A daily round-up of education news and views for the Lone Star State
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Wednesday, 13th October 2021




Morath: Texas could lose trillions unless it closes learning gaps

If Texas can’t find a way to catch up from learning losses suffered during the pandemic, according to Education Commissioner Mike Morath, the state’s public school students will lose trillions in lifetime earning potential. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Texas schools had “seen ten years of unadulterated improvement in reading and mathematics,” Mr. Morath said at Tuesday's State of Public Education luncheon, held by the Dallas Regional Chamber at its headquarters. However, he added, that momentum has come to a screeching halt over the past 18 months, as schools and society have struggled with the disruptions that have come with the coronavirus. In fact, in some key metrics, the state has lost “at least a decade’s worth of progress,” Morath said. The number of students on grade level in math in both third and eighth grade dropped by nearly 20%, falling back to percentages not seen since 2012. As a result of the declines, the state needs to be able to close those deficiencies. He said that the state has already embarked on a series of changes designed to cut into the learning loss, several of which predated the pandemic: additional instructional days, more rigorous instructional materials, boosting and strengthening teacher development and retention, and “high-impact” tutoring.

Dallas Morning News 


Texas agency removed webpage with resources for LGBTQ youth

A webpage published by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services that linked to a suicide prevention hotline and other resources “dedicated to helping empower and celebrate” young LGBTQ people has been temporarily disabled. The Texas Youth Connection, a division of Family and Protective Services that guides young people to various resources, including education, housing and those on its LGBTQ page as they prepare for life after foster care, said in a message on the website that it "has been temporarily disabled for a comprehensive review of its content...to ensure that its information, resources, and referrals are current.” Family and Protective Services communications obtained through a public records request show that agency employees discussed removing the “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation” page only after Don Huffines, one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s primary challengers, accused Texas’ child welfare agency of “promoting transgender sexual policies to Texas youth”. “These are not Texas values, these are not Republican Party values, but these are obviously Greg Abbott’s values,” he had said in a Twitter post.

Houston Chronicle 




Classes resume at two Texas schools after on-campus shootings

Classes resumed Tuesday at two Texas high schools for the first time since they saw campus shootings earlier in the month. Students returned to Timberview High School in Mansfield ISD, almost a week after 18-year-old Timothy George Simpkins opened fire in a classroom after a fight with another student. A teacher and student were shot and two others had unspecified injuries, police said. On Monday, wounded teacher Calvin Pettit was released from the hospital, while a wounded 15-year-old student who had been in critical condition was upgraded to good condition. Separately, classes also resumed this week at YES Prep Southwest Secondary School in Houston following an October 1st shooting that wounded the school's principal. A former student is charged in the shooting.

My San Antonio  Fort Worth Star-Telegram 


Huntsville to hire construction manager for academic bond projects

Huntsville ISD officials have voted to hire a construction manager-at-risk for all academic facilities that are planned to be constructed. The district will also hire a construction project manager who will oversee all of the bond projects. The athletic facilities, which include a new football stadium and baseball/softball complex, will likely have separate contractors and be selected through a sealed bid process. The design documents and construction bids for the athletics facilities will be presented to the board for approval next month. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2022. 

Huntsville Item 


Richardson ISD requests 35 class-size exceptions

Richardson ISD has 35 classes in pre-K through fourth grade that exceed the state cap of a 22:1 student-to-teacher ratio. The district received approval from its board of trustees October 4th to submit the necessary waivers to the Texas Education Agency for those sections. Assistant Superintendent Brenda Payne said the decision to exceed the state ratio cap is made at the campus level. The 35 class-size exceptions requested by the district are for 16 of its elementary campuses. Stults Road, O. Henry and Brentfield elementary schools had the most exception requests with four each, while seven other campuses had just one request. 

