schools accountable. Actually, he says it is a lousy way because the tests don’t measure what we think they measure.

He writes:

“We’ve been using bubble tests to hold schools and students accountable for a long time, mostly without anyone asking tough questions about whether the scores were valid measures. Controversy over student testing was slow to develop and then mostly concerned the number of tests and the harsh consequences. We never asked whether the thermometer really measured the temperature, even though our education system is based upon the validity of these tests.”

He refers to “value-added measurement” as junk science. It is easy to parody as “Orwell-Meets-Kafka,” especially when the government does absurd things like ranking teachers by the scores of children they never taught.

This was the key point for him: “What really seemed to shake things up was an April report by the American Statistical Association, which said that because VAMs were based only on standardized tests they were 10 pounds of hooey in a 5-pound bag. And if you’re inclined to want the details, here’s the phrase that pays: “Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1 to 14 percent of the variability in test scores.”

And that led him to ask: “If teachers only account for 1 to 14 percent of the change in test scores, then what does the other 86 percent measure?”

“And if we don’t know what it means, why are we holding schools, students, and teachers accountable to it?”

Jeannie Kaplan, a former member of the Denver Board of Education, has written about the poor results of a decade of corporate reform. Here she explains the word “chutzpah” to define the desperate efforts of school officials and “reformers” to convert poor results into good news.

She writes:

“At noon Thursday, August 14, 2014 the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) released Colorado’s 2014 standardized tests results, TCAPs, (Transitional Colorado Assessment Program) at its monthly meeting. Shortly after the release, “reform” State Board Member Elaine Gantz Berman spoke and said what has turned out to be one of the most honest assessments of the latest results. “Not acceptable….To see this kind of flat result is more than troubling. It’s like, ‘Where do we go from here?’

“Since the release of the results, the spin from Denver Public Schools and its friends has been dizzying. Their defense of the failing status quo has given new meaning to the Yiddish word “chutzpah.” A few examples: recognition that new strategies are needed to change the trajectory of the District but offering no concrete details of what that would look like; slight recognition that professional educators do make a difference when it comes to teaching children but continuing to hire short term teachers at the expense of teaching professionals; no recognition or admittance that a business model is not transferable to education. No attempts have been made to answer Ms. Berman’s question. Instead the status quo has chosen to defend the ten year performance with confusing, misleading and manipulated data.

“THE SPIN

“Six emails from the Superintendent, 2 articles and one editorial in the Denver Post, a Board of Education work session featuring a 67 page PowerPoint presentation with more charts, graphs, acronyms, and meaningless analysis than one thought possible. And Thursday, August 21 at noon an email from the favorite national organization of “reformers.” DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), makes its way into computer inboxes. The email’s subject, “Denver Plan 2020 Fights for Great Schools in Every Neighborhood,”praises the new Denver Plan and closely mimicks two of the six emails the superintendent has sent this week. The email’s author: Jennifer Walmer, former chief of staff for the Denver Public Schools, current state director of Colorado DFER. Could it be that the Denver Public Schools District is so worried about its lack of progress and its failing education “reform” that it has to inundate the public with reams of insignificant and deceptive information? Unfortunately, I was correct when I wrote in my post of last week, growth is pretty much all the District will talk about. The state losses of 1% in each of the three subjects have translated into disingenuous DPS growth scores.”

She then summarizes “the flood of writing that has occurred after the release of the pathetic data…”

Daniele Dreilinger of the Times-Picayune reports that charter schools in Néw Orleans are ill-prepared by large numbers of new students from Central America, and the students and their families are confused by the city’s choice system.

One school saw its Spanish-speaking enrollment jump from 10 to 53 in one year, 20% of its students. “That’s a gargantuan challenge for a small school that six weeks ago didn’t have instruction materials in Spanish or a full-time English as a Second Language teacher.”

“Immigrant students are also arriving in a system under fire. VAYLA last year filed a federal civil rights complaint describing deep gaps in schools’ abilities to serve Spanish-speaking families. In one school, a 5-year-old said she had to translate for her parents at report card meetings because there was no staff member to do so, the complaint said.”

