Bill scales back sys­tem that grades schools with A-F

Plan would push im­ple­men­ta­tion back a year.

Austin American-Statesman - - FUNERAL AND MEMORIALS - By Julie Chang jchang@states­man.com

A bill filed Thurs­day would scale back a new state grad­ing sys­tem for school dis­tricts and cam­puses.

House Bill 22 filed by state Rep. Dan Hu­berty, R-Hous­ton and the chair­man of the House Public Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee, would change the A-F ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem that school dis­tricts have crit­i­cized since it was pro­posed in 2015. The A-F sys­tem hasn’t gone into ef­fect yet, but the state as­signed let­ter grades to school dis­tricts and cam­puses in Jan­uary that showed how they would have per­formed if the A-F ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem were in use.

School dis­trict of­fi­cials were un­happy, say­ing that the sys­tem — which will be im­ple­mented in Au­gust 2018 — un­fairly pe­nal­izes schools with large num­bers of low-in­come stu­dents. They also said that as­sign­ing let­ter grades stig­ma­tizes public schools while pro­vid­ing lit­tle use­ful in­for­ma­tion to the public. Pro­po­nents said the sys­tem is a more trans­par­ent and com­pre­hen­sive way of grad­ing schools.

Among the changes the bill would make is push back im­ple­men­ta­tion of the A-F sys­tem a year.

“TASA ap­pre­ci­ates that Chair­man Hu­berty is will­ing to work on the A-F ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem and im­prove its flaws. We also ap­plaud that HB 22 pushes back the im­ple­men­ta­tion of A-F to 2019 to al­low more time to de­velop a bet­ter ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem,” said Casey McCreary with the Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of School Ad­min­is­tra­tors.

The bill would re­duce the num­ber of cat­e­gories in which each cam­pus and school dis­trict would be graded. The cat­e­gories elim­i­nated are ones that grade how well dis­tricts and cam­puses pre­pare stu­dents for ca­reers and col­lege and how well they re­duce the per­for­mance gap be­tween low-in­come and higher-in­come stu­dents. Cam­puses and school dis­tricts would still be graded on over­all stu­dent per­for­mance and progress and their “school cli­mate” — how well they en­gage with stu­dents and the com­mu­nity.

Some parts of the elim­i­nated cat­e­gories would be in­te­grated into ex­ist­ing ones.

Based on a pre­lim­i­nary re­view of the bill, Clay Ro­bi­son with the Texas State Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion said the bill still weighs heav­ily on stan­dard­ized tests and will dis­pro­por­tion­ately hurt cam­puses with high num­bers of poor chil­dren.

“If Chair­man Hu­berty is at­tempt­ing to make A-F more ac­cept­able to ed­u­ca­tors, I’m not sure he gets there,” Ro­bi­son said.

The bill also would elim­i­nate as­sign­ing an over­all let­ter grade to each school dis­trict and cam­pus.

The bill would only give let­ter grades in each of the three cat­e­gories. Cur­rently, school dis­tricts and cam­puses re­ceive an over­all la­bel that in­di­cates whether they met state re­quire­ments for the year or if they need im­prove­ment.

State of­fi­cials have or­dered a San An­to­nio char­ter school to cease op­er­a­tions un­til it can re­solve food-safety con­cerns and whether crim­i­nal back­ground checks were con­ducted on em­ploy­ees.

The Texas Ed­u­ca­tion Agency on Wed­nes­day sus­pended op­er­a­tions at the San An­to­nio School of In­quiry and Cre­ativ­ity.

TEA Com­mis­sioner Mike Mo­rath said in a let­ter to ad­min­is­tra­tors that the school, which has four cam­puses, will not re­ceive state fund­ing while the sus­pen­sion is in ef­fect.

A hear­ing on the sus­pen­sion is sched­uled for Fri­day in Austin. About 550 stu­dents at­tend the school.

Denise Frit­ter, pres­i­dent of the school’s board of trustees, told the San An­to­nio Ex­press-News that the TEA’s con­cerns will be ad­dressed.

Par­ents told the board that stu­dents be­came sick from un­der­cooked and spoiled cafe­te­ria food.

The pe­ti­tion, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice of­fi­cials, “did not present sub­stan­tial in­for­ma­tion that delist­ing is war­ranted.”

The land com­mis­sioner has been em­broiled in golden-cheeked war­bler is­sues be­fore.

The Amer­i­can-States­man re­vealed in 2015 that Combs and a high-rank­ing of­fi­cial in Bush’s of­fice had pressed military of­fi­cials at Fort Hood, prime war­bler habi­tat, to play up the im­pact of the bird pro­tec­tions on military train­ing as part of their delist­ing ef­fort.

The cor­ner­stone of the ef­fort to re­move the bird’s fed­eral pro­tec­tions has been a 2015 study by Texas A&M re­searchers. Over­seen by an ecol­o­gist who served as a board mem­ber of a prop­erty rights group that sup­ports the war­bler delist­ing ef­fort, the study con­cluded

State agri­cul­ture of­fi­cials and ranch­ers are scram­bling to se­cure feed and other sup­plies for ap­prox­i­mately 10,000 cat­tle and horses that fled this week from wild­fires in the Texas Pan­han­dle.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Ex­ten­sion says in a state­ment that about 4,200 large bales of hay are needed to feed dis­placed an­i­mals over the next two weeks.