Community Impact 




San Benito school board to launch forensic audit

After more than two months of debate, the split school board is launching a forensic audit focusing on concerns including a delayed $40m construction project and questions surrounding staff qualifications, board President Ramiro Moreno said Monday. He has previously questioned delays in the project funded through a 2018 $40m bond issue aimed at funding construction of a $20m, 65,000 sq-ft performing arts theater and a $5m, 23,000 sq-ft aquatics center launched in August 2019 with an 18-month timetable off Interstate 69. Moreno said he plans to request auditors “interview” each board member before launching the audit, scrapping plans to go ahead with a three-member subcommittee’s review of the proposal. “I want that forensic auditor to hear from all the board members,” he said. “When we ran for office, we ran on the platform that everything would be transparent.”

Valley Morning Star 




Federal judge sides with SC students over 'disorderly conduct' rules

A federal judge has side with a group of South Carolina students who argued that broadly written state laws against “disorderly conduct” and “disturbing schools” allowed police to arrest and cite students for routine misbehaviors. District Judge Margaret B. Seymour's ruling touched on themes underpinning ongoing national debates about disproportionately high discipline rates for students of color and students with disabilities, school policing, and writing state laws and school policies that ensure equity. To be fair, policies must be clearly and transparently interpreted by school employees, law enforcement, and students, racial justice advocates have said. Judge Seymour ordered South Carolina not to enforce the disorderly conduct law against students in K-12 schools. And she ordered the state not to retain records of students who’d been cited for “disturbing schools.” Since the origin of the case, South Carolina lawmakers amended that law so that it didn’t apply to current students. But those who’d previously been arrested or cited for disturbing schools offenses argued the situations had affected their educational and life trajectories. Judge Seymour made her ruling after a law enforcement officer testified that two school resource officers could come to differing conclusions about what student behavior constituted an arrestable disorderly conduct offense.

Education Week 




School leaders urged to consider unique needs when choosing SEL programming

Selecting the right social-emotional learning curriculum takes time and research, and with dozens of options, school leaders should carefully consider which evidence-based models best fit their unique needs, Heather Schwartz, a practice specialist at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, and Alexandra Skoog-Hoffman, director of Research-Practice Partnerships at CASEL, write for Edutopia. Resources like CASEL, RAND Corp. research and the What Works Clearinghouse can help district leaders sort through which approaches may work best for them. School leaders should also keep in mind it may take more than one program to achieve all of those priorities, so it's key to maintain a growth mindset with understanding that changes, additions and tweaks will be needed to better suit any new concerns or needs that arise.

K-12 Dive 




New initiative aims to help school officials with tech purchasing decisions

District and school leaders are facing some of the most difficult and expensive technology purchasing decisions of their careers. Now, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is working with partner organizations to build a national database of edtech products. It will be up to vendors to add their products to the list. And each product will be given a universal learning technology ID or UTID. “Having access to consistent information across the field is really key,” said Mindy Frisbee, the senior director of learning partnerships at ISTE. “One would think that it’s really easy” when a prospective edtech buyer is looking at a specific product through one library or resource, and then goes to another place to find out more. Next month, ISTE will roll out a searchable, database with a filtering tool. Initially, users will be able to see information such as the name of the product, a description, the grade or grades that the product is intended for, the topic it covers, and the pricing structure. And soon, the database will be expanded to include other factors such as whether the products meet interoperability standards and feature privacy policies

Education Week 




Latest elementary and middle schools rankings published

U.S. News & World Report has published its latest Best K-8 Schools rankings. For 2022, schools have been ranked at the state and district level, with Best Charter Schools and Best Magnet Schools ranked as stand-alone categories. California has 5,534 ranked elementary schools – the most of any state – followed by Texas (4,446), New York (2,211), Florida (2,128) and Illinois (2,038). California also has the most ranked middle schools with 2,319, followed by Texas (1,942), Illinois (1,243), New York (1,219) and Florida (997). The methodology for the brand-new rankings focuses on two areas: math and reading proficiency, or how well students perform on state assessments, and math and reading performance, or how well they perform compared to expectations. Notably, the state assessment data used in the rankings is from the 2018-2019 school year, so pre-dates the impact of the pandemic.

US News and World Report 

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