Mary McGarr is a trusted friend, retired educator, past board member, citizen watchdog and journalist. mykidzliberty is honored to share her thoughts expressed to Lou Dobbs.
mykidzliberty looks to education expert Dr. Patrick Huff for guidance on all matters related to accountability. We have spent a great deal of time in this blog discussing how the so called accountability system is a government machine that has no viable indicators of whether our kids are truly literate in reading, writing and arithmetic. While parents had difficulty garnering support from superintendents in the STAAR fight on behalf of children and teachers, superintendents are now looking for community support in fighting the A-F rating system under the new proposed measures. See what Dr. Huff has to say regarding the Texas Education Agency’s report to the 85th Texas Legislature that was released last week.
An editorial opinion by A. Patrick Huff, Ph.D.:
This past week the Texas Education Agency took the school accountability system to a new low, releasing a “what if” letter grade tabulation for each school and school district in the state of Texas. This report has sent shock waves across virtually every public school district in the state. The report was a “what if” because the letter grades are not official. It was only released to let all the public school officials, teachers, parents and students know what their school and school district would receive if the official results were released this year. The letter grades are based on the 2015-2016 school report card and other factors. I say other factors because to figure out all the other factors and understand them, you could be eligible to work at mission control in NASA. Yes, it is that complicated. I have looked at the formulas and, trust me, I feel pretty stupid right about now. I’m not going to bore you with the details of how each grade was determined in this article, but I am going to try and make sense of it (or nonsense).
Here is a little background to bring everyone up to speed on what all of this means. To begin with, Texas did not invent the A-F system. The first state to use it was Florida, under Governor Jeb Bush. It is now in at least 15 states. In early 2016 the Texas Legislature under House Bill 2804, established guidelines for a new state education assessment and accountability system. The purpose of the new program was to conform to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that had previously been passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Obama in December of 2015. HB 2804 also established a commission to review the bill and make recommendations before anything became official. This review board was called The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessment and Accountability. They met in Austin seven times with each meeting dedicated to hearing from “experts” in the field testifying about what the research and practices demonstrate about each phase of the bill’s mandates. At some of these meetings the Commission allowed public testimony. I went to Austin and testified in one of these meetings so I got a first hand look at how it operated. Here is the TEA website where you can read about the Commission and pull up the Commission’s Final Report to the Governor: http://tea.texas.gov/2804Commission.aspx
In the Commission report is the recommendation to approve what had already been written in HB 2804 regarding using an A-F grading format for schools and school districts. Consider the language used in the Commission Draft Report under Long Term Vision, item 6, page 10.
6. Align the state accountability system with ESSA requirements. Align the state and federal accountability systems to ensure that the results are consistent and share common goals. When the federal regulations regarding ESSA are released in fall 2016, Texas will be able to use the guidance provided by the specific federal regulations as it develops the A–F accountability system. An A–F accountability system to identify underperforming schools in Texas is scheduled to be implemented in the 2017–2018 school year (Texas Education Agency, Next Generation Assessment Accountability, 2016, p. 10).
To note the importance of the first sentence is to state the obviously ridiculous. The move to change the accountability system for schools and school districts to an A-F format is a federal requirement. Once again, as I have stated time and time again, Texas is but a mini-federal U.S. Department of Education. This is why we cannot seem to get away from doing what the federal government wants us to do when it comes to education policy. The loss of all sovereignty occurred when each state came under the federal waiver to get out from under impossible mandates of No Child Left Behind. Texas applied for and received their waiver in 2013. Here is the link where you can read the entire waiver request if you so desire. file://localhost/Users/huff_fitness/Downloads/TEA_Final_ESEA_Waiver_091613 (2).pdf
(You may get a warning on this website since it comes from my documents. Don’t worry, it is safe to open).
