Texas celebrates its 25-year relationship with charters... still no democracy or public accountability in sight.
If there is anyone still doubting that charter operators in Texas (and across the nation) receive every economic and political advantage, please take a moment to watch the 14 June 2019, Public Hearings at the Texas State Board of Education. Plan for several hours of your day to watch the hearings in their entirety (click here). Or, you can watch the condensed version below:
"I have six pages of questions for you." Here are the Teacher's Notes: (click here for the 6-page PDF)
Today, the Texas Education Agency is asking for public input on the Generation 25 Charter Application:
"The commissioner, in conjunction with staff in the Division of Charter School Administration, is in the final phase of preparing for the release of the Generation Twenty-Five open-enrollment charter application this fall. In the past, some of you have provided input regarding the content of the charter application and/or the commissioner’s charter authorization process. Our office welcomes any input that you may have to help strengthen the charter application process as we incorporate statutory changes and other edits to this iteration of the application.
Should you need to reference last year’s application, the Generation Twenty-Four charter application is still available on the TEA website for reference. If you would like to provide input into the Generation Twenty-Five charter application process, please submit any suggested edits and/or recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, September 4, 2019."
In January 2019, the Texas State Board of Education passed policy intending to require public hearings on Charter Contact Amendments and Expansions, which is how existing charters multiply.
TXSBOE policy intends to gather public input on charter expansions
However, the Texas Legislature decided that a website that exists in obscurity is sufficient. Now taxpayers are told where their public education dollars are being siphoned to online rather than by surprise when taxpayer-funded buildings go up (without a bond vote like ISDs perform, by law). Did you know that when a charter defaults on their building loans, you pay the debt - and the charter keeps the building?
My office continues to work on making these applicants follow the law, and the applications equitable to the lawful and righteous efforts which ISD's must perform and provide effective educational opportunities to all students. However, applicants regularly submit false information based on their cherry-picking and segregationist abilities. This ability results in ISD Superintendents forced to extensively communicate with TEA and attend public hearings to dispute the falsehoods told by charter applicants. More often than not, to no avail.
a) New charter operators are approved solely by the TEA Commissioner of Education. The Texas State Board of Education may veto these annual approvals.
b) Charter Amendments and Expansions are approved solely by the TEA Education Commissioner. In fewer than seven years, more than 400 expansions have been approved without public hearings, without taxpayer input, without community voices.
What is the IMQE? The Instructional Materials Quality Evaluation is TEA's expensive solution in search of a problem. The conflict? The IMQE is funded by taxpayer dollars which should be going to ISD's - so our local educators can determine which instructional materials are best for our children.
Reason #1: Fiduciary duty
As elected officials, we have a fiduciary duty to ensure that the state is spending Texas taxpayer dollars in a manner that provides the best value to the state. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has paid Safal Partners $3.26M for a one-year contract ending in August 2019. Safal subcontracted EdReports to produce quality evaluations or reviews. EdReports has never reviewed Texas materials, they have always only worked on Common Core.
As elected officials, we also have a duty to invest taxpayers’ dollars in doing what is right for students, not in something no one really wants.
The IMQE is also referred to as the "Portal" is NOT something school districts want, as evidenced by the struggle TEA had in getting districts to participate in the pilot. Only 30 of 1,023 ISD's are participating in the IMQE Pilot.
On November 13, 2018, the Urban Curriculum Council, representing 13 of the state’s largest districts sent a letter opposing this project. Three points of that letter:
Each community has its own set of unique needs. The definition of High Quality in El Paso may not match the definition of High Quality in Lufkin.
Reason #2: Using Common Core (EdReports and LA Believes) to review Texas instructional materials
It’s illegal for Texas to adopt the Common Core standards and it’s illegal for Texas schools to teach the Common Core standards. Safal’s contract states that existing EdReports’ reviews (which are exclusively Common Core) will be used on the reviews of Texas instructional materials.
Page 25 of 229 of TEA’s contract with Safal includes an "Updated Statement of Work" (revised as of July 3, 2018), which reiterates Safal’s proposal:
Teacher review teams will use existing EdReports reviews to identify which evidence applies to the Texas rubric.
