Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

January 31, 2007

You don’t have to identify yourself as a homeschooler

Filed under: Homeschooling, Religious Right — texased @ 6:48 pm

HSLDA | New Hampshire Legislation 2007—House Bill 51: Legalizing Adoption by Unmarried “Couples”:

Action Requested:
Please call and/or email members of the House Children and Family Law Committee (listed below) and give them this message:

“Please vote against House Bill 51 to protect New Hampshire adoptive children by keeping the adoption process based on the traditional interpretation of the family.”

You do not have to identify yourself as a homeschooler. Though this bill affects homeschoolers, it also affects every family in New Hampshire.

Whenever they say that “you do not have to identify yourself as a homeschooler” I suspect that it’s probably an issue that a “national” homeschooling group that claims to represent “all” homeschoolers shouldn’t be involved.

January 29, 2007

No pass, no play, sorta

Filed under: standards, University Interscholastic League — texased @ 9:28 pm

Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas/Southwest:

In the past 12 years, some districts have created no-pass, no-play exemptions for classes ranging from calculus to cooking and auto repair. Others allow no exemptions.”

I don’t think we ever would have envisioned (competing) schools being allowed to exempt different classes,” said former state Rep. Paul Sadler, who chaired the House education committee when the no-pass, no-play law was altered in 1995.

“It creates an uneven playing field,” he said.

First enacted in 1984, the no-pass, no-play law banned students who failed a course from practicing or playing in extracurricular activities for six weeks.

The perfect solution for allowing non-public school students to play on public school teams–just exempt all homeschool and non-public school classes!
Or better yet, get athletics out of the school.

January 28, 2007

Judson ISD Open Textbook Forum

Filed under: San Antonio — texased @ 4:49 pm

District Calendar – 2/6/2007:

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007, 5:30 – 7:30 pm Administrative Office Board Room and Conference Room, 8012 Shin Oak Drive, Live Oak, Texas

No, really?

MySA.com: State Government:

At least half of all high school students in the state’s major cities are dropping out of school, creating a crisis that state leaders are not doing enough to address, some education experts say.

This was true when I did my masters report in the 1980’s. This problem spans generations in terms of “alarm” over dropout rates. All of the dramatic reforms of the past thirty years, no pass-no play, increasing requirements, teacher reforms, etc, have proven to be only tinkering on the edges of the problem with no real results. I suspect things won’t change until the state is willing to go to some sort of equitable state wide funding mechanism while allowing more control at the local and parent level.

Right.

What do we have right now–does 4 by 4 ring a bell? No child left behind? Or how about how we handle charter schools?

MySA.com: Metro | State:

Shapiro’s proposed bill would make the closure of a charter school after two years on the academically unacceptable list automatic, removing intermediate steps that have slowed enforcement and helped spur courtroom battles. It would also set an absolute standard that a minimum of 25 percent of a school’s students must pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests in reading and math. If a school misses that mark two years in a row, it would have to shut its doors.

MySA.com: Metro | State:

Shapiro’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Ransom Rice, said there has been discussion of adding a caveat to the proposed bill that would allow such schools to prove that students are making considerable progress, even if their TAKS scores are sub par, thus saving themselves from closure. Rice said even if that measure is added to the bill, however, it would likely be a one-time-only second chance.

The logic behind this “reasoning” is astounding. First, you have schools taking kids who have managed to fall several/many grade levels behind over ten or eleven years and the school gets two years to bring them up to standards.

Then there is the whole “school choice” aspect of it. No one is forcing parents to send their kids to these schools. If these schools are doing such a terrible job, why are the parents still sending their children there? There are two possibilities.

One, the parent believes that the child is benefiting from the school regardless of what the state standards say. After all, they probably do take into account that their child is six years behind when he started the school.

Or two. The parents really don’t have a clue as to how their children are doing which is probably indicative of their own education experience. Can anyone say “culture of poverty?”

How will increasing standards reduce the dropout rate when part of the problem is that the students can’t meet the existing standards to begin with? How can shutting down a school because it doesn’t meet average yearly progress improve students’ performance if they are simply placed back into the situation that generated the problem to begin with?

Why do we still have a 50 % dropout rate after 40 years of alarm over the issue? Because no one is willing to come out and say resolving it would require spending more on students from poor economic backgrounds compared to those from wealthy, suburban districts. Because it would mean that people in a wealthy district would have to recognize that spending money on poor students is a necessary investment for their own children’s standard of living. It would mean letting go of the idea that somehow “those” students are in such poor schools because they deserve it.