If you are interested in how we moved from No Child Left Behind into ESSA and some how fell under Common Core, even though the Texas Legislature passed a law saying we would never come under Common Core, it’s all in this waiver application. Please note, College and Career Ready Standards are the Common Core Standards. Also in this application is where schools fell under Priority and Focus categories. The federal Annual Measureable Objectives (updated Adequate Yearly Progress) is also in this waiver request.
Let me now turn your attention to the most important part of this article. Superintendents across the state are decrying the issuance of the A-F ratings. Rightfully so, I might add, they are putting out memorandums and videos that denounce these ratings and point to the unfairness of reducing a schools overall worth to a letter grade. Yes, it’s true, a school cannot be judged based on the outcomes of a standardized test given once a year. Here, though, is the issue. Where have the superintendents been on the outcry? This has been going on since the early 90’s and with more high stakes involved since 2002 with the passage of No Child Left Behind. Schools cannot be judged as Exemplary, Recognized, Acceptable, Met Standard, Unacceptable, or Needs Improvement based upon the yearly given standardized test. It is a flawed policy and it increasingly affects schools negatively who have high percentages of low socio-economic students. It discriminates with sanctions and endless shaming of the students, the teachers, the administration, the parents and the community where the school is located. It is unacceptable that this horrid accountability system continues. Now with the A-F system the lobbyist controlled congress (both state and federal) implements their latest in a long series of heavy handed tactics to demonstrate their disdain for the education system. I mention lobbyist because education is an industry that makes billions of dollars every year off the backs of our children, and more specifically, by off the backs of our children in Title One schools. Everyone knows this, everyone discusses this issue; but nothing gets done. Our students are but guinea pigs forced to swallow the latest magic bullet curriculum program that the school district purchases for thousands of dollars. I mention disdain by the legislators because I have been in the committee meetings, and I have testified before both the Texas House and the Texas Senate Education Committees only to be told my time is up and thank you very much. Senator Larry Taylor did allow me more than the customary three minutes to speak, but my recommendations fell on deaf ears, just as every recommendation that came from a public speaker. The only recommendations that were followed were those that came from the invited speakers, many of which came from the corporate sector. The Education Committees in both houses of congress and the State Board of Education in Texas feel as though it is their duty to save public education. The Lt. Governor and Governor feel the same. To them, teachers can’t be trusted to teach the students. Principals can’t be trusted to lead and manage. Superintendents can’t be trusted to organize and implement the best, most trusted method of instruction. No, it is the state and federal governments, the lobbyist, and the corporations that must be in charge of teaching our students. After all, as Senator Taylor said to me when I testified to his committee, before the legislators took control students were graduating that could not read. There was a crisis in the nation. The government had to step in and take control. I told him that students are still graduating that can’t read. We don’t like it, every teacher is working to keep that from happening, but that is what happens in a free and democratic society. A student can choose to fail if they so choose. We don’t like it, but it is always going to be that way in a free and democratic society. We have been under this system of accountability for going on three decades and what do we have? We have a failed system where the controllers have their boot on the throat of every teacher, principal and superintendent and the pressure is increasing with each new phase of the accountability system.
So now we have the A-F system of school accountability. Let me give you some examples of how some school districts did around the state. The grading system of schools is broken down into four domains. There will be a fifth added next year, but for now we will just discuss the four. They are broken down as:
Domain I: Student Achievement (how all the students performed on the STAAR test)
Domain II: Student Progress (evaluating student progress in 10 student subgroup categories, broken down into 7 ethnic groups, Special Education, and English Language Learners, and their progress from the previous year’s results).
Domain III: All tests from all grades results in the economically disadvantaged student population only (These scores are compared with those from the previous year and judged by improvement or regression).
Domain IV: Post-Secondary Readiness (Elementary evaluated on absentee rate.
Middle Schools evaluated on absentee rate and dropout rate.
High Schools graded on a number of indicators, including absentee rate, graduation rate, dropout rate, career and tech programs offered, AP and IB courses offered, and a few other indicators).
