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Texas Educators: Here is the TASB summary of HB5


TASB Legal Services has completed its summary of House Bill 5 (HB 5), which makes significant changes to public school curriculum, assessment and accountability.

This and a complete list of other education-related bills that passed this session will be available in the 2013 TASB Legislative Summary for School Officials. The document will be available to download free of charge in late July. Information on its release will be available in the Legislative Report upon the document’s completion.

House Bill 5

Effective date: June 10, 2013. Applies beginning with the 2014-15 school year, except as indicated below.

90 percent rule: Effective in 2013-14, a student in any grade k-12 may not receive credit or a final grade if the student attends class less than 90 percent of the days the class is offered, absent extenuating circumstances.

End-of-course exams: Effective in 2013-14, students must pass five EOC exams in order to graduate: Algebra I, Biology, English I (including reading and writing in a single exam), English II (including reading and writing in a single exam), and US History. Requirements that students achieve a minimum score on each EOC and a cumulative score in each academic area in order to graduate are eliminated, as is the mandate that EOC scores count as 15 percent of students’ final course grades. TEA must assign a scale score on each required EOC and covert the score to an equivalent score on a 100-point scale. A student’s performance on an EOC exam may not be used to determine class rank for any purpose, including Top Ten Percent. 

By October 1, 2013, the commissioner must adopt rules to determine a method by which performance on an AP, IB, ACT, SAT, PSAT, ACT-Plan, or other national norm-referenced exam used by higher education to award credit will be used to satisfy EOC requirements. A special education student’s ARDC will decide whether the student must pass the EOCs in order to graduate. 

Limit on benchmarks: Effective in 2013-14, a school district may not administer more than two benchmark assessments to prepare for a corresponding state-mandated assessment. A parent of a special needs student may request additional benchmarks be administered to the parent’s child.

Accelerated instruction: Effective in 2013-14, absent parental permission, a student may not be removed for remedial instruction for more than 10 percent of the days a class is offered. Effectively immediately, school districts must offer, at no cost to students, accelerated instruction before the next test administration to students who fail an EOC exam for Algebra I, biology, English I & II, or US history. The instruction may require participation outside of normal school hours or normal school operations. Districts must budget separately for accelerated instruction, and compensatory education funds may not be budgeted for any other purpose until the district sets a budget for accelerated instruction. Districts must evaluate the effectiveness of accelerated instruction and hold an annual public hearing on the results. 

College prep courses: Each school district must partner with at least one institution of higher education to provide college prep courses in math and English. The course may be offered either on the high school campus or online. If a district determines that a rising senior is unlikely to pass an EOC exam, the district must require the student to enroll in the corresponding college prep course (if available); the college prep course assessment can be used to satisfy the EOC requirement.

High school graduation requirements: To graduate under the foundation program, students must complete:

Four credits in English (English I-III and one advanced course)
Three credits in math (Algebra I, geometry, and one advanced course)
Three credits in science (biology, and either two advanced courses, or one advanced course and one integrated physics and chemistry course)
Three credits in social studies (US history, .5 government, .5 economics, and world geography and/or world history) 
Two credits in the same foreign language or a computer programming language, with SBOE to adopt exceptions for students with disabilities or who are otherwise unlikely to complete this requirement
One credit in fine arts
One credit in PE, absent an exception (may be an approved private program)
Five electives
Distinguished level of achievement: A student earns a distinguished level of achievement in the high school foundation program if the student completes:

four credits in math, including geometry, Algebra I and II, and another advanced math course (or CTE course, as permitted by SBOE rule)
four credits in science, including biology, and either two advanced courses, or one advanced course and one integrated physics and chemistry course (or CTE course, as permitted by SBOE rule)
the remaining foundation program credits, and
at least one endorsement (all of which must require two additional elective credits)
All districts must offer Algebra II to be accredited.

