Bahorich hears kind remarks from Governor Abbott for her dedication to Texas Public Schools at reception during TASA’s Midwinter Conference January 25 in Austin
February 1, 2016, Austin, TX – Texas Governor Greg Abbott praised the leadership of State Board of Education Chairwoman Donna Bahorich and encouraged the state’s education community, teachers, parents and business community to continue partnering with her to improve Texas public schools.
“Donna is a strong leader whose vision for the State Board of Education is leading to greater collaboration and smarter solutions to the educational challenges Texas faces. I have no doubt that with Donna at the helm, we will build a foundation of excellence for all our children,” said Abbott, speaking at a reception held in conjunction with the Texas Association of School Administrators Midwinter Conference.
One important effort Bahorich is spearheading is a series of statewide “Community Conversations” to garner input from parents, educators and the business community for an upcoming report by the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessment and Accountability. This kind of “boots on the ground” effort has not been done in nearly two decades.
Created by the Texas legislature with House Bill 2804, the Commission will make recommendations for student assessment and public school accountability in Texas. A report recommending statutory changes will be delivered to the governor and legislature by September 1, 2016.
Thus far, Education Board Chair Donna Bahorich has eight dates on the calendar and set out a protocol that includes facilitated small group discussions. Three different groups of stakeholders — educators, parents and business leaders — are invited to each discussion. Bahorich said each group’s perspective will be important to consider in the deliberations by the Commission.
“I’m proud of the investments of time and effort the SBOE has made in widening communication opportunities throughout Texas as we continue looking at ways to effectively and fairly measure progress,” said Bahorich. “But, we have to change the current emphasis from ‘winners and losers’ to focusing on what we can learn that offers a way forward for each and every child. How do we use what we measure to make a difference?”
Governor Abbott noted that Bahorich has led in many important areas, like spearheading a coalition of math and economic professionals in the development of a critical life skills class on personal finance Financial Math; seeing to it that computer coding is taught in every Texas school district so students can take advantage of tech industry growth in the state; and hosting learning roundtables on big education issues like educating our children in an increasingly digital age.
Upcoming Community Conversations
Thus far, Community Conversations have taken place in Houston, San Antonio and Austin. The schedule for remaining meetings are as follows:
El Paso, February 4
Brownsville, February 11
Dallas/Fort Worth, February 16-17
Kilgore, March 1
Amarillo, March 24
For additional information or to receive the most current schedule of Community Conversations, contact Emily Eldridge at email@example.com or (248) 396-6240.
By Alia Malik, firstname.lastname@example.org
About 150 people from the San Antonio area told State Board of Education members last week that they wanted to see less emphasis on testing in schools and more teacher input while designing assessments.
“The end goal is a real-world job, a real-life opportunity,” said Cameron Wilson, a senior at the International School of the Americas in the North East Independent School District. “It’s not to see how students answer A, B, C or D on a test.”
The group of educators, parents, students and business representatives had been invited to the forum, organized by State Board chairwoman Donna Bahorich at Education Service Center Region 20 on the East Side. Bahorich said she organized the forum, one of eight across the state, to collect input for an interim legislative commission on assessments and accountability.
Andrew Kim, superintendent of the Comal Independent School District, and Pauline Dow, associate superintendent for instruction at North East ISD, serve on the commission and attended Wednesday’s forum. Both said they were struck by the number of people urging a greater emphasis on student progress, rather than raw scores.
Dow said she was pleased that the state board asked for student input.
“I think that’s an important voice that’s not often included,” Dow said.
The Legislature overhauled the state accountability system months ago, lessening the importance of standardized test scores in school evaluations but requiring the state to grade schools next year on an A-F scale. Legislators also established “graduation committees” to award diplomas to some high school students who failed end-of-course exams needed to graduate.
The change to letter grades for schools angered educators. Many still believe that scores on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, play too much of a role in evaluating schools under the new system, said Sandra West, a biology professor at Texas State University who taught science in the Northside and North East ISDs.
“If it’s 55 percent, it’s harder for many other measures to make a difference, so there are questions about the validity of the current assessments to measure the full abilities of a child,” West said.
The new year brought a new education commissioner at the state level and a new education secretary at the federal level. The federal No Child Left Behind Act was also rewritten last month, giving states more flexibility over their own accountability systems. It was a welcome coincidence for the legislative commission, which was created before anyone knew that the NCLB rewrite would pass, Bahorich said.
“Perhaps the timing is better,” Bahorich said. “There’s more of an ability to create what we’re trying to get.”
Testing students from immigrant families could be more of a concern in San Antonio than the other three major metropolitan areas in Texas, said Marisa Perez, one of two state board members representing the city.
“Particularly in Northside and North East ISDs, there are huge populations of refugees and newly immigrated families, and so for a lot of those students, language is always going to be a concern,” Perez said.
I am pleased that Commissioner Williams agreed on a MUCH needed transition year for 3rd-8th STAAR math accountability. The SBOE adopted new math standards in 2012 that were implemented in the 2014-15 school year. It had been 16 years since our math standards had been truly updated. The percent of new content ranged from 26% for 4th grade to as high as 55% in 6th grade. Many of the content skills moved to previous grades. Students and teachers have been mightily struggling all year with the switch to the new standards. I penned a letter in February, signed by my fellow SBOE members, asking the commissioner for relief on accountability for math results during the transition time in order to give teachers the space needed to fill gaps created when content moved. Thank you, Commissioner!