Tuesday, April 15, 2014

HB 5 – Community and Student Engagement - The Process Defined

As we continue to move toward an August 8 reporting date for Community and Student Engagement, I wanted to pause and reflect on the process and progress we have made in our district.  This has been a significant undertaking to get to where we are today, a process involving a district committee, campus leadership and, as you would expect, community members.  Through this process, our district has utilized a number of third party resources, including our Region ESC (Region 11) and input from other districts that had already defined a set of questions to use as part of their evaluation process.

So, with the caveat that this is simply our district's view and approach, let me briefly describe the process that got us to where we are.  Remember … local control gives us the flexibility to define our own approach and how we will satisfy the requirements of HB 5.

We began by identifying an existing committee, our District Advisory Committee (DAC).  We initially shared with committee members the intent and objectives of House Bill 5, and emphasized the importance of completing a self-assessment based on to-be-defined criteria.  As noted above, there are a number of existing resources we identified, including a spreadsheet and set of questions already defined by the Region 11 ESC.  We also gathered sets of questions adopted by other districts in their evaluation process.  From those, we then took the “best of the best” and added to that list questions specific to our district; again, these additional questions were developed by community members, not the district Administration.

Having completed the initial process of developing a set of questions for each of the eight elements, we have now shared that list (four questions per element) with campus leadership and with our site based decision making teams; this effort was initiated the week of April 4.  Our expectation now is that these teams will complete their evaluation efforts and submit to Administration no later than May 8.  After that, Administration will then aggregate the evaluation feedback and share with the DAC in mid-May.  Assuming that the DAC will then approve the evaluations submitted for each campus, we will be in a position to submit our district’s self-evaluation to TEA, complying with both the intent and time frames defined by HB 5.

This also begs the question of the value of this process.  Most districts already have a process in place to gather and evaluate community input; for those districts, this is largely a way of formalizing a process that is then applied consistently across all districts.  For others, i.e., those who do not have a well-defined process, the Community and Student Engagement element of House Bill 5 provides a framework for developing a process and ensuring community involvement.  Either way, this legislation is a reinforcement of the need for districts to solicit input from, and then act upon the wishes of, the community.

Our hope in providing a series of blogs highlighting the Community and Student Engagement element of House Bill 5 is that we have provided a framework to help guide you through the maze of implementation.  The information presented is an outgrowth of a series of presentations by Bobby Rigues, Aledo ISD trustee and the architect of Make Education a Priority, and myself.  Content for these was developed through a series of discussions with a number of different resources, including Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, Chairman of the House Education Committee (and primary sponsor of HB 5), H D Chambers, Superintendent – Alief ISD (who worked closely with Rep. Aycock), representative districts across the State, and TASB Governmental Relations.  We are sincerely grateful for their guidance and support.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Community Engagement Metrics – “How’m I doin’?”

Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City, famously asked “How’m I doin’?”  While we may quiver at the poor grammar structure, the reality is that this is a very real and relevant question for all of us.  It’s getting closer to the time where we, as trustees, have the responsibility to not only pose the question but to make certain that we have a response from our communities, and to report our performance ratings to TEA; ratings are due August 8 of each year.  Regardless of how you choose to address the opportunity to enlist the support of your community, there is relatively little time to form the committee, define the metrics and then evaluate by campus and the district overall how well you’re “doin'”.

So in the absence of any specific guidance on how to approach this task, what are you doing within your district?  Perhaps the best resource for you to call on is your Region Education Service Center.  As mentioned previously, most have either defined a tool that you can use, or have at least provided guidelines on the types of questions to ask surrounding each of the eight measured areas.  There is no predefined guideline for how many criteria need to be evaluated for each of the eight, but you certainly want something that gives you a community perspective of what is important to them.  Of course, you need to be a part of the discussion.  Remember that there is also a compliance question, kind of a “pass/fail” on how well you followed the spirit and intent of HB5.

In the April 4 edition of the Legislative Report provided by TASB Governmental Relations, Dax Gonzalez included the following update.  By the way, if you are not already an SBAN (School Board Advisory Network) subscriber, you should be!  Send a request to Dax at dax.gonzalez@tasb.org or visit gr.tasb.org.

TEA Posts HB 5 Community Engagement Rule

TEA has posted a proposed rule regarding the community and student engagement accountability portion of House Bill 5. The proposed rule would establish procedures for each school district to report performance ratings that the district has assigned to itself and to each of its campuses for the new community and student engagement indicators. The official comment period began April 4 and ends May 5, 2014. Any comments must be submitted to TEA at rules@tea.state.tx.us.

What does this mean to you?  Our sense is that the TEA action is somewhat in response to questions districts have had about how to go about reporting performance ratings.  But because this is not specifically defined, you still have the latitude to exercise discretion in how you approach this efforts; remember, it’s all about local control and your ability (and willingness) to use it wisely.