Endorsements: The endorsements are STEM, business and industry, public services, arts and humanities, and multidisciplinary studies. If a school district offers only one endorsement, it must be multidisciplinary studies. A district must ensure that on entering ninth grade each student indicates in writing an endorsement the student intends to earn. A district must permit a student to choose at any time to earn an endorsement other than the one the student previously indicated. A student may graduate under the foundation program without an endorsement if, after the student’s sophomore year, the student and parent are advised by a school counselor of the benefits of graduating with an endorsement and the parent provides written permission on a TEA form.

Transition plan: The commissioner must adopt a transition plan from the current high school programs to the new program beginning with the 2014-15 school year. Any student in ninth grade in 2013-14 or before may graduate under one of the current plans or the foundation program. By commissioner’s rule, a 2013-14 high school senior who does not satisfy the curriculum requirements of his current program may graduate if the student satisfies the foundation program and any other graduation requirements.

Personal graduation plans: Starting in 2014-15, middle schools must develop PGPs for students who fail a state assessment or who are unlikely to graduate from high school within five years. High schools must provide a state-mandated notice and counsel entering ninth graders and their parents about graduation options, including the distinguished level and endorsements. By the end of the school year, the student and parent must sign a PGP that identifies a course of study. A student may change his or her PGP; if so, the district must notify the student’s parent.

Counseling about postsecondary requirements: Counseling about postsecondary education, which had been required during the first and last years of high school, is now required in every year of high school.

Top Ten Percent and college admissions: Unless an exception applies, a student must graduate at the distinguished level of achievement to be eligible for automatic admission through the Top Ten Percent. A student who is not eligible for automatic admission may apply to any general academic teaching institution if the student completed the foundation program or achieved a certain score on the SAT or ACT. 

Career and Technical Education: With school board approval, a district may offer a course, apprenticeship, or other training for credit without SBOE approval if the district develops the program in partnership with an institution of higher education and local businesses, labor, and community leaders, and the program allows students to enter a regional career and technology training program, an institution of higher education without remediation, an apprenticeship, or an internship for an industry-recognized credential. By September 1, 2014, the SBOE must ensure at least six new advanced CTE or technology applications courses, including personal financial literacy and statistics, are approved to satisfy a fourth credit in math. The state CTE plan must require districts, to the extent possible, to allow CTE students to enroll in dual enrollment courses that lead to a degree, license, or certification as part of the program. The district will receive a subsidy for paying for a student’s career certification exam. 

Instructional Materials Allotment funds: Effective immediately, TEA will provide districts an estimate of IMA funds for the next fiscal year, and districts and charter schools will be able to pre-order materials up to 80 percent of the estimate.

Accountability: Beginning in 2013-14, and regardless of the date on which a student originally enrolled in a US school, unless a student is enrolled in school in the US for at least 60 consecutive days during a year, the student may not be considered enrolled in a US school for the purpose of determining a number of years for purposes of eligibility for an alternative assessment for LEP. Also effective with the 2013-14 school year, a student who was previously reported as a dropout but who reenrolls and drops out again is not included in the district’s dropout calculation, regardless of the number of times this occurs.

Performance ratings: Beginning with the 2016-17 school year, the commissioner must assign each school district a performance rating of A, B, C, D or F, setting rules to determine the criteria for each rating. The commissioner will assign each campus a rating of exemplary, recognized, acceptable, or unacceptable. A district may not receive an “A” if it has any unacceptable campus. Effective in 2013-14, in evaluating campus and charter school performance, the commissioner shall evaluate against the student achievement indicators set in Texas Education Code section 39.053, except, to the greatest extent possible, when an indicator to measure growth would negatively affect the rating of a campus achieving at the highest level. 

New community and student engagement rating: Beginning in 2013-14, by August 8 annually, each district must evaluate the district and each of its campuses in community and student engagement, assign the district and each campus a rating based on criteria set by a local committee, and report the rating to TEA.

Distinction designations: Beginning in 2013-14, distinction designations for outstanding performance are expanded and must be directly referenced in connection with a district or campus performance rating and made available publicly together with the performance ratings. 