Of course this is a simplified version and no mathematical statistical formulas are given to determine the outcome, so keep that in mind as I run down these results. Keep in mind, also, that these results in no way indicate the worth or value of the education the students are receiving in these school districts. Any comparison needs to be made with the understanding that the district with the most challenges have the most difficulty with this very flawed system that needs to be eliminated.
|SCHOOL DISTRICT||DOMAIN I||DOMAIN II||DOMAIN III||DOMAIN IV|
I hope that I have represented each district’s scores accurately. My apologies if there are any errors.
Of course, this list is very brief and only represents a small portion of the school districts in the state. They are, however, all large school districts with the exception of Highland Park. Highland Park was included in this list simply to point out the disparity of the system. This is not a slam against Highland Park. They are a very good school district. They do, however, have zero economically disadvantaged students. At least none show up on the school report card. This is why they did not receive a score in Domain III. Highland Park received a “C” in Domain IV only because they went down in their Post Secondary Readiness Index from 96 in 2015 to 92 in 2016. The score of 92 in Domain IV is an excellent score, but because Highland Park went down from a score of 96 in 2015 (the target score for Domain IV is 57 for high schools), they were shamed with a grade of “C”. So, the public assumes Highland Park is just average in Domain IV, yet they had a very high score of 92.
Looking at the list provided in this article, I’m sure, makes you scratch your head and wonder how a district received the grade it did in each of the domains. Some of the grades you can understand and others you can’t figure out how the grade could be what it is. Due to the ramifications that go along with a letter grade, and the impressions it makes in the eyes of the public, you can see why the school officials are yelling from the rooftops that this is an unfair system and in no way reflects their districts quality and worth. Yet it has been this way from the beginning of the Accountability System. Those of you who have followed my articles and read my book, The Takeover of Public Education in America: The Agenda to Control Information and Knowledge Through the Accountability System, know that the central theme I keep repeating is the unjust nature and discriminatory practice the accountability system is for the entire nation, not just Texas. But Texas is my state, so I concentrate on Texas, where I live and work.
Superintendents of the great State of Texas, I put this situation in your hands. I think this is personal to you now. Before, the old system of “met standards” or “needs improvement” didn’t quite have the sting of a letter grade. Everyone identifies with a letter grade. The Congress of Texas thinks this will motivate everyone directly involved with student testing outcomes to improve. What Congress doesn’t realize is that school officials and teachers have been doing everything in their power to get the scores up, yet with little effect. This is because no matter what program is brought in, or what guru is provided to help teachers teach better, the same demographic factors are almost impossible to overcome. This, also, has nothing to do with ethnicity. Nothing! The schools success rises or falls with the percentages of students in Eco-Disadvantaged, English Language Learners, and the Mobility Rate for the school and school district. The Mobility Rate indicates the number of students that arrive after school begins and/or leaves before the school year ends.
Superintendents, I call on you to organize. Organize not around TASA. In my opinion, The Texas Association of School Administrators has not served you well. They have kept you in the status quo. You must have an independent voice in order to get the attention of the state legislators. Yes, the federal government wants this A-F system, but they have also said they want states to have more autonomy in determining their accountability systems. Use this as your leverage point. Apart from the parents of the state, whom the legislators have already demonstrated they do not listen to, the superintendents of the state are the only hope for reversing the A-F grading system, and the entire accountability system. The whole system is flawed to its core and needs to be eliminated. Let’s all come together and speak in one voice to eliminate the A-F grading system first, then the entire accountability system.
Dr. Patrick Huff is the author of “The Takeover of Public Education in America: The Agenda to Control Information and Knowledge Through the Accountability System”, 2015. The book can be found at http://www.aphuff.com. Dr. Huff is a retired middle and high school principal with 34 years in the public education profession. He currently works as an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. He lives with his wife, Connie, of 35 years in Tomball, Texas and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Letter to the Editor of Covering Katy
I encourage you to publish the link to the recent follow up team building meeting of the Katy ISD Board of Trustees. BOT Team Meeting 01.17
The Katy community, at a minimum, should observe how our resources are being utilized and by whom. Preferably, constituents would engage, but observation would be an improvement at this point.