The problems are exacerbated by the city’s Balkanized school “system.” Nearby parishes with central offices and zoned schools are handling the problems of new immigrants with better planning and coordination of services for the students.

Since most of the schools in Néw Orleans are independent charters, no one has an accurate count on the number of new students from Central America.

“The rapid rise of students needing help learning English this is fall means they are spreading to many more schools, observers said. Lacking official numbers from the Recovery School District and the Orleans Parish School Board, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune contacted officials representing more than 60 of the city’s 83 schools to inquire about their enrollment.”

“Part of the reason why some schools are particularly saddled by a large number of new English-learner students, while others get a few, is the New Orleans enrollment system. The “school choice” process is complex and challenging even for families that speak English and have months to decide. Recently-arrived immigrants had neither.”

As late enrollees, the students had to go wherever seats were available. Assignments “were made regardless of whether the schools had teachers and resources available to handle ESL students.”

The downside of NOLA’s almost-all-charter system is that there is no central office to plan or coordinate the response to changing conditions. Every charter is on its own, and every student is also.

Earlier today I posted about a letter that went viral. Its authorship was attributed to two different people. A reader, Mary Ginley, says she wrote the letter in 1999:

“I wrote the original letter in 1999 and it was published in the East Longmedow Town Reminder in Maasachusetts. I was active in the anti-MCAS movement at the time.”

In an in-depth article that appears in the journal “In These Times,” journalist George Joseph describes a campaign by business leaders to take advantage of an obscure provision in state law and use it to turn Dallas into a “home rule” district. This would be a prelude to turning Dallas into an all-charter district.

The business community already controls the school board. The campaign for “home rule” has the support of mostly unnamed funders, except for billionaire John Arnold, who lives in Houston, not Dallas. Arnold has causes about which he is passionate: public sector pensions (he is against them), charter schools (he is for them) and Teach for America (Joseph says he has given TFA more than $20 million). Arnold supports the leading advocacy group for “home rule,” which is ironically called SOPS–Support Our Public Schools.

Why the heavy-duty campaign for charter schools in Dallas? Joseph speculates that at bottom the campaign is about gentrification and real estate. The home-rule plan is not supported by Dallas’s black and Hispanic population. In a recent school board race, an opponent of home rule won overwhelmingly.

If the issues were not so serious, watching test-and-punish advocates backpedal in the face of the rapidly growing testing resistance movement would be great entertainment. From U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan crying crocodile tears about the impacts of the very policies he advocated, to Rhode Island Commissioner Deborah Grist’s sudden embrace of an even longer suspension of the graduation testing requirements she long defended, to Florida Governor Rick Scott promising a commission to review the testing overkill his political allies imposed (a stalling tactic also adopted by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie), politicians are beginning to wake up to the power of grassroots activism. At the same time, courageous local leaders — such as a Colorado Superintendent, several Florida school committees and the Vermont State Board of Education — are pushing the envelope by calling for a moratorium on standardized testing to allow for development of better assessments.

No question that 2014-2015 is going to be a most exciting school year for assessment reformers as PBS education reporter John Merrow makes clear in his predictions!

Colorado District Superintendent Wants to End Standardized Testing

http://gazette.com/superintendent-wants-to-end-standardized-testing-in-d-11/article/1536136

Feds Tell Florida: Test English Language Learners in English ASAP

http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/state-and-feds-in-a-showdown-over-when-to-test-students-still-learning/2193627

Palm Beach School Board Considers Opting Out From Florida State Testing

http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/blog/palm-beach-county-school-board-wants-opt-out-standardized-testing

Hundreds Endorse Lee County Opt-Out Petition (now almost 1000 signers)

http://www.news-press.com/story/news/education/2014/08/20/opt-out-petition-gathering-signatures/14357851/

Florida Lags on ACT . . . Again

http://www.news-press.com/story/news/education/2014/08/20/florida-lags-on-act-scores-again/14329565/

Governor Calls for Review of Florida Standardized Testing Policies

http://www.naplesnews.com/news/politics/gov-rick-scott-calls-for-review-of-florida-standardized-tests_34082712

