Across the Lawn – April 19, 2024

April 19, 2024  

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One thing to do: 

Do you know how school funding in Texas compares to other states? Watch our latest school finance video to get the answer. 

Four Things to Know 

  1. Lt. Gov. Patrick Releases Interim Charges

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released interim charges for the Texas Senate last week, including several on public education policy issues. These Interim charges will be heard in the various Senate committees in the coming months in preparation for the 89th Legislative Session beginning in January of 2025.   

Senate Committee on Education

Reading and Math Readiness

Study current local, state, and national policies and programs that improve student achievement in reading and mathematics, with an emphasis on “early readiness” in grades preK-5. Make recommendations to ensure every student has a strong academic foundation in reading and math. 

Testing Reform

Review the state’s current development and phase-in of the STAAR test redesign and ongoing innovative assessment reforms, including the Texas Through-Year Assessment Pilot (TTAP). Recommend ways to accelerate current testing improvement efforts and the development of a real-time testing program that meets the educational needs of Texas students. 

COVID-19 Funding Oversight 

Examine and report on COVID-19 how public schools spent federal funds since the beginning of the pandemic, including funds received under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), with a dual focus on demonstrated improved student outcomes and efficient use of taxpayer funds. 


Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Education passed by the 88th Legislature, as well as relevant agencies and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction.   

Senate Committee on Finance

Continue Cutting Property Taxes

Identify the best combination to further increase the amount of homestead exemption and compression to continue cutting Texans’ property taxes. Additionally, establish and report on the cost of eliminating: 

  • School maintenance and operation property taxes;
  • All school property taxes; and,
  • All property taxes.

Determine the fiscal consequences of each action, including whether revenue reallocations would be required for public education funding and local government funding, and impacts on the state’s ability to respond to disasters and other urgent priorities. For example, determine the effect on other state programs if general revenue were used to fully replace school property taxes, particularly during economic downturns. Evaluate and report on how much state revenue would need to be generated to replace foregone property tax revenue, and from what source.

  1. Students Across Texas Take STAAR

As millions of our students take the STAAR exam during this year’s testing window, it is important for our students, parents, and communities to understand the complexities of all the new moving pieces of this test – and there are a lot of new moving pieces to STAAR that have started over the last few years.  

As of last year, STAAR is now an all-online test. The test has new question types, cross-curricular passages, and evidence-based writing. The term constructed responses is getting a lot of attention in the news recently. The term is used to describe short (worth 1 or 2 points) and extended response form (worth 10 points) writing samples embedded in the online test that require students to type their responses. This includes our 8-year-old third graders all the way up to our high school students taking end-of-course exams. 

These constructed responses are graded based on how well students organize their thoughts and how well they have command over writing conventions. TEA implemented a new 5-point grading rubric that parents should be aware of when trying to understand their kid’s score. 

The new grading standard is based on the following new 5-point rubric scale. 

  • Up to three (3) points for the informational portion of the response 

o   Did the student organize and provide good ideas based on the prompt? 

  • Up to two (2) points for writing conventions

o   Did the student have command on sentence construction, spelling and grammar?

Important note: If for some reason a student receives a 0 on the informational portion of the rubric, the student also automatically receives a 0 for the writing conventions portion. 

In addition, TEA is now using an automated scoring engine (ASE) to grade these responses. You may have seen reports on this, but we recommend reading The Texas Tribune article, “Texas will use computers to grade written answers on this year’s STAAR tests.”

This means with the new online STAAR test, new rubric, a new automated scoring engine, and elementary school students typing constructed responses, there is so much riding on how well all of this comes together this school year. 

Assessments are an important part of how Texas measures student achievement and progress, but they should never be the only indicator. Did you know that 100% of elementary school and middle school A-F ratings are based on the STAAR?  

Raise Your Hand Texas believes there should be more ways to measure everything our schools are required to do, including: 

  • Full Day Pre-K participation rates;
  • Chronic Absenteeism;
  • Teacher retention strategies;
  • Early literacy progress and growth;
  • Kindergarten readiness; 
  • Early Math Completion; and, 
  • On-track to graduate. 
  1. Commissioner Morath Addresses Teacher Certification Issues at SBOE

Commissioner of Education Mike Morath stressed the importance of high-quality teacher preparation at last week’s State Board of Education meeting. Last school year, Texas added roughly 49,000 new teachers, with more than one-third entering Texas public schools uncertified, he said. While in the past, new candidates have come from alternative certification programs in increasing numbers, that trend is now declining. Meanwhile, only 12% of new teachers come from traditional certification programs, based out of four-year universities.

Uncertified new teachers have the lowest retention rates over a teacher’s first five years when compared to other preparation pathways. So while hiring non-certified educators can address teacher shortages immediately, they may contribute to future shortfalls, the commissioner emphasized.

Morath cautioned SBOE members that it is important to improve the quality of preparation without driving candidates out of their programs. The SBOE reviewed proposed changes to rules governing educator preparation programs. Some of the changes include allowing more options for teacher candidates to complete early field-based experiences and allowing for the virtual or asynchronous observation of candidates. The rule changes would also require preparation programs to conduct informal observations and coaching of candidates at least once every six weeks. These changes will go into effect in September 2024.

  1. The Texas Tribune Holds Conversation About Public Education 

This week, The Texas Tribune hosted a conversation about the laws impacting how our 5.5 million students are educated in public schools, including high dosage tutoring and accelerated instruction and High Quality Instructional Materials

Public schools across the state will face difficult budget challenges in the coming months. The $6,160 basic allotment, the building block of school funding, should be at least $1,000 higher just to keep up with inflation since 2019, the one-time federal stimulus funding schools used to help stem the impact of COVID-19 is expiring, and schools must continue to meet the growing needs of our state’s special education students and school safety needs.

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