The House Committee on Public Education has published its interim report to the 86th Legislature.
The report addresses multiple issues, including education response to Hurricane Harvey, teacher compensation, student assessments, students with disabilities, charter schools, the implementation of legislation under the committee’s jurisdiction, educator preparation programs, and school safety in various areas. For full recommendations, analysis, and conclusions from the committee, please see the complete report.
Spotlight on Recommendations
HURRICANE HARVEY RESPONSE
- The Legislature should provide funding during the 86th legislative session to make LEAs whole for financial losses due to enrollment changes, property value decline, and facility repair and replacement.
- The Committee should explore possible statutory changes needed to help LEAs quickly access replacement instructional materials as soon as possible after a natural disaster or other event that results in the destruction of these resources.
- The Committee should explore possible statutory changes needed to provide timely assistance to Chapter 42 districts that experience facility damage due to a natural disaster.
- The Committee should work with TEA to develop legislation to improve the dropout calculation methodology used by the agency.
- The state should consider creating an additional certification for teachers in leadership positions, such as Master Teachers, to provide an upward career path for teachers that keeps them in the classroom rather than moving to administration.
- The Legislature should create a new FSP allotment to provide funding for LEAs to implement differentiated compensation plans for teachers. TEA should create at least two compensation plan options for use by LEAs that do not have the capacity or desire to develop their own version. While LEAs should be allowed the flexibility to create programs that benefit their own particular circumstances, locally-designed programs should be required to include the following components:
- a multiple measure evaluation system, such as the state-developed Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS);
- incentives to encourage top performing teachers to work at campuses with the highest need students;
- a requirement for top performing teachers to serve as mentors and that at least first and second year teachers are assigned a mentor; and
- stipends for teachers or teacher candidates that participate in additional, rigorous training such as clinical residency programs or the National Board-certification process.
- The Legislature should provide FSP funding, either through the teacher compensation allotment recommended above or as a stand-alone allotment, to fund mentoring programs and consider adopting other MAC recommendations into the existing BTIM, such as eligibility criteria for becoming a mentor teacher and the requirement that all first and second teachers are assigned a mentor.
- The Legislature should continue to monitor and support the SBOE in its efforts to streamline the TEKS.
- The Legislature should consider limiting the STAAR to readiness standards, while maintaining the supporting standards as an important part of the curriculum.
- The Legislature should remove the sunset provision on IGCs in order to allow this option to continue for students that have proven they can demonstrate mastery of a subject even if they have difficulties with the STAAR.
- The Legislature should consider limiting state assessments to those that are required by federal law and eliminating high stakes testing for elementary and middle school students.
- The Legislature should consider allowing TEA the flexibility to split STAAR tests for earlier grades into subtests that could be administered on separate days and within normal class periods.
- The Legislature should provide additional funding to TEA to continue the Writing Assessment Pilot Program, even in a modified form, in order to explore options for an alternative writing assessment that can be scaled statewide.
STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
- The Committee should continue to monitor TEA implementation of the CAR and Strategic Plan for Special Education.
- The Legislature should provide additional funding to LEAs to improve the identification of students with dyslexia and related disorders and to provide training for appropriate staff in evidence-based practices that are proven to help with the identification of these students as well as instruction.
- The Committee should continue to work with TEA and HHSC to determine if recent policy changes related to SHARS will negatively impact students, their families, or special education funding available to LEAs.
- The Legislature should consider an extension of funding for the House Bill 21 pilot programs related to students with autism and students with dyslexia, if the required reports on these programs support an extension, and consider additional ways to incentivize the development of innovative programs for students with disabilities.
- The Legislature should require expansion amendment requests for additional campuses or sites to be sent to TEA and notice given to districts at least 12 months before a new campus is opened.
- TEA should revise rules regarding district notice of charter expansion amendments to ensure that the same district officials receive all notifications.
- The Legislature should reconsider statutory provisions that allow charters to exclude students based on disciplinary history, especially when the cited infractions are not criminal in nature, and work with charter holders on possible ways to reduce expulsions at charter schools.
- TEA should ensure that charters understand their roles and responsibilities regarding students with disabilities and that they have the ability to fulfill them before authorization.
- The Legislature should explore options to reduce the funding disparities that exist between charters and districts with regards to the use of state averages in FSP calculations, facility funding, and state contributions to TRS.
- The Legislature should consider expanding the Texas Partnership program to include a wider variety of partnerships, such as the SKY Partnership, and explore additional options to increase collaborations between districts and charters.
IMPLEMENTATION OF LEGISLATION – HB 22
- The Committee should continue to monitor TEA’s implementation of House Bill 22 provisions regarding the inclusion of extra and co-curricular indicators and local accountability systems within the public school accountability system.
- The Committee should consider pursuing legislation that re-visits certain CCMR indicators, in order to ensure small and rural LEAs are not put on unequal footing with LEAs that have the resources needed offer a wider range of opportunities for their students.
- The Committee should work with TEA and stakeholders to explore options to alleviate the timing issues that exist with regard to the accountability system and rule-making.
