Give ed­u­ca­tion re­form a fair chance to work

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS - TWO VIEWS Kress is ed­u­ca­tion ad­viser to the Texas Busi­ness Lead­er­ship Coun­cil. Wayne Nagel Austin

Texas

has taken ma­jor steps to im­prove pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion in the past two decades.

Our ele­men­tary and mid­dle school stu­dents have achieved some of the best aca­demic gains in the coun­try.

But th­ese gains have not ex­tended to high school. Al­most a quar­ter of our stu­dents be­come dropouts. And only about a quar­ter of our stu­dents grad­u­ate high school ready for col­lege or good jobs. To ad­dress this prob­lem, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David De­whurst, and leg­isla­tive lead­ers made cru­cial changes in pol­icy.

The com­mis­sion­ers of ed­u­ca­tion and higher ed­u­ca­tion set im­pres­sive col­lege and ca­reer stan­dards. The State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion adopted sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved K-12 con­tent stan­dards that es­tab­lish more clearly and rig­or­ously what our stu­dents need to know to suc­ceed.

The state ed­u­ca­tion agency scrapped high school tests that had lit­tle to do with what stu­dents were study­ing in class and re­placed them with end-of­course ex­ams that are aligned to the im­proved stan­dards.

The agency re­placed tests for grades three through eight that didn’t per­mit a good mea­sure for stu­dent growth with im­proved tests that are bet­ter aligned to the new stan­dards and can show stu­dent growth.

With 20-20 hind­sight, we might agree that the re­form law, HB 3, which was adopted al­most unan­i­mously, some­what over­shot. Must stu­dents achieve a pass­ing av­er­age on all high school ex­ams to grad­u­ate? This may be de­sir­able but also too am­bi­tious. Must dis­tricts count th­ese ex­ams as 15 per­cent of stu­dents’ grades? It’s rea­son­able, but maybe that goes too far.

Yet, fix­ing th­ese prob­lems in HB 3 and throw­ing the leg­is­la­tion over­board are two very dif­fer­ent things. We must be very care­ful to re­pair with­out de­stroy­ing our lead­ers’ ef­forts to move our state for­ward.

Re­call that th­ese re­forms cen­tered on get­ting the stan­dards of learn­ing far bet­ter aligned to ex­pec­ta­tions of col­lege and ca­reer. The new Texas Es­sen­tial Knowl­edge and Skills cur­ricu­lum stan­dards are worlds bet­ter than the old stan­dards.

Teach­ing ef­fec­tively to the new stan­dards is key. And pro­vid­ing ap­pro­pri­ate sup­port for teach­ing to the stan­dards mat­ters a lot.

Hav­ing aligned as­sess­ments mat­ters, too. The old high school Texas As­sess­ment of Knowl­edge and Skills tests did not re­late to the cur­ric­ula taught in classes. Nor did they have per­for­mance stan­dards re­flec­tive of col­lege and ca­reer success. Thus, they didn’t mea­sure teach­ing to the stan­dards or learn­ing to the right goals. The new end-of-course ex­ams are aligned in all respects.

The plain­tiffs in the school fi­nance law­suit have ar­gued that educators need the re­sources to suc­ceed un­der HB 3. It is ironic that friends of the plain­tiffs are try­ing to evis­cer­ate the very law upon which the plain­tiffs are pin­ning their case for more money.

The courts should pay close at­ten­tion to this drama. The Supreme Court has said that the pres­ence of a strong state accountability sys­tem is fun­da­men­tal to ful­fill­ing the con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ment of a gen­eral dif­fu­sion of knowl­edge for stu­dents across Texas.

I won’t opine on its mer­its, but the plain­tiffs make an ar­gu­ment that it takes greater re­sources to meet greater ex­pec­ta­tions. But there’s no ar­gu­ment for the plain­tiffs to ex­pect ap­pre­cia­bly more money while their friends are try­ing to blow up the sys­tem of greater ex­pec­ta­tions.

And that’s ex­actly what’s be­ing done. Un­der cer­tain pro­pos­als, there would be no statewide mea­sures of success in teach­ing to the new statewide stan­dards in 10 of the 15 re­quired high school sub­jects deemed cru­cial to post­sec­ondary success. Sure, there would be vary­ing mea­sures in var­i­ous dis­tricts. But there would be no as­sur­ance of align­ment in tests to statewide con­tent stan­dards, no as­sur­ance of aligned data for par­ents, educators, and tax­pay­ers for achieve­ment by all stu­dents across the state, and no as­sur­ance of accountability for teach­ing and learn­ing to state stan­dards in key sub­jects. Mea­sur­ing for success on Ad­vanced Place­ment or merit schol­ars or oc­ca­sional and var­ied lo­cally se­lected tests is fine, but do­ing so in no way pro­vides statewide as­sur­ances for all stu­dents.

How do we know if there’s been a gen­eral dif­fu­sion of knowl­edge across the state un­less we gen­er­ally and com­monly mea­sure for it? And how do we as­sure a gen­eral dif­fu­sion of knowl­edge if our poli­cies and prac­tices don’t re­spond to ob­jec­tive, statewide mea­sures?

Let us all work to­gether to ful­fill the call of our Con­sti­tu­tion. We must give th­ese re­forms the re­sources and the rigor they re­quire to suc­ceed. Any­thing less will be a loss to our state and, mostly, our chil­dren. The Amer­i­can-States­man steps back and in­vites con­trib­u­tors to present two points of view on an is­sue that af­fects our read­er­ship. site. In the past I have re­ceived grief from Chris­tian fam­ily for say­ing “Happy hol­i­days.” I have never re­ceived grief from non-Chris­tian fam­ily or friends for say­ing “Merry Christ­mas.” Thanks­giv­ing to New Year’s is one big hol­i­day for me.

Ad­dic­tion is a disease

Re: Nov. 14 ar­ti­cle, “Lead­ers tout wel­fare drug tests.”

Gov. Rick Perry’s drug test­ing plan re­flects the same out­dated think­ing that has formed the ba­sis of a pub­lic pol­icy that ig­nores the neu­ro­bi­ol­ogy of ad­dic­tion, per­pet­u­ates the view that ad­dicts are peo­ple of poor char­ac­ter, and has made ac­cess to treat­ment ex­tremely dif­fi­cult even for those with health in­surance. Re­search in re­cent years has

Put se­ces­sion to vote

Here’s a pro­posal for the

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