*Review the contract here: TEA Contract #3854, SAFAL Partners
It is illegal for Texas schools to teach the Common Core. Nevertheless, the TEA awarded this contract for quality reviews to an entity that told us they will use portions of its EdReports and Louisiana Believes’ existing reviews of Common Core materials for the Texas reviews.
EdReports and Louisiana Believes’ reviews of Common Core materials are already available on public websites. EdReports will cut and paste from their existing reviews to produce reviews of Texas materials. Why are Texas taxpayers paying millions of dollars for something we could get for free?
Reason #3: Why is Texas following Louisiana’s model?
TEA has stated that they are modeling the IMQE process after Louisiana’s process.
Why would TEA want Texas to follow Louisiana's lead?
Of the many substantive House Bills heard today in the Committee on Public Education, HB 1853 lays out some of the most outrageous Charter operator allowances:
Texas is only 1 of 8 states in the U.S. which allows uncertified personnel to teach our students. I would not take my truck to an uncertified GM mechanic... much less my child to a classroom where there is an uncertified teacher which the state of Texas cannot investigate for misconduct.
HB 2510 - Disciplinary Action allowed for Charters
Students who attend charters are treated quite differently than students in public schools. For example, charter kids have been expelled for reasons such as presence in school space without supervision, cursing, and not attending Saturday school. Charters also do not post their reasons for expulsion on their Code of Conduct.
While these behaviors may not be condoned, they are not reasons students should be expelled. Bare in mind that:
HB 43 - Charter disciplinary exclusion
ISDs are required to educate all students while charters cherry-pick students in many ways. This bill discussed unique non-selection of students based on “disciplinary problems" which has included the simple removal of students to the principal's office for disrupting the class.
Charter operators are using stories of extreme violence and sexual assault as scare tactics to defend their cherry-picking practices. For example, the question posed to the committee was "Do you want your students with those kids?" The irony, however, is that charter personnel are not required to be certified which disallows the State from investigating and tracking of the inappropriate behaviors of the adults.
It should be noted that according to charter lobbyists at today's hearing, charters can opt-in to Chapter 37 - Safe Schools.
Charters want taxpayer dollars - which are intended to serve the greater good, but only want to serve certain students. Perhaps because it's the only way they can claim such high levels of success or maybe it's because their programs are not as good as they claim because they only work for a specific kind of student.
Nevertheless, if you're tired of your tax dollars funding some students at the expense of all students, contact your elected officials and tell them Texas can no longer afford to support two education systems. Simply funding one great system is the answer Texas students deserve.
Who represents me? https://wrm.capitol.texas.gov/home
Representative Diego Bernal's HB 4242, will be heard on Tuesday, April 9th, in the House Committee on Public Education.
What does HB 4242 do?
Who will perform the audit of the STAAR tests?
The Texas Education Agency stands by their STAAR tests, so this peer-reviewed independent audit should be welcomed by TEA and both the Senate and the House Democrats and Republicans alike.
Click here for the list of Members of the House Committee on Public Education.
Click here for "Who Represents Me?"
Tell these Elected Officials you support a review of the STAAR test to ensure each question and passage is written at grade-appropriate levels.
Study after study has reached the same conclusion: STAAR exams are testing students at a level of difficulty at least one year above grade level. Many reports are indicating that the tests are as high as three years above grade level.
If you are wondering which universities have published studies, here is a list:
There have been a handful of Texas Legislators asking for audits, ESSA waivers for federal requirements, and a halting of A-F accountability until this issue is addressed.
All of this occurring while students are preparing to test - you may have seen the "STAAR Lock-Ins," asking students to focus on probable test questions for hours at a time... or "Blitz" events which shut down all content areas except for Reading and Math and every teacher and coach becomes a Reading/Math STAAR teacher. I have seen teachers make music videos and students put on plays illustrating how to "Overpower the STAAR." It should be noted that much of these efforts bare little impact on test scores.
With Texas teetering between 40th-43rd in national rankings, it has become abundantly clear that STAAR hurts Texas while doing little to nothing to help our students, teachers, and schools.
How in the world can we get school funding right while we continue to use faulty tests?
