Monday, October 27, 2014

HB 5: “It's year 2, so what do we do?”

Now that we have completed our year one obligations under HB5, it's time to begin focusing on what we must do in year 2.  Much like other aspects of HB 5, the legislation does not specifically define what we must do other than to provide guidelines for areas to assess, and deadlines for reporting of results relating to the Community and Student Engagement requirement. 

So what do we do now as we move into 2014-2015?  Remember that the single greatest risk relating to HB 5 is not simply the ratings themselves, but the failure on the part of school boards and districts to act upon the requirements defined in Section 46 of HB 5, which includes an evaluation of:
√  The level and quality of engagement between the community and its students;
√  Showcasing where districts and campuses are excelling; and
√  Determining opportunities for districts and campuses to improve.
There are certainly some within the legislature who are just waiting for inaction as a reason to repeal HB 5 requirements and, once again, push for even greater state oversight.  It's up to us to ensure that this does not happen.

Put simply, the first year of self-reporting for Community and Student Engagement (CSE) could be classified as a "process" focused effort.  Districts had to determine the process they would follow in defining those metrics that address each of the nine areas defined in HB 5.  Did we use an existing committee or did we form a new committee to define the evaluation criteria?  Did we already have a set of criteria or did we look to other resources, including our regional service centers, for references on how to construct these criteria?  And once we defined the criteria to be evaluated, how did we then assign a rating at both the campus level and the district level?  Not an easy effort to go through but it truly was about process, wasn't it?

With process behind us, we can now look to a different focus, this time on "outcomes".  More specifically, instead of looking back at how we did compared to the defined evaluation criteria, we now have an opportunity to look forward to specific accomplishments we strive to achieve.  For many of us, we may simply use the same criteria that we did in completing the evaluations in 2013-2014.  For others, we may choose to modify those based on our current environment or recognition that there are other elements that can positively impact our performance as a school district.

So how will your district decide “what to do in year 2” and how will you approach this?  While still only a consideration, my district is looking at a two-step approach.  Step one is to look at the relevance of last year's evaluation criteria and determine what changes need to be made for the CSE 2014-2015 rating submission.  This likely will involve the same district committee approach adopted in the first year.  Step 2 is to undertake an effort to move forward and establish the 2015-2016 school year CSE tool and consider new criteria that the district might target over the coming months and into the next school year.  This would allow next year’s committee to evaluate a CSE tool that was established for a reasonable amount of time to accomplish each goal or criteria.

Looking at how we evaluate our performance, this may be an opportune time to blend several different data elements, including, as an example, CSE evaluation criteria, district improvement plans and a district’s strategic plan.  There is likely a commonality across each of these resources, and the opportunities presented by the HB 5 CSE requirements may provide a great vehicle for stepping back and looking not just at where we are but, more importantly, where want to be in each of the nine areas defined within HB 5.

One other consideration worthy of discussion is to expand the participation of our students in the discussions.  Who better to help us frame our efforts than the students, our primary customers, who actually reap the benefits.  We can talk ad nauseam about what we think is good for students but let's understand their perspective; we will all be better for it.

There certainly is plenty to do relating to HB 5 as we move into year 2.  Don't let this opportunity pass you and your students by.  The time is now for us to aggressively embrace HB 5 and to take those steps that will help ensure fulfillment of the long term opportunities presented to us.  Our students deserve nothing less!

Monday, October 13, 2014

School Choice and the Need for Advocacy

Well, after a hiatus to celebrate the success of HB 5 implementation, it’s time to reengage.  And I do mean “reengage”!

Faye Beaulieu, immediate past president of the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), wrote an article in the August, 2014 edition of the Texas Lone Star magazine that pointed out what should be a very key consideration when we discuss the topic of “school choice”.  Quoting Faye from the article, “… too many times (we) talk about “choice” in the education arena as a list of alternatives to our public schools.  Public education is a choice, and it deserves to top the list.”  Wow, is that a change in mindset for many of us.

Although now serving in my 10th year as a trustee in Carroll ISD, I know that I have generally centered the school choice discussion as most have, namely that school options other than public education really comprise “school choice”; that really couldn't be farther from the truth.  Thanks, Faye, for pointing that out to all of us.  So how do we reposition the conversation?

It starts with a change in mindset.  The Texas Constitution defines the requirement for us to make a free public education available to all children in the State of Texas.  But it does not entitle those of us in public education the absolute right to be the sole entities delivering education.  Trustees, staff and administrators in our public school districts must earn the right to do so, and we all must do a better job of communicating our story.

In her article, Faye continued her comments that public education is a “choice” by encouraging each of us to better equip ourselves to tell the story, regardless of the audience.  We have numerous organizations helping but, if you’re like me, you may not be fully tapping the resources that are at our fingertips.  Think about some of these for a moment and how they can help you craft and deliver your message.

Just to name a few … TASB created a site called  At the national level, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) created a campaign earlier this year called Stand Up 4 Public Schools (  And there is a complimentary site, Stand Up 4 Texas Public Schools ( that promotes advocacy.  Locally, Friends of Texas Public Schools ( and Make Education A Priority ( do an outstanding job of highlighting the accomplishments of the Texas public education system. 

But it’s one thing to have the resources available to us; it is yet another to commit to using these resources to tell the public education story, a story yearning to be heard by students, parents, community members, legislators and other stakeholders.  It’s time we told our story; it’s time that we channeled our energies toward the positives of Texas public education rather than staying on the defensive. 

Our public education system, despite challenges relating to student growth, accountability, funding and other issues, does an outstanding job of equipping our students to travel the path toward success.  Let’s make certain we are all a part of that journey!