State education board plan urgently needs public feedback – Houston Chronicle

 

With runoffs settled, candidates for the State Board of Education have been chosen and now we look forward to the November election. Voters and candidates alike should work hard to see through the smoke produced by inevitable electoral fires between now and November.

The 15-member State Board of Education that I am privileged to lead has been and will remain focused on discharging the responsibility of overseeing the education of the state’s school children. Texas enjoys economic success. To continue that success, the state will need to provide employers with a workforce that can compete in the modern and constantly changing economy.

We are off to a good start, but there is plenty left to do.

Since my appointment as chair of the State Board of Education in June 2015, I have traveled the state talking to parents, business leaders, administrators, teachers – anyone who would talk to me, actually – about assessments, accountability and the effective delivery of education to the young people who are often the last voices heard in policy discussions.

We are still compiling the public feedback received at the face-to-face SBOE Community Conversations completed in March. However, when discussing the goals of assessments and accountability, the words that stand out in the feedback received from parents, business leaders and educators are: “individual,” “growth,” “learning,” “readiness,” “measure,” “goals” and “needs.” If we can’t figure out a way to understand and meet individual student needs, we won’t be able to prepare them adequately for the future.

It is the goal of the 15-member Next Generation Commission on Assessments and Accountability to make recommendations to the Legislature by Sept. 1. The recommendations will be both research- and community-based. The SBOE is contributing to this process by gathering additional community-based feedback online for the commission through June.

In addition, the SBOE hopes to make an even greater impact for our students by updating the Long-Range Plan for Public Education, a duty assigned to the SBOE by law. The last LRP expired in 2006. At the SBOE meeting in April, we approved phase one of a two-phase effort to put an updated plan in place. The LRP will center on arriving at and articulating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges that currently exist and that will exist in Texas public education over the next five to seven years. Our LRP will include a considerable effort at partnering with the commissioner of education and gathering policy maker, post-secondary, K12 educator, business community, parent and general public input.

Finally, the SBOE is partnering with the commissioner of education in holding the second in our series of Learning Roundtables. The upcoming September Learning Roundtable will focus on “Educating the Children of Poverty;” 60 percent of our public school students are economically disadvantaged. We will invite national and state experts to discuss the various facets of poverty and how we can find greater success at helping our students overcome the many challenges to receiving the education they each deserve.

If we succeed in our mission to help all children, we raise generations of Texans who can sustain and noueish the economic success we currently enjoy. We alone determine our success and literally cannot afford to fail. Strong debate will occur, as to be expected with the SBOE affecting so many areas certain to bring out strong passion on all sides. However, our board has worked through many issues over the past several years with professionalism and commitment. Our first and foremost focus has been on positively benefitting the education of the 5.2 million children of Texas.

Our good intentions will be matched with the commitment and drive necessary to sustain that momentum. We owe that to students, their families and to Texas. We have the tools to forge a bright future. Let’s put them to work.

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