FIRST rating system: The financial accountability rating system will be expanded to include processes for anticipating future financial solvency for each district including analysis of district revenues and expenses for preceding years. The commissioner, in consultation with the comptroller, must set criteria for financial performance ratings, and each district will be assigned a financial performance rating. If the financial accountability indicators or other factors project a district shortfall in the next three years, TEA will provide the district interim financial reports to evaluate the district’s budget status. TEA may require the district to acquire professional services for financial assistance or training. A district assigned the lowest financial rating shall submit a corrective action plan to the commissioner to identify financial weaknesses and strategies for improvement. If a district fails to submit a plan, the commissioner may impose sanctions. 

Texas School Accountability Dashboard: Effective immediately, TEA must create a Web site known as the Texas School Accountability Dashboard for the public to access district and campus accountability information. The dashboard must allow for comparisons among districts’ performance information disaggregated by student populations.

TCEA Leg Session Part 2
Tim Holt

TCEA Legislative Update Part 2: During the last TCEA convention in Austin a panel of legislators was assembled to address the education technology issues. Here is part 1 of that session. (Headphone alert: The recording is not the best. Headphones should be used.) The panalists for this session were: 

Nelson Coulter (superintendent at Guthrie Common School District,

Rep. Angie Chen Button, Rep. Dan Huberty, and Rep. Mark Strama. Jennifer Faulkner moderated it.

Here is the description from the catalog:

In recent sessions, the Texas legislature has taken steps to digitize the learning environment, but challenges still exist. This year’s Legislative Panel will be discussing some of the barriers to digital adoption, providing their insight into the causes of and possible solutions to these challenges.


Part 2 of 2

Dec 1

The Powers that Be Finally are Beginning to See the Light


Texas SBOE member Thomas Ratcliff sure sounds in this interview like he is willing to jump off the standardized test train that is barreling through Texas with Pearson Education as conductor. He says what appears to be all the right things…too much testing..too many standards..testing is sucking the creativity out of teaching and learning…

Thomas Ratcliff Republican SBOE member

However, the SBOE does not have the power it once had in Texas, and Ratcliff is one of the conservative members of the SBOE the same crowd that brought us such hits as “Kansas Evolution Debate Part II” and “Thomas Jefferson is Immoral because he wrote the Sepreration of Church and State Clause.”

Now, does this guy have buddies in the legislature that can hear what he is saying? Or will this become some sort of mutation where the fix is actually worse than the problem? Testing is a big business deal in Texas, and I cant belive that all the comapnies that make billionseach year in Texas alone with testing, testing prep, and the like will roll over if the legislature all of a sudden gets on a “anti-testing” kick.

Time will tell of course.

Read the entire interview here.


Texas Schools Cope as Classes Expand and Staffs Shrink

SAN ANTONIO — Ask Phyllis Causey what time she goes to lunch, and the third-grade teacher will give a very specific answer: 11:55 a.m.

“I live on a timer,” she said.

Every minute is accounted for in her meticulously planned workdays. To some extent, that is true every school year. But last fall, for the first time in her 12 years of teaching, 23 students were enrolled in her San Antonio elementary school class — making those minutes even more precious.

“As a teacher, when you know you are planning the day out for 23 kids, every single minute counts,” she said. “It’s an art and a science to balance out everybody.”

Many Texas teachers have found themselves in a similar predicament. Texas Education Agency data for the 2011-12 school year show that the number of elementary classes exceeding the 22-student cap has soared to 8,479 from 2,238 last school year.

Texas has had the 22-student cap for kindergarten through fourth-grade classes since 1984, and districts can apply for exemptions for financial reasons. But during the 2011 legislative session, to ease the pain of a roughly $5.4 billion reduction in state financing that did not account for the estimated influx of 170,000 new students over the next two years — and after an attempt to do away with the cap failed — lawmakers made those exemptions easier to obtain. Texas schools, which have shed approximately 25,000 employees this school year, including more than 10,000 teachers, have jumped at the chance to trim costs.

Research is mixed on the effect of class size on learning, but many educators agree that adding just two students to an already full classroom can intensify the challenge for teachers. Some worry that increasing class sizes hurts the neediest students most.