Most telling in this video is how the TASB (Texas Association of School Boards) facilitator, Dr. Bill Rutherford, attempts to drive the direction of the end result. It is not as blatant as some that we have seen, but it is obvious, just the same. TASA (Texas Association of School Administrators) and TASB are far too engrained in our policy and culture.
BOT member Bryan Michalsky continues to cause me concern as he again tries to distance the board from accountability for the curriculum and academics in the district. While those items are the Superintendent’s charge, the Superintendent is the employee of the board. I also was not sure of Michalsky’s intent in striking out at George Scott regarding public information being available to trustees. What is the issue?
It is worth noting that Scott is the first BOT member during my years in Katy that I recall asking for real “accountability” reporting. It is high time that someone ask questions about the effect that the dozens of benchmarks performed by the district are having (or not having) on student performance.
It was somewhat frustrating to see several members put on the charade that they love for the public to come forward in open forum. That is not the message they have conveyed through their actions over the last few years.
While Dr. Hindt’s perspective on the reform curriculum and his choice of contracting Engage2Learn is concerning, we must give him due credit for being able to cut to the chase in these meetings. It is nice to see a grown up in the room instead of a dictator.
The most entertaining part of the event was BOT member & TASB board member Henry Dibrell. Dibrell spent the better part of his first years on the board carrying the water of former Superintendent Alton Frailey only to throw him under the bus for the sake of campaigning during this meeting and of course pandering to the new superintendent. Dibrell didn’t miss any opportunities to poke fun at Scott, either.
There is nothing earth shattering in this particular recording, but it gives constituents the ability to see members interact with one another and understand how decisions are made.
In this day when academics are being undermined and the shift is occurring from knowledge based education to social/emotional training, everyone should be keeping a close eye on what is happening with the people that manage our local schools.
True competition can only be achieved when private entities use private capital to create options in education that are not tied to State or Federal mandates. To remove the ability to not be tied to government run schools violates every premise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Letter to the Texas legislature included with the Texas Parent Report on Education
December 29, 2016
In 2016 testimony to the Senate Education Committee, I questioned Senator Larry Taylor about his statement that the Legislature needed to “hurry up and get this done.” The Senator was referring to his desire to expediently implement technological infrastructure and applications in Texas classrooms.
The motive behind the questioning is simple. As was explained to Senator Taylor that day, the standards for learning, teaching, instructing, assessing, measuring and accounting for academic achievement in Texas today are corrupt.
The Texas TEKS are flawed. Senator Taylor proceeded to pass the buck for the corrupt standards to the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE.) While it is the appropriate place to expect accountability, the testimony was also intended to express the SBOE failure to adequately address those problems and how such failure was preventing initiatives, like technology, from being useful, efficient or even relevant. The legislature continues to make laws and push initiatives that are disruptive to education while these standards are left unaddressed.
While so much talking, pondering and brainstorming takes place about the new ideas, the most important factor is being over looked. What is being taught to Texas students is creating gaps in their academic skillsets, throughout the State. The flawed standards are harming students and leaving them deficient in reading comprehension, fundamentals of mathematics and writing literacy.
As the 85th Texas Legislature takes up Interim Charges on Education, including school choice, charters, digital learning, school/student performance and other secondary issues to the actual academics, it is imperative that this body understand that if the standards are not corrected, nothing else that the legislature does will result in what they continue to refer to as improved “student outcomes.”