Contact your legislators and ask them to support these Bills:
The New York Times asks University of Maryland professor to examine STAAR - unsurprisingly, tests are underestimating students
There are lots of questions surrounding the integrity of STAAR tests, and rightfully so. The New York Times decided to perform its own examination. Professor Peter Afflerbach of the University of Maryland analyzed the 2018 3rd-grade Reading STAAR. He found that the test held a risk of underestimating students’ capabilities.
The error is easily identified when any teacher, parent, and student reviews the STAAR report and finds the misalignment between STAAR scores and Lexile levels. What is Lexile? Lexile matches students to skill-based reading materials rather than by age or grade. As referenced in the NYT piece, students are reading well within the identified Lexile levels for their grade, but STAAR scores say not so much... So which is it?
The answer lies in the MO of education reformers. If education reformers can convince legislators to buy into their methodology, then, the public might just follow suit. Let's review the Ed Reform agenda:
1) Public schools are failing miserably;
2) Formally trained and credentialed teachers are the problem; and
3) It’s time for smarter people (i.e., non-educators) to take control.
Since 2012, Reading STAAR scores have been "flat." Typically, we see a steady increase in test scores. However, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) determines pass/fail - or cut - scores in an opposite approach to teaching and learning. In other words, as a classroom teacher, I will provide my students with a rubric - a chart which clearly demonstrates the work required to receive an A. In the contrast lies the methodology of TEA. Students, teachers, nor districts know what the passing scores are until all students have been tested and all tests have been scored.
The rules are being made up as we go.
We typically talk about the STAAR as a high-stakes test because of its consequence-based approach for students and teachers. But, let's review the high-stakes for all stakeholders:
Let's also view this from the perspective of homeowners. A failing school may lower property values. For schools to compensate, often property taxes are raised to generate the now missing school funding. However, if a charter were to expand its operation into a TEA labeled "failed" school community, not only would they be 100% funded by the state - the charter operators also receive an additional $1,800 - $2,200 per student. These funds are not available to public school students.
Blame the teachers and the students:
"A spokesman for the Educational Testing Service, the nonprofit that produces STAAR, referred questions to the Texas Education Agency. The agency said it stood by the test questions, which had been approved by a panel of teachers and field-tested on Texas students."
Data & Research:
"Two academic papers, published in 2012 and 2016, concluded that, on average, reading passages on Staar tests were written one to three grade levels above the tested grade level. The Texas Education Agency has said it was in the process of making changes to the exam.
The New York Times asked an independent expert on reading and testing, Peter Afflerbach of the University of Maryland, to examine last year’s third-grade STAAR reading test. He found that the test held a risk of underestimating students’ capabilities."
Have the Ed Reformers won? No! Not at all. Texans are self-determined folk. We believe in our teachers, we support our public schools, and we do whatever it takes for our students to succeed. The message to Ed Reformers is clear - we see what you're doing, and we aren't going to be silenced any longer.
Read the NYT piece: Texas Says Most of Its Students Aren’t Reading at Grade Level. But Are Its Tests Fair?
As a classroom teacher, I administered the STAAR test to my 8th-grade classes, hundreds of students. Often, I had to tell them they failed when I knew they read on grade level and higher. I taught summer school to several students each year so they could enter high school and many times tutored for free because principals suspected teachers were failing kids purposely for extra tutoring money to supplement our low salaries.
All content areas: Math, History, Reading, and Science, are all reading tests. My colleagues and I knew students were brighter than what the STAAR tests were reporting. If you have taught in Texas classrooms since 2011, you have probably experienced this as well.
We (teachers) were dismissed, as was the Texas Association of Meaningful Student Assessments (TAMSA) and multiple university studies.
I believe that more than 30% of Texas school kids are misidentified as reading/performing below grade level ~ more than 1.25 million children... more than 1 in 5 students are told they have failed. We lied to them.
Let's try to wrap our minds around the impact:
In addition to the Texas Monthly article, the Texas Tribune and The New York Times will soon be releasing their investigative pieces. Several elected officials across Texas will soon be issuing statements requesting that this Spring's administration of the STAAR/EOC exams be postponed and demanding third-party evaluations, the halting of school closures and charterization of public schools resulting from draconian laws such as 1842 and 1882, the denial of high school diplomas for the past eight years, and much more.