Undermining Kindergarten in Illinois, One Test at a Time

http://www.suntimes.com/news/otherviews/29358972-452/undermining-kindergarten-one-test-at-a-time.html#.U_VEH15a-hM

Chicago Teachers Report on How to Organize a Test Boycott

http://www.livingindialogue.com/starve-testing-beast-chicago-teachers-show-us-organize-test-boycott/

Illinois Super Tells Parents What Matters Most in Education

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/08/25/superintendent-tells-parents-what-matters-most-and-its-not-common-core/

New Massachusetts Teachers Union Head: How Tests Are Failing Our Schools

http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/article/2014/08/26/barbara-madeloni-massachusetts-teachers-association-president/

Concerns Grow as New Mexico Shifts to Computerized Testing

http://www.ruidosonews.com/ruidoso-news/ci_26367421/state-testing-public-schools-goes-digital

New Mexico Teachers Say State Evaluation System Does Not Effectively Measure Performance

http://krwg.org/post/teachers-say-state-evaluation-system-does-not-effectively-measure-performance

Why New York State Common Core Test Scores Should Be Ignored

http://www.alternet.org/education/why-new-york-states-common-core-test-scores-should-be-ignored

Final Opt-Out Numbers Show Movement Jumped in New York City

http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2014/08/19/final-opt-out-numbers-show-movement-jumped-in-city/#.U_SWkBYXNrs

Wanted: The Whole Truth About New York State Exams

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/wanted-truth-state-tests-article-1.1910722

Rhode Island Commissioner Back Tracks: Now Supports Longer Delay in Grad Test Requirement

http://www.providencejournal.com/news/education/20140825-r.i.-education-commissioner-gist-recommends-delay-in-test-based-graduation-requirement-poll.ece

Texas Suspends Math Grade Promotion Test Requirement

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local-education/state-suspends-staar-math-requirement-for-grades-3/ng7YR/

Vermont Calls on Feds to Overhaul NCLB Testing Policy

http://www.rutlandherald.com/article/20140822/NEWS03/708229936

See Vermont State Board of Education Resolution

http://education.vermont.gov/documents/EDU-SBE_AssmntAcct_Adpted081914.pdf

Vermont Secretary of Education Speaks Out Against Standardized Testing

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/local/2014/08/23/vermont-education-secretary-pushes-back-testing/14469139/

Federal Stubbornness Falsely Labels Washington Schools as “Failing”

http://www.maplevalleyreporter.com/news/272344131.html#

Parents Want an End to the Testing Obsession

http://neatoday.org/2014/08/20/poll-parents-want-an-end-to-the-testing-obsession/

Kindergarten “Sweat Shop” Testing Frenzy Comes Under Fire

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/aug/22/kindergarten-sweat-shop-testing-frenzy-comes-under/

Predictions for the New School Year: Growing Resistance to High-Stakes Testing Tops the List

http://takingnote.learningmatters.tv/?p=7151

Duncan Offers States One-Year Postponement on Test-Based Teacher Evaluation

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/22/education/education-secretary-allows-reprieve-on-test-based-teacher-ratings.html

See FairTest News Release

http://fairtest.org/fairtest%E2%80%99s-reaction-proposal-postpone-testbased-te

Administrators Pledge Ethical Treatment of Children Whose Families Choose to Opt Out

http://www.livingindialogue.com/administrators-pledge-ethical-treatment-students-opt/

Report Urges Fewer Tests, More Peer Review

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2014/08/accountability_report_urges_fe.html

Education News: Groundhog Day All Over Again?

http://www.reformer.com/opinion/ci_26390022/groundhog-day-all-over-again

Standardized Testing Is Really Great: Two Poems

http://www.examiner.com/article/standardized-testing-is-really-great-2-poems

Public TV Airs Two Videos Showing Excellent Schools Using Healthy Assessment (check websites for dates, times and channels)

http://augusttojune.com/

http://www.goodmorningmissionhill.com/

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing

office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 696-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org

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