Across the Lawn Nov. 21, 2022

November 21, 2022  

Raise Your Hand Texas November Update | Monday, November 21, 2022

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Raise Your Hand Texas has a front-row seat to the Capitol. From our vantage point, public education policy issues have never been more important, and this is why we must make every session a public education session.

The One Thing to Do: Check Election Results

Raise Your Hand Texas believes it is important for our public education advocates to know who their elected officials are, since effective advocacy requires knowing who to advocate to as well as what to advocate about. With the 2022 midterm elections complete, some of you may have new state representatives or senators, State Board of Education members, local school board members, and more.

To find out who your new elected officials are, you’ll first need to know which legislative districts you live in – information that may have changed during this year’s redistricting process. The Texas Tribune’s redistricting app allows you to find your current legislative districts by entering your home address, and the Texas Secretary of State’s office provides a link to federal, statewide and district election results. Click under “Select Race” to choose the election results that interest you.

Five Things to Know:

1. Texas Commission on Special Education Funding Commission Discusses School Vouchers

The Texas Commission on Special Education Funding met on Monday, Nov. 14, to discuss school vouchers, specifically the impact vouchers may have on students receiving special education services.

The 17 invited-panelists spoke for five hours with varying viewpoints of the school voucher debate, and whether or not vouchers provide the appropriate funding, services, and rights to special education students.

Raise Your Hand Texas opposes any form of vouchers and believes only public schools can truly be held accountable for the education of students with disabilities through public reporting of state assessments, accountability ratings, and compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

It doesn’t matter if they are called Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs), special education vouchers, virtual vouchers, or a “bracketed” voucher set up to protect rural schools from the harmful impacts of a voucher scheme: any voucher program will have a long-lasting, negative impact on our state.

The Commission is set to make final financing recommendations for special education in December 2022, including potential funding changes such as a special education voucher.

2. STAAR Redesign Training for Teachers

The Texas Education Agency emailed all teachers in the Educator Certification Online System on Nov. 14, encouraging them to participate in the upcoming STAAR redesign webinar opportunities, if they have not already done so through their service center or school district. According to the TEA, the new STAAR redesign taking effect this school year includes:

  • New types of test questions: New, non-multiple-choice question types are more like the kinds of questions teachers ask in class and give students more ways to show understanding.  
  • More cross-curricular reading passages: Reading comprehension test questions reference topics students have learned about in other classes.  
  • Evidence-based writing incorporated into reading language arts tests: Combined reading and writing tests better support the interconnected way these subjects are taught and eliminate stand-alone writing tests for grades 4 and 7.  
  • Robust accommodations in online tests: The online testing platform provides a full suite of robust accommodations for students with specific learning needs.  

Tests administered online: Online testing supports all the changes above and will provide faster test results in future years to support accelerated learning. The transition to online testing will be implemented beginning with the December 2022 administration.

3. New Texas Education Agency A-F Accountability Ratings Framework Released

TEA released its updated preliminary 2023 A-F academic accountability system framework. The new framework proposes numerous technical changes to how our schools are rated within all three accountability domains (student achievement, student growth, and closing the gaps). There are also proposed changes to update overall and domain cut scores. Stakeholders are encouraged to provide feedback through February 2023.

Raise Your Hand Texas believes our state’s current A-F accountability system excludes highly-valuable indicators of school quality and performance. Texas needs to emphasize indicators that show how students and schools can continuously improve outside of the STAAR test. Raise Your Hand Texas has proposed common sense solutions to deemphasize the STAAR in our A-F rating system. To find out more read A Report from the Measure What Matters Assessment & Accountability Council.

4. Texas Education Agency Proposes School Facility Safety Standards

The Texas Education Agency proposed new facility standards related to school safety earlier this month. TEA also announced several state-funded grant opportunities in support of these new proposed rules. The proposed standards include some of the the following requirements: 

  • Exterior Doors, Exterior Classroom doors, and portable doors should operate as fully intended, are required to remain closed, latched, and locked, and allow for emergency egress from the inside while remaining locked. 
  • Windowed doors on the ground level or windows that are adjacent to, or near a door and are large enough to allow someone to enter if broken, must be reinforced with entry-resistant film unless within a secured area.
  • Panic Alert Systems must allow an alert to be triggered manually by campus staff, automatically with a 911 call; include location of where alert was triggered; alert administrators who can then alert law enforcement; and simultaneously send an alert to all campus staff. Where applicable, trigger doors to lock if electronic door system allows.

5. Bill Filing Begins in Advance of the 88th Legislative Session

The first day of bill filing for the 88th Legislative Session began on Monday and will run through the 60th day of the session, March 10, 2023. Nearly 1,000 public education-related bills are filed every legislative session, with only a fraction of those bills receiving committee hearings or Senate or House floor debates. The bills currently being monitored by Raise Your Hand Texas Include changes to assessment and accountability, teacher workforce, school funding, and school district property taxes.

Beginning in January 2023, Raise Your Hand Texas will be updating you on some of these bills through this Across the Lawn newsletter. Every Friday we will provide you with a quick look at what happened with key education policy issues that week and inform you on any scheduled hearings or debates. The session runs for 140 days starting on Jan. 10 and will end on May 29.

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