True student “outcomes” are not evident in A-F ratings, STAAR test results or any other “accountability” measure being used today. The only possible way to understand what the schools are producing today as a result of these corrupt standards is to see and touch the work the students are submitting. The majority of our average, mainstream kids are closing the achievement gap in the wrong direction. Some administrators throughout the State estimate that Texas students are 18 to 24 months behind in their learning, due to the corrupt Texas TEKS, particularly in math.
Bad standards result in bad assessments and bad accountability findings. The assessment/accountability indicators only measure whether the students have successfully mastered the content driven by the bad standards.
Advocating for school choice is a noble cause. The present options that are being touted as choice actually counter the existing choice that is currently available to Texas residents. Today, parents can choose to homeschool or enter their children into private school, with the freedom of not being tied to the bad standards that have been forced on publicly funded programs through state and federal mandates. Everyone should be proponents of that type of choice.
Tying students, schools or education programs to those bad standards through state or federal strings will destroy the choice available to those children. Charters are required by state law to meet the same bad standards, bad assessment and bad accountability measures that other publicly funded programs require and therefore offer no real choice.
Digital learning is a necessary amenity in 21st century learning. It should be considered a resource, not an end to a problem. Dr. Yong Zhao of the University of Oregon reminds us that education is the growth of a human being, while digital initiatives are training or instruction which is different than education. Instruction is the transmission of knowledge or development of skills. Knowledge vs skills. The current Texas standards are destroying the knowledge base of our students. Any layers of training or skills that are added to a flawed knowledge base simply move the student further away from a sound academic foundation.
The Next Generation Assessment and Accountability system is set to amplify those concerns, as students will be measured “real time, any time” on those flawed standards and their emotional responses to stimuli in the classroom, according to Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. The State is set to build portfolios on whether students are learning flawed material and assess how they feel about it!
Schools and student performance indicators are in no way relevant to whether students can actually read, write and perform arithmetic. Dr. Patrick Huff states it the best:
“The accountability system, where schools are judged according to how they do on the test and other related factors, and are taken to failure because of conditions the school has no control over, should be placed in a state of moratorium. There should be no more labels or shutdowns; no more teachers laid off due to failing status of the school, until an independent agency, one not beholding to lobbyist or corporate interest that base their profits on the backs of students in “failing schools” can be assembled to create a new system. The Next Generation Assessment and Accountability should be halted in its tracks. “
Performance accountability only assesses whether students have achieved the mastery of flawed standards which are damaging their academic skillsets. It is impossible through the present or proposed accountability system to measure whether a student is academically achieving at age appropriate levels.
Texas is full of well intentioned people who are pursuing efforts that will have unintended, negative consequences for the future of this generation. Senator Taylor and his colleagues would benefit their constituents and the future of our state and nation the most by expending efforts to pursue Texas’ freedom from the NCLB, Race to the Top and ESSA mandates that have undermined the most basic premise of our children’s education. Focusing on re-enforcing the knowledge base before adding layers of nice to haves would go much further in securing what comes next for these kids.
|From||Kim Belcher Gutierrez|
|To||pathardy2008 email@example.com, phardy firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Cc||donna.bahorich email@example.com, tincymiller35 firstname.lastname@example.org, kbamercer email@example.com, lallen1 firstname.lastname@example.org, marisa.perez email@example.com, martha.dominguez firstname.lastname@example.org, marty email@example.com, ruben.cortez firstname.lastname@example.org, smelton51 email@example.com, thomas firstname.lastname@example.org, tom email@example.com, sboecargill firstname.lastname@example.org, david.bradley email@example.com, EBeltranSBOE EBeltranSBOE@gmail.com|
While our district begins the battle over DOI, it seemed helpful to have a cheat sheet of sorts that we could update with information to share with teachers, parents and taxpayers.