January 25, 2007

The defenders of the First Amendment

Filed under: Homeschooling, Religious Right — texased @ 11:27 am

Guess the Home School Legal Defense Association can continue fulfilling it’s homeschool mandate by making sure marriage is defined as between a man and a woman.

HSLDA | S. 1—The Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007:

Senate Bill 1 is a bipartisan bill and contains much-needed congressional reforms. However, Section 220 of S. 1 was set to redefine lobbying to include “paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying.” Under this label, all organizations engaged in grassroots lobbying would have been required to comply with all federal lobbying laws, including registration with Congress and a filing of quarterly reports to Congress. Failure to comply would have resulted in fines of up to $200,000 per the Vitter Amendment No. 10 on January 12, and possible criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison created by Section 223 of the substitute bill. The Bennett Amendment passed on a 55-43 vote, removing Section 220 and the grassroots lobbying provisions. Immediately following, Senate Bill 1 was passed on a vote of 96-2. It now goes to the House for consideration.

Apparently gay marriage is a parental right issue for homeschoolers.

I know Section 220 had some problems and all the conservative groups who opposed the bill love to point out that the ACLU had some problems with bill. Go over to the ACLU website and you’ll see the difference. The ACLU points the problems with the specific definitions. In other words, the ACLU mentions that this bill has a financial consideration ($25,000) a quarter and didn’t apply to members although there is a problem in what constitutes a member. The other organizations didn’t seem to get past mentioning the penalties if you didn’t comply or the “500” number.

So somehow I can’t shake the feeling that the outcry was so one-sided because groups on that side have been getting away with something. Like sending out legislative action alerts on behalf of other organizations for issue that aren’t related to homeschooling.

January 22, 2007

Non-partisan elections for the State Board of Education?

Filed under: Don McLeroy, Maggie Charleton, Texas State Board of Education — texased @ 9:41 pm

80(R) HB 603 – Introduced version – Bill Text:

�������(b)��Members of the board are elected at biennial general elections held in compliance with the Election Code. A candidate’s name for the board may appear on the ballot only as an independent candidate and Chapter 142, Election Code, applies to a candidate for the board.
�������SECTION�2.��Section 1.005, Election Code, is amended by amending Subdivision (9) to read as follows: �������������(9)��”Independent candidate” means a candidate in a nonpartisan election or a candidate in a partisan election who is not the nominee of a political party. The term includes a candidate for the State Board of Education. �������SECTION�3.��Section 142.001, Election Code, is amended to read as follows:
�������Sec.�142.001.��APPLICABILITY OF CHAPTER. This chapter applies to:
�������������(1)��an independent candidate for an office that is to be voted on at the general election for state and county officers except the offices of president and vice-president of the United States; and
�������������(2)��any candidate for the State Board of Education.
�������SECTION�4.��Chapter 161, Election Code, is amended by adding Section 161.0031 to read as follows: �������Sec.�161.0031.��NOMINATION FOR STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION PROHIBITED. A political party may not make a nomination for the office of State Board of Education.

I thought this was an interesting bill. Would this mean that people wouldn’t get elected to the board just because they happen to be associated with one party? Maybe Maggie Charleton might have beaten Don McLeroy if both had to run as independents?

January 21, 2007

HB 616: Equality in vanity license plates?

Filed under: Education Finance, Texas — texased @ 7:28 pm

80(R) HB 616 – Introduced version – Bill Text:

�������Sec.�504.6155.��SUPPORT COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS LICENSE PLATES. �(a) �The department shall issue specialty license plates that include the words “I support (insert name of county) County public schools.” �The department shall design the license plates in consultation with the applicable county.
�������(b)��After deduction of the department’s administrative costs, the remainder of the fee for issuance of the license plates shall be sent to the Texas Education Agency for distribution to the school districts in the county designated on the license plates based on the average daily attendance of the school districts as determined under Section 42.005, Education Code.

This shows what is wrong with the Texas school finance system in so many ways. School funding is not done at the county level but at the school district level. You don’t support Bexar County schools, you support Northside, Judson, or Alamo Height schools.

At best.

