Monday, March 31, 2014

HB 5 - How Are We Doing? A Conversation with Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock

The House Public Education Committee began its hearings on the progress of implementing HB 5 on March 26.  Bobby Rigues (Aledo ISD), Rick Lambert (Garland ISD) and I took the opportunity to attend the hearing, and we were privileged to have an opportunity to interview Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, chairman of the House Public Education Committee, to get his personal perspectives on progress being made and the challenges that remain.

Specifically, we wanted to understand his views on Community and Student Engagement, how well we’re doing and the value of this effort.  Chairman Aycock shared with us his belief that it seems to be working and he cited testimony before his committee as evidence of this.  He reiterated his belief regarding the importance of communities engaging in the discussions about their student’s education.

At the same time, the Chairman acknowledged what he sees as some of the challenges surrounding implementation, including resources for counselors and other staff members, and indicating that funding will be the responsibility of the legislature and the local communities.  He also mentioned the challenge of getting students and staff in place at the right spot and the right time since all of this is “coming at them pretty quickly”.

In a prior blog, we identified the fact that HB 5 addresses three primary elements, curriculum, assessment and accountability.  When we first spoke with him late last year, Chairman Aycock indicated that it was critical that all three of these be coupled together and that each could not stand on their own.  In last week’s discussion, he reaffirmed that these must be looked at as a whole, not just looking at one test on one day.  In short, it is but one element of understanding how well public education is doing.  But he also acknowledged that finding measurable attributes for community and student engagement has been a challenge.

We talked with the Chairman about partnerships and he expressed that it is imperative that districts develop partnerships not just with higher education, but also with employers, and developing an understanding of the needs of the local communities we serve.  It is his hope that local boards will reach out to their community to better understand the workforce requirements and to form partnerships that fulfill the requirements of these jobs.

In closing, Chairman Aycock expressed to Bobby, Rick and me the importance of engaging with the community to develop partnerships with parents, educators, industry and students.  It’s critical that school board members step up to communicate the importance of aligning community and business requirements with the capabilities offered by the districts.

We thank Chairman Aycock for taking time from his committee hearing to meet with us and to share his perspectives on the progress being made in implementing House Bill 5, legislation that he sponsored and championed as it was passed and ultimately signed into law by the Governor.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Community Engagement Efforts - How to Track and Report

In a previous blog, we outlined the areas for which districts have a responsibility to report results.  To recap, these include:
  • Fine arts
  • Wellness and physical education
  • Community and parental involvement
  • 21st Century Workforce Development program
  • Second language acquisition program
  • Digital learning environment
  • Dropout prevention strategies
  • Educational programs for gifted and talented students
The ratings for these eight elements must be submitted by August 8 of each year, effective this year.  So there is little time to decide how your district is going to proceed.  The first decision relates to forming the committee that will be tasked with defining the key metrics for each area.  Will you set up a separate committee, or will you use the resources of an existing committee such as your district advisory committee?  The reality is that most districts will find it necessary (and appropriate) to use an existing committee or subset of an existing committee.
So once you name the members of the committee, what next?  The committee should meet with the administration (with board involvement) to begin to define what metrics are most import to committee members and to the community for each of the above.  There are no guidelines on how many metrics should be defined for each element, but don’t make it so onerous that you cannot adequately evaluate the key measurements.
Probably the best resources for defining potential metrics come from:
  • Trustees in other districts;
  • Your Education Service Center; or
  • TASB
TASB (and we assume most education service centers) has developed a spreadsheet for tracking results; the key metrics are likely already defined and the process is as simple as entering results into a spreadsheet, yielding ratings by campus and for the district.  You can certainly choose to go it alone, but there simply may not be enough time between now and August 8.  So why not tap the resources that have already done extensive work, and defined their perspectives on how to address the obligations and opportunities created by HB 5.
We welcome input from trustees around the state on what worked well for you.  What were some of the key metrics you have adopted?  How did you form a committee and how did you set the criteria for each element?  And what did you use for a tool to compile and ultimately report your results?  Remember, local control gives you the latitude, and creates the obligation, to act in a manner most appropriate for your district.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

HB 5 and Community Engagement - What Next?

We have talked at length about the requirements under House Bill 5 relating to Curriculum.  Given the fact that there is a deadline associated with the Community and Student Engagement part of the legislation, we decided to refocus our message on that topic.  We will get back to discussions surrounding both Curriculum and Assessment in the near term.

So what are the requirements relating to Community and Student Engagement?  While a small part of the text in the bill (only about 2 pages of a 111 page bill), this area represents both a significant requirement and a responsibility to engage all stakeholders, including business partners and students. 