- The Legislature should include additional funding in the appropriation for the state assessment system that is sufficient to cover costs associated with the federal requirement for certain students to take the SAT or ACT in high school.
IMPLEMENTATION OF LEGISLATION – SB 179
- The Committee should continue to monitor TEA’s implementation of Senate Bill 179 to ensure that students, public school staff and parents have been informed of the changes made by the legislation.
EDUCATOR PREPARATION PROGRAMS
- The Committee should continue to monitor TEA’s development of its EPP data dashboard.
- The Legislature should work with TEA to facilitate the collection of disaggregated longitudinal data on student outcomes of teachers by EPP and include this information in the EPP data dashboard.
- The Legislature should consider incentivizing EPP partnerships that provide teachers and paraprofessionals affordable options to gain additional credentials and certifications.
Mental Health & Well-Being
- The Legislature should require the SBOE to include character education in the TEKS, by either integrating it into the existing TEKS or creating separate standards for this subject.
- The Legislature should consider ways to encourage LEAs to adopt trauma-informed, PBIS, and restorative discipline practices in order to create healthy and positive campus environments, which in turn promote school safety.
- The SBOE should modify the Health Education TEKS to increase the focus on mental health, including an emphasis on reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and seeking treatment.
- The Legislature should require all school personnel to participate in MHFA training and provide the necessary financial resources to ensure there are no barriers to making this training available to all school personnel.
- The Legislature should ensure that LEAs in rural areas or communities that have limited access to mental health services have the financial resources needed to participate in TWITR or similar programs utilizing telemedicine for psychiatric screenings.
- LEAs should be encouraged to work with LMHAs, institutions of higher education, and other providers, such as Communities In Schools, to integrate and increase access to mental health services for students both on and off campus. The Legislature should provide additional financial resources to encourage such partnerships.
- The Legislature should consider establishing a statewide resource on student mental health and well-being that can provide technical assistance and training to LEAs, bring the ESCs and their expertise together as hubs, and be a clearinghouse for best practices, similar to TSSC for school safety.
School Mental Health Professionals
- The Legislature should provide additional financial resources for LEAs to increase the number of school mental health professionals, including school counselors, LSSPs, and social workers, present on campus and clarify the duties expected of those professionals in statute. LEAs should also be encouraged to use these resources to hire support staff to take over the clerical and administrative duties currently being handled by these professionals, and to also consider utilizing volunteers.
- As soon as possible, and in collaboration with HHSC and LMHAs, the ESCs should establish mental health crisis intervention teams that can be utilized by the LEAs within each region as needed. The Legislature should ensure that financial resources are provided for this purpose.
School Safety Planning & Training
- The Legislature should provide TSSC with the additional resources needed to exercise oversight and audit responsibilities over EOPs and to offer LEAs increased technical assistance and training related to those EOPs.
- If TEA and TSSC develop a new school safety certification system, the Legislature should ensure that information regarding LEA safety features is kept confidential.
- The Legislature should require TSSC recommended parties to be represented on SSSCs.
- The Legislature should authorize TEA to collect information regarding the type and frequency of training related to school safety that LEAs provide for staff.
- The CJD should continue to support increased training opportunities for school personnel at all LEAs, including charter schools, and the Legislature should consider additional funding for these efforts when developing the 2020-21 budget.
- The Legislature should require EOPs to include training and drills that are specifically geared towards improving parental notification response times.
School Safety Infrastructure
- The Legislature should provide TSSC with necessary resources to conduct a study regarding communications interoperability between LEAs, local law enforcement, and other first responders, including the use of “soft” panic buttons, and recommend if state-level assistance with resources or planning is needed.
- When planning for safety retrofits, LEAs should consider available research on the impact of different types of safety enhancements to determine how to best invest funding. LEAs should consider also alarm systems that provide a variety of different alarms and replacing fire alarm pulls stations with sprinkler systems, where allowed under the local fire code, as well as door locks that can be controlled from inside the classroom by school personnel.
- If the Legislature chooses to appropriate state funding for campus safety retrofits, they should endeavor to base such funding on actual need for safety improvements and prioritize its distribution based on that need as well as LEA financial need.
- Due to the vast differences in the needs of LEAs across Texas, the Legislature should allow flexibility on expenditures if the decision is made to provide state funding for school safety related capital items, including an option to focus funding on school safety personnel rather than capital items.
Law Enforcement Resources
- While LEAs should be allowed the flexibility to determine how to best provide security for their own campuses, consideration should be given to the overwhelming testimony regarding the benefits of having increased numbers of law enforcement officers that have been trained to work with children in educational settings.
- The Legislature should consider giving small districts the option to create joint police departments with other districts.
- The Legislature should require LEAs utilizing peace officers on campus to adopt policies that prohibit those officers from being involved in student discipline.
- While it could be cost-effective for the state to leverage funds to support the use of a particular reporting app statewide, LEAs should be able to make decisions regarding usage at the local level, and the Legislature should ensure that the state is not funding duplicative efforts in this regard.
- The Legislature should ensure that statutory provisions related to school safety that apply to districts also apply to charters.
- The Legislature should clarify the security personnel options that are available to charters.