Because what you really support is your local school, whether it’s the athletic boosters club, band, or honor society. You want your money to go to your school, not some school in South San Antonio. This is probably even more true in rural areas where you want to be supporting Floresville schools rather than Poth schools. No one is going to want to say “I support schools in Wilson County.”

So why not allow people to purchase licence plates for specific school districts if not schools? Hmmmm, could it be that it would just be a way for wealthy people to help already well-off districts? At least this way, some of the wealth gets spread around to some of the needy districts.

Wait a minute. This sounds familiar…maybe like the Robin Hood school finance plan?

Now I’m not arguing for or against Robin Hood. I do think that it’s pretty sad that our education finance system is so screwed up that it’s actually reflected in vanity license plates.

January 18, 2007

San Antonio Ice Storm

Filed under: education, San Antonio — texased @ 11:57 am

Split Tree

This has nothing to do with education except for my own. I know we were very lucky in that we suffered no lasting harm from the recent ice storm however, we did loose our tree.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a very big deal. But we live in south Texas (as oppose to the pine forests of east Texas) and it was a big oak tree that covered our entire back yard. It was one of the reasons that we bought the house. If you have ever seen how they clear cut around here before they build, you would understand how rare it is to find such a tree in a fairly new subdivision.

Last night at about 9:30 we heard it crack and fall against the side of the house. It was the side of the tree that covered our yard. The other half shades three other yards. It did some damage but nothing that can’t be replaced except, of course, the tree itself. We’re waiting to hear if the other half of the tree can stand on it’s own or if it will have to come down.

Split Tree Full Image (large file)

January 17, 2007

HB 557: Holding Parents Accountable

Filed under: Accountability, Parental Involvement, Teacher issues — texased @ 3:33 pm

80(R) HB 557 – Introduced version – Bill Text:

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT relating to the failure of a parent to attend a public school parent-teacher conference; providing a criminal penalty.
�������BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS: �������SECTION�1.��Chapter 26, Education Code, is amended by adding Section 26.014 to read as follows: �������Sec.�26.014.��FAILURE TO ATTEND PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCE.
(a) A parent of a student commits an offense if:
�������������(1)��the parent receives written notice by certified mail of at least three proposed dates from which the parent can choose for scheduling a parent-teacher conference between the parent and the student’s teacher;
�������������(2)��the parent:
�������������������(A)��fails to respond to the notice; or
�������������������(B)��schedules a parent-teacher conference on one of the dates proposed in the notice or on an alternative date agreed to by the parent and teacher and fails to:
�������������������������(i)��attend the scheduled conference; or
�������������������������(ii)��before the scheduled conference, notify the teacher or an administrator of the campus to which the teacher is assigned that the parent will be unable to attend the conference; and
�������������(3)��in the case of a student with more than one parent, another parent of the student does not attend a parent-teacher conference scheduled in accordance with this subsection.
�������(b)��An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
�������(c)��An offense under this section may be prosecuted in a court in which an offense under Section 25.094(b) may be prosecuted.
�������(d)��It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the parent had a reasonable excuse for failing to attend the parent-teacher conference.
�������(e)��The clerk of the court in which an offense under this section is prosecuted shall transfer the proceeds of any fine collected by the court under this section to the school district that employs the teacher with whom the parent was scheduled to meet in the parent-teacher conference. The district may use funds collected under this section only to: �������������(1)��provide additional compensation to classroom teachers in the district; or
�������������(2)��purchase school supplies other than textbooks as defined by Section 31.002.
�������SECTION�2.��This Act takes effect September 1, 2007.

I don’t believe that I’ve ever been one to hold teachers’ solely accountable for student achievement since parent involvement is obviously a significant factor in the equation. And while I’m sure that there are many teachers who think that parents need to be held accountable for their actions (and many parents who deserve it), I’m not sure this is the way to do it.

Besides the various legalities involved and the burden it might place on a parent to present an affirmative defense, I don’t think this will really accomplish anything except maybe collect some additional funds for the classroom.

Think about it this way. A teacher schedules a parent-teacher conference. The parents don’t show up because a: their cultural or economic situation affects their ability to respond to the summons appropriately or b: they think it’s a waste of time. Now if the case is a, you have just added another burden on the parents to defend themselves. They can’t get time off of work (I’m sure there’s a bill to address that as well) but they will have to take time off to appear before a judge to explain why they can’t attend the conference.

