Posted on May 5, 2017
Good morning, my name is Randy Willis, and I am the Superintendent of Schools for Granger Independent School District. I am testifying ON HB 22……on behalf of the students and teachers of my school district, the 360 district members of The Texas Rural Education Association (TREA), and the 635 district members of the Texas Association of Community Schools (TACS). In essence, I am supported by more than half of the school districts in the state of Texas on my testimony.
Let me state as simply and fervently as I can, that I do not support the A-F rating system in any shape, form, or fashion. All you have to do is read John Tanners research in his book “The Pitfalls of Reform: It’s Incompatibility with Actual Improvement. Or Dianne Ravitch’s book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How testing and choice are undermining education.” Not one piece of legislation should be passed by this committee before reading these research-based books.
With that said, I am a pragmatic. And, I know that I must work within the system of statutes you pass and the rules the state agency makes on those statues, whether they are fair or not. While HB 22 is a very good step forward, there are several areas that must be address by statutes to make the system workable for all schools and not just a few. Those areas are:
I can fully support all these areas if you have should have any questions. Thank you for your consideration on these issues and our accountability system.
Randy Willis/ Superintendent of Schools/ Granger ISD
Rural schools must be fairly represented in any accountability system. You cannot put a square peg in a round hole. And that is what the Texas accountability system has tried to do with our past and current purposed accountability system. Let me give you several examples.
Dual credit courses require students to take 12 hours (4 courses) to earn accountability credit whereas in AP/IB, students only have to take one (1) course for accountability credit. That gives an unfair advantage to larger suburban/Urban schools over small rural schools that do not have the staff size to offer both regular gen Ed courses and AP courses, but we can offer a dual credit course. It is my understanding this is a state statute and not under the rules of the commissioner to review or change. This unfairness must be addressed for all rural schools that may not offer AP/IB like my school.
Another issue that hurts rural schools in the proposed A-F accountability system is moving CTE accountability credit from enrollment in two or more CTE course to requiring full certification in CTE career approved industry for accountability credit. Many times, higher Ed and technical colleges do not play fairly with K-12. The contact hours required to received full level industry certification are more hours than we have available with the two-year HS program school. TEA has approved only a very few certifications for accountability credit. Again, rural schools take a hit on their accountability because of the size, limited resources, and difficult higher Ed partners. If we are going to do this, let’s do it right. More time is needed to think through a system that is fair for all schools in Texas.
District performance ratings should be defined from more than a performance on a single, standardized, state-mandated test. Our education system should be about educating the whole child. We should have meaningful measures around educating the whole student. There are over 50 state championships in extracurricular activities such as UIL/FFA/FCCLA/DECA/and Debate. UIL alone offers over 60 activities in elementary, middle school, and HS. Being able to take what you learn from classroom to competitive environments of academic, music, theater, and sports builds confidence and self-esteem in participating students. And if parental involvement is important to you, then let’s capture the hundreds of thousands if not millions of parents that support these activities and their kids. This too is part of a Texas education that goes beyond testing.
The percent of students that graduate on time (the most important indicator of them all) is not reported in our rating system as current year data. How can you give a letter grade on two year old data? Graduation data in our TAPR report and our proposed A-F report is based off of data that is almost two years old. Why can’t we have a preliminary report based off of current year data in the June PEIMS submission and then have a final report in Sept. or Oct.?
I would like to bring to the committee’s attention that nowhere in the accountability system has funding been a part of the rating. I am not here to debate the equity in the school finance issues. I am here to say that if we are going to rate the effectiveness of a school district with and A-F system, somewhere in that rating the amount of financial resources must be considered. And that is not found in any legislative bills to my knowledge.
Superintendent of Schools
Texas Rural Education Association
Texas Association of Community Schools