Budget cuts have affected all of the state’s 1,200-plus school districts and charters, but the 102 fastest-growing districts, which have absorbed 92 percent of the growth in student population since 2007, have been hit the hardest by increasing class sizes. About 46 percent of these fast-growth districts have campuses with waivers, compared with 28 percent of non-fast-growth districts, according to an analysis of TEA data by the Fast Growth School Coalition. The coalition advocates for districts that have an enrollment of at least 2,500 and have grown by at least 10 percent or 3,500 students over the past five years. Those districts educate about 40 percent of the state’s students.

In the past, these schools have been able to add staff members and build facilities as the number of students increases. But now, even as the student body continues to grow, the schools have had to drop employees and delay building projects to cut costs, said David Vroonland, the chairman of the coalition and superintendent of the Frenship Independent School District, outside Lubbock.

His district has avoided requesting class-size exemptions for now, but he expects that to change next year. “We’re anticipating we’ll be at 24 or above,” he said. “And there’s very little we can do about it.”

Some fast-growth districts may be better prepared than others to take on larger classes, because they have had to plan for ever-increasing student populations, and they are already familiar with methods like dividing students into smaller groups for instruction.

In Northside ISD, where Causey teaches, 64 campuses had requested class-size waivers as of early February. Brian Woods, the district’s deputy superintendent for administration, said the district is used to dealing with more students, who enroll throughout the year. What is different this year, he said, is that the budget has made it more difficult to hire a new teacher when a class hits 22 students. The district has an internal policy to keep class enrollment in kindergarten through second grade at 23 students or fewer, he said. Third and fourth grades, he said, allow for 24 students. If all of the classes at an elementary school have hit those numbers, he said, as a last resort the district transfers students to a different school, which is usually farther from their homes.

“We just flat don’t do that,” Woods said of exceeding the 24-student limit, “Our classrooms aren’t built to hold that number of students.”

His district, the state’s fourth largest, eliminated 973 positions this school year. Woods said that many of those were support positions — staff members who helped teachers reach children who need extra attention or who struggle with language difficulties.

“Students struggling at 22-1 who are now sitting in a class of 23, that’s not a dramatic difference,” he said. “But the person that was there last year to help them with their math and help them with their reading who may not be there now, there is a dramatic impact for that child.”

About 90 minutes north on Interstate 35, Leander ISD has designed classrooms in its newer buildings to handle larger classes in anticipation of rapid growth — they are shaped like an L to create strategic pockets of space for small group work and to reduce potential distractions.

Faubion Elementary was not built for such growth. Many of the rooms in the school, which was converted to its current form from an open-classroom concept building, are small and windowless.

Patti Mosser, who teaches at Faubion, has 24 students in her third-grade class, six more than she had last school year. As her students filed in one Friday after recess, they pushed the desks — which are carefully arranged in the one configuration Mosser has found that they all fit — to clear space on the carpet in the center of the room. With Mosser and a student teacher, there was barely enough room for all to sit cross-legged for their weekly class meeting.

“It is what it is,” she said. “We just have to do a lot of creative grouping.”

Things have improved since the beginning of the year, Mosser said, when she felt like she was “being pulled in all directions from nurse to counselor to referee.” With almost 28 years of teaching experience, she knew to establish firm expectations about behavior and classroom procedures from the start, and her students have become more self-sufficient. However, if she were a first-year teacher, she said, her perspective would be different. Still, her students did not seem to notice the crowded classroom. In fact, when her class recently added its 24th student, she said, they were excited to have a new face.

Causey also said she thought many of her students were doing fine with the extra bodies in the classroom. But she worried about the children for whom school is a “safe place” — the only place where an adult listens to them, where they get warm meals and feel secure.

“If you get a lot of children like that in the classroom, it’s really going to hurt them because you can’t spend as much time with them as they need,” she said. “It will change the way instruction looks.”

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/texas-education/public-education/texas-schools-cope-as-classes-expand-staffs-shrink/.