Then there is case b. You now have a law that forces the parents to show up if for no other reason so that they avoid a fine. What do you think will be accomplish during that conference period? They will see the light and make sure junior does his homework every night? They will start enforcing a reasonable bed time for their kids or turn off the tv? Talk about a hostile audience.
I can just see this progressing until we have some version of NCLB for parents. As in the case of students, they will first be forced to spend a certain amount of time receiving “instruction.” Then someone will realize that it would be a good idea if they were to actually learn something from the instruction and will implement some sort of “no pass no play” rule for parents.

This may seem like such a simple solution to the problem of the lack of parental involvement. However, if we have learned anything in education reform, there are no simple solutions.

January 16, 2007

Why we have ineffective teachers–petty school board politicking?

Filed under: Education reform, Teacher issues — texased @ 10:43 am

The latest report on the importance of “teacher effectiveness” by the Governor’s Business Council has really got me thinking. Not about reading the report, I can’t imagine that it states anything new under the sun. But rather about why we seem to hold teachers up as the barrier to education reform in Texas. Any district in Texas can get rid of any teacher (with the possible exception of a winning football coach) at any time by simply not renewing his or her contract. If you come across an ineffective teacher, it’s not the teachers’ unions fault (in Texas.)

I think it’s time we start looking elsewhere for explanations of poor education performance. Why do ineffective teachers remain in the classroom when it is so easy to get rid of them–not enough administrative positions to move them to? Okay, low blow but I couldn’t help it.

So this story from Houston is my first example of why Texas has ineffective teachers in the classroom.

Battle likely over Houston school board chief post | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle:

Next week’s selection of a new Houston school board president is threatening to produce an acrimonious showdown between the body’s current No. 2 officer and a high-energy neophyte.

Both Manuel Rodríguez, Jr., the board’s first vice president, and Natasha Kamrani, who was elected in late 2005, want to replace trustee Diana Dávila as president.

An unwritten rule of sorts dictates that the president hold the office for just one year. What’s not as clear is whether the board will follow its recent protocol of promoting the first vice president to the higher office.

Don’t you just love “unwritten rules?” Do you think anyone could say why this “unwritten rule” exists? Theoretically, you would think it somehow improves the functioning of the school board but who knows? Now, its purpose is certainly more along the lines of “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” And who would want to go against protocol?

Let’s listen to the voice of the status quo:

Battle likely over Houston school board chief post | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle:

Veteran board member Arthur M. Gaines Jr. said he thinks Rodríguez has earned the post.

“He’s been a good vice president. He relates well to everybody. He’s a leader in his community. He’s a successful businessman,” the 81-year-old said. “We have every reason in the world to make him president.”

How exactly has he earned his post? He’s been a good vice president. What did he do? What is it that the vice president does anyway?

He relates well to everybody. And he has used this skill how? Has he brought consensus to the board, been a key member in getting reform accepted by the community, teachers, or administration?

He’s a leader in his community and he’s a successful business man. So he knows how to get himself elected and he brings “business sense” to the running of the district. Kind of like the Governor’s Business Council members?

Then there is the question as to what has Arthur Gains contributed in his 16 years to the district. If anyone should be answerable as to why there are still ineffective teachers in H.I.S.D., it should be him.

The story gets better:

Battle likely over Houston school board chief post | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle:

Kamrani and Rodríguez have been at odds since she announced her candidacy.Rodríguez and Dávila campaigned for Kamrani’s opponents leading up to the November 2005 election. It was a contentious race in which some in Kamrani’s main challenger’s camp — though not Rodríguez and Dávila — publicly called on voters to elect one of their own in the predominantly Hispanic district. Kamrani was born in Ohio to an Iranian father and an Anglo mother.

If this is an example of Rodriguez’s leadership and relating to the community, no wonder Houston has problems.

Battle likely over Houston school board chief post | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle:

Rodríguez said he thinks he’s earned his turn during more than three years on the board. He said he’s championed teacher quality, technology improvements and middle school reform. He’s represented the district at a number of national conferences and on state and local boards.Serving as president would allow him to continue the initiatives already under way, Rodríguez said.

It sounds like this basically comes down to “I played by the rules and now it’s my turn” rational. Isn’t this what everyone accuses teachers doing with claims of tenure (in other states, not in Texas!)

I think it’s time to ask what exactly makes an effective board member? For all I know, Rodriguez may be the best person for the job but how would you know? All I can say is that acrimonious showdown” for school board doesn’t inspire confidence.

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