Great resource from ATPE on DOI: https://www.atpe.org/en/DOI
School Board Member, George Scott on Community Input for DOI: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=328356127514486&id=195944790755621&refid=18&_ft_=qid.6332529469176241353%3Amf_story_key.617353611780489%3Atl_objid.617353611780489
WOW Blog on Big Picture DOI: http://www.voicesempower.com/texas-districts-of-innovation_initiative-is-not-what-you-think/
Read the law Texas Ed Code: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.12A.htm
Jenny Evans Teacher and President of Lewisville Education Association https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t92klvMEb1M
Kim Belcher, Katy ISD Parent https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=v6yZ98EzpM0
From Mellany Lamb: Check to see if your district has an intra local transfer policy. She reminded her school board that due to their flexible policy for students to be able to move to other open seats in the district, they already have school choice.
Following is an address to the KISD board at their 9/19/16 work session:
I am Kim Belcher, a Katy parent, taxpayer and public school advocate.
I am here to comment on agenda item 6.6, the District of Innovation initiative that has received little to no publicity by this board, nor the district administration leading up to this review.
Districts of Innovation or DOI’s have the power to change the entire nature of a community. Such an undertaking should not be taken lightly by anyone involved, due to the potential of undermining the roles of the professional educator and the parents of our students.
Districts of Innovation do NOT allow school districts to exempt from state or federal requirements that charter schools are subject to, which means that the two greatest problems in Texas education today cannot be solved through a DOI.
Poorly crafted standards that are interfering with our students’ ability to perform fundamentals of math, write coherently and comprehend what they read will not find resolution in a DOI.
The new, so called accountability system cannot be avoided due to this limitation, which means that our kids are subject to “real time” “any time” assessment, not only from an academic standpoint, but also social and emotional responses to stimuli in the classroom, according to Commissioner Mike Morath who would like to see us set standards for our kids’ behaviors, beliefs and personal value systems.
In addition to the two primary problems in education not being remedied by implementation of a DOI, if a district so chooses, educators could no longer have to be certified to hold their positions, could lose their ability to enact or enforce disciplinary measures in the classroom and could provide unfair contractual advantages to the districts over the educator that have the potential to impact pay, work hours and rights to paid leave.
While parents are already seeing a push to keep them out of the education of their children, DOI’s afford the opportunity for a district to exempt itself from providing parental access to a child’s instructional materials, limit a parent’s right to prohibit videotaping or tracking of their children, lose broad access to teachers and administrators and lose the expectation of safety in the classroom as teachers’ rights to discipline are negated.
According to Deputy Commissioner AJ Crabill, the three most common exemptions that the schools are taking as a result of this new fad are:
Exemption from the uniform start date TEC25.0811 and TEC25.081
~ Could be addressed through legislative changes or administrative rules without giving carte blanche to a district under DOI
Exemption from the teacher certification requirements TEC21.003
~ There is no good reason I can think of to undermine the professional status of our classroom teachers; if there is any one thing that Katy has done right, it has been the placement of qualified, exceptional instructors in our classrooms
Exemption from limiting class size to 22:1 TEC 25.112
~ This already has remedy available to the district under a waiver process; schools are giving away the farm for something that already has an existing solution
Deputy Commissioner Crabill had no statistics or report on what “innovative” programs were being piloted under this initiative. It seems these districts are more interested in what they can exempt themselves from than what they can do to improve student outcomes. None of this points to a more sound academic education for our kids.
The Texas Education Code has safeguards in place for the districts, educators, parents and students that should not be set aside hastily.
I respectfully request that you hold an open forum so that all of those stakeholders have an opportunity to provide input, not just a limited three minutes at the end of an already long day. You are setting Katy, Texas up to be left without a traditional public school. Our public schools have been the cornerstone of our community and our culture for decades and that should not be stripped away without the involvement of those who are funding it… your property tax payers.
Mr. Scott, you made a promise to fight for our kids and our teachers when we put our names behind your campaign. Tonight, we are here to hold your feet to the fire for exactly that. Stand up and be counted with us. Be the voice on this board that insists the constituents of this board get to participate in deciding the future of our kids and our community.
Thank you all for your time.