If anyone is still questioning why teachers are against incentive-based funding, this is just one of many reasons.
Texas taxpayers deserve the truth. Our students deserve far better than this!
This evening’s Socorro City Council Meeting heard several community members speak against Mayor Elia Garcia’s school choice proclamation. A few of the many reasons against ranged from unfair funding creating additional tax burdens on the citizens of Socorro to lack of due process rights for students and families and lack of services to students with special needs.
No one spoke in support of school choice, further solidifying the clear need and support of the Texas State Board of Education’s policy passed last week - public hearings and public comment allowing community members a voice in how their taxpayer dollars are used.
My public comment:
Mayor Garcia, City Council of Socorro,
28 Jan 2019 ~ The Texas State Board of Education passed a policy to hold public hearings and gather public comments on charter expansions.
Commissioner of Education, Michael Morath, is the sole authorizer of new charter campuses, while the TXSBOE has veto power. Note: The members of the TXSBOE are elected, the commissioner of education is appointed. Commissioner Morath has approved 400 new charter campuses in the last six years. The Texas Association of School Administrators sent this letter to Commissioner Morath stating concerns, such as the rapid growth of charters, lack of public input, and no local community accountability.
Before the TXSBOE policy, the only notice the public received was after the expansion campus had been approved. Charters and charter expansions were only required to share an impact analysis, which they create, with the Board of Trustees of the Independent School District in which the charter will exist.
The use of taxpayer dollars allocated for public education is subject to public input, i.e., Democracy. Unlike our ISD's, many charters and their out of town, appointed boards do not hold monthly public meetings. Our new policy takes a considerable step closer to creating a level playing field, giving the local community an opportunity to weigh in on whether a new charter campus is in their best interest.
The policy passed unanimously.
Land Commissioner, George Prescott Bush, made the unprecedented decision to withhold cash from the Permanent School Fund earlier this year. ISDs will receive *possibly* enough funding to cover the Language Arts & Reading Instructional Materials purchase in 2019 & 2020 - however - there will NOT be funding for student technology.
Sunset Hearing: Click to view
Note Senator Watson’s exchange (at minute 4:35) with Commissioner Bush - $55 million has been left on the table (for this biennium). According to statements made in the Sunset Hearing, the SLB has increased their gains by 100% in 2 years, $2B to $4B. However, these gains have not benefited the students of Texas. 39% of these gains are held in CASH at the Reserve for Capital Calls which Commissioner Bush states 100% of the cash in reserve dollars are needed.
Quorum Report: Please see the 2017 annual report pages for the PSF showing both the SBOE and SLB asset classes and earnings on all assets. The QR article reported SLB-PSF earnings that did not include the cash retained by the SLB (39% of SLB-PSF total value, $3.4 billion on pg 4).
I have sent letters to several House Representatives and Senators in the Texas Legislature, requesting their intervention to transfer the $655M from the SLB to the PSF so we may pass-it-through to our ISDs as they prepare to purchase Instructional Materials and Technology for Reading and Language Arts (English and Spanish) for the 2019-2020 academic year - the largest purchase in more than a decade.
It should be noted that the books in classrooms now are old, possibly/probably damaged due to normal wear and tear, and do not reflect the Language Arts TEKS adopted in 2017.
Update, 20 Nov 2018: In a meeting on Monday, 19 Nov, the Land Commissioner maintains the $600M in Reserves, which has been the issue all along, but will send $55M to the Permanent School Fund (the Texas State Board of Education). This will add approximately $1 (one dollar), to each student's fund which ISD's will pool to purchase the new Language Arts & Reading instructional materials and technology. The funds will NOT be enough to cover the 2019 purchase, as stated previously.
$600M remain in the Land Commissioner's cash reserves. I never received a response to my letters nor a response from his office as to why this unprecedented action was taken.
Take a look at the Commissioner's YouTube video,
where he discusses turning Texas oil into textbooks for all students
Georgina C. Pérez