But part of the challenge is that HB 5 does not provide a prescriptive “how to” relating to actions that you as trustees must take in this area.  The text of the bill relating to community and student engagement can be found at:

Specifically, the key points included in a new Section 39.0545 of the Texas Education Code include:
-          - School districts must evaluate the performance of each campus as well as the District.
-          - Based on this assessment, the District must assign a rating of exemplary, recognized, acceptable or not acceptable to each campus.
-          - The rating reflects overall performance as well as performance for individual factors, including:
o   Fine arts
o   Wellness and physical education
o   Community and parental involvement
o   21st Century Workforce Development program
o   Second language acquisition program
o   Digital learning environment
o   Dropout prevention strategies
o   Educational programs for gifted and talented students
-          - The ratings must be submitted by August 8 each year, effective August 8, 2014.
-          - In addition, each District must report on compliance with the statutory reporting requirements.

Further, Section 46 of HB 5 establishes a requirement that the criteria for evaluating the performance against each of the above factors is to be defined by a local committee … not TEA, not the SBOE (italics added by the author). 

But that’s it!  Nothing further defined.  And that’s what local control is all about.  So, if you have not already moved forward with designating a committee to analyze and provide this input for your District, the time to act is NOW!  You may choose to create a new committee or appoint existing committee members to undertake this effort.  It is up to you.

Over the past couple of months, we have had discussions with superintendents and with region service centers in an effort to better understand how to report this information.  Not surprisingly, there is no consensus.  You may want to contact your local ESC to see if they have developed a template for inputting the factors and evaluation for each.  For example, we know that Region XI has developed a template that is being used by many districts in our region.  But you are not bound to use what they can offer; again, local control suggests that this is a decision you make.

With the August 8 deadline, there is little time for delay.  Talk with fellow trustees in other districts; talk with your ESC.  But, most importantly, start the dialog now.  Your community and your students deserve a highly focused effort to comply with Section 46 of HB 5; it’s up to us to meet their expectations!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

But My District Cannot Afford To Offer More Than The Multidisciplinary Endorsement! (Part 2)

In Part One, we shared a perspective and belief that, while many districts believe that they can only offer the Multidisciplinary endorsement initially, there are ways to address this in a manner that may yield opportunities to offer additional endorsements. 

Allow me to offer an editorial comment here.  Having just returned from the TASB-sponsored Winter Governance training, we are encouraged by the progress that many districts are making in considering how they can go about expanding the opportunities, i.e., endorsements, for their students.  As with any new opportunity, there were some who saw the requirements of HB 5 as being more of an impediment than an opportunity.  Remember, the introduction of the concept of endorsements is not intended to place a burden on districts.  It is, like all else contained in this 111 page landmark legislation, designed to focus on ensuring student success.

So where do we begin?  Regardless of a District’s size, this is fundamentally a shift from the way that we have always looked at curriculum design, giving greater flexibility and local control to districts to define those endorsements best suited to the needs of their students, their district, and the community at large.

The starting point is clearly a review of existing courses and curriculum in the District.  Are the requirements of each endorsement unique, or is the issue one of repackaging courses and programs already offered? Once you have conducted an initial assessment of your offerings, try to group them under the endorsements.  Be open minded and objective as you go through this process.  While you may not find an exact match for all courses, we believe strongly that there will be a close alignment in many cases that will yield positive results for you.

At the same time, there will be gaps in the ability to provide courses to fulfill a particular endorsement.  And that is where opportunity again presents itself.  Identify and seek out relationships with neighboring districts who have the ability to offer courses you may not.  Work with them to establish an ability for your students to participate in courses they offer, whether remotely or in person.  For example, a superintendent in a 2A district outside of Waco told us of his plans to partner with two districts in the Waco area to offer additional career and technology options to the students in his district.

Or consider partnering with a local college or university to deliver the courses required to fill out an endorsement.  Another central Texas district intends to partner with Temple College to provide certain of the Arts & Humanities required courses.  Yet another district is working with the local business community to understand their local staffing needs, and to cooperatively develop and deliver certain courses that meet these companies' needs.  And, finally, we learned of a business/district partnership where the company will actually host and teach courses, with the expense borne by the business partner.

There truly are a myriad of ways for districts to increase the endorsement offerings for their students.  More than anything, what it requires is a desire to do so and a creative (and open minded) approach to developing partnerships that benefit both the partner and the district.

Remember, HB offered encouragement to districts to strive to EXCEED the minimum statutory requirements of law.  It falls squarely on the shoulders of the administration and Board of Trustees to ensure that students are afforded the greatest opportunity to succeed.  Endorsements represent that opportunity!