Fenc­ing and trucks to shut­tle an­i­mals from one lo­ca­tion to an­other are among the needs as ranch­ers re­cover from the fires that killed four peo­ple and burned about 750 square miles.

Wild­fires also rav­aged parts of Colorado, Kansas and Ok­la­homa.

Jayce Win­ters, spokes­woman for the Texas Cat­tle Feeder’s As­so­ci­a­tion, says pre­lim­i­nary counts in­di­cate about 1,500 cat­tle were killed in the fires, but a more pre­cise ac­count­ing could be days or weeks away. Cen­tral Texas’ war­bler pop­u­la­tion was much greater than pre­vi­ously thought, call­ing into ques­tion the need for the war­bler’s en­dan­gered species pro­tec­tion.

In a let­ter Thurs­day to the U.S. In­te­rior Depart­ment and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice, Robert Hen­neke, the gen­eral coun­sel of the con­ser­va­tive-minded Texas Public Pol­icy Foun­da­tion, act­ing on be­half of the Texas Gen­eral Land Of­fice, cited the A&M re­search in an­nounc­ing the state agency’s in­tent to sue.

But the States­man found that the A&M re­search has

A Hous­ton man ac­cused of fa­tally shoot­ing a sher­iff ’s deputy at a gas sta­tion in 2015 has been ruled men­tally com­pe­tent to stand trial for cap­i­tal mur­der.

Dur­ing a court hear­ing Wed­nes­day, a judge ruled Shan­non Miles could be tried for the death of Deputy Darren Go­forth.

Miles had pre­vi­ously been deemed in­com­pe­tent and was treated last year at a state mental hos­pi­tal.

Doc­tors at the hos­pi­tal de­ter­mined af­ter treat­ment he was com­pe­tent to stand trial.

Miles’ at­tor­neys have dis­agreed with the com­pe­tency find­ings and have asked for a de­lay to re­view the man’s san­ity.

A court hear­ing is set for April 18 to re­view the re­quest by Miles’ at­tor­neys.

Go­forth was shot 15 times while putting gaso­line in his pa­trol car.

If con­victed, Miles could face the death penalty. en­coun­tered a se­ries of crit­i­cisms from other bi­ol­o­gists. Fed­eral bi­ol­o­gists, for ex­am­ple, noted that, ac­cord­ing to the A&M pop­u­la­tion model, war­blers could be found in a wide ex­panse of as­phalt at Fort Hood. Cit­ing such glitches, the agency con­cluded the pa­per’s method­ol­ogy over­pre­dicted the num­ber of war­blers by as much as ten­fold.

The Ag­gie re­searchers have stood by their con­clu­sions and crit­i­cized the meth­ods of other sci­en­tists.

“I see this as a suc­cess story,” Hen­neke said in an in­ter­view, “of how con­ser­va­tion can work. In no way should this (delist­ing suit) be con­strued as at­tack­ing a species.”

He said the war­bler is a “re­cov­ered species” and should “no longer be reg­u­lated,” with a pop­u­la­tion as many as 19 times greater than when it was listed.

The En­dan­gered Species Act “is not per­pet­ual reg­u­la­tion of pri­vate prop­erty.”

The two type­writ­ers Larry McMurtry used to write his Pulitzer Prize-win­ning novel “Lone­some Dove” sold at auc­tion for $37,500.

Her­itage Auc­tions sold the type­writ­ers Wed­nes­day at an auc­tion in New York. Eric Bradley, a spokesman for the Dal­las-based auc­tion house, said the type­writ­ers sold to a bid­der from Texas who wished to re­main anony­mous.

McMurtry had told The As­so­ci­ated Press he “just de­cided that it would be fun” to sell the type­writ­ers at auc­tion, “and I ac­tu­ally have too many type­writ­ers.”

The 80-year-old au­thor and screen­writer said he still writes on a type­writer and has about 15 of them.

While writ­ing “Lone­some Dove,” a tale of a cat­tle drive in the 1870s, he kept one type­writer in his home­town of Archer City and the other in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Hen­neke’s let­ter points, as an ex­am­ple of landowner costs, to a 2,316-acre Gen­eral Land Of­fice-owned tract in Bexar and Kendall coun­ties, ap­prox­i­mately 85 per­cent of which con­tains war­bler habi­tat. The let­ter says the pres­ence of war­bler habi­tat has de­creased the prop­erty’s value by nearly half.

Gen­eral Land Of­fice spokes­woman Brit­tany Eck said the state was part­ner­ing with the pri­vate foun­da­tion be­cause it “has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in delist­ing lit­i­ga­tion.” She said the foun­da­tion is rep­re­sent­ing the Gen­eral Land Of­fice pro bono.

Joan Mar­shall, di­rec­tor of Travis Audubon, which over­sees some war­bler pre­serve land, said a delist­ing of the species “would be pre­ma­ture.”

“The un­der­ly­ing con­di­tion of habi­tat loss con­tin­ues,” she said.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY THE CITY OF AUSTIN

The golden-cheeked war­bler’s re­cov­ery is be­ing de­bated.

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