Hurricane Harvey left devastating effects on the greater Houston region and areas along the Gulf Coast. Many of our students, families, teachers, and staff are still coping with the physical and emotional suffering caused by the storm. Some of our families are still without a home, while others have completely started over. While we remain resolute in confronting the challenges, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey has imposed a historic burden on the ability to foster and facilitate the excellent learning environment that the HISD family tirelessly strives for each day.
To compound these challenges, Texas public schools are currently transitioning to a new A-F state accountability system passed by the Texas Legislature. The new state standards that will rate schools and school districts have not been announced, but we do know the standards will be higher than before and will be determined by standardized testing. Placing this demand on our teachers and students under these circumstances is a concern.
On February 6, 2018, former HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza and I wrote a letter to the Texas Education Commissioner requesting a one-year reprieve from accountability for all HISD schools. Let me be very clear that we are not afraid of accountability; we welcome and embrace it. But considering the unpredictable circumstances in which many HISD families still find themselves in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a one-year reprieve from accountability and state sanctions is best for our children. To date, it is unclear whether the reprieve will be granted, leaving our principals, teachers, and students with unclear expectations.
We are doing our part to ensure this reasonable request is granted. But now, we need your help. It is critical that Texas policymakers hear from you. Please contact the Texas Education Agency commissioner, governor, lieutenant governor, legislative education committee, and your elected state senator and state representative requesting that immediate action is taken for Houston-area students and families.
The request is simple and straightforward. We are asking for a one-year accountability reprieve for all schools and a halt in state sanctions for schools in “Improvement Required” status.
Any form of outreach will help. Letters, emails, phone calls, and social media are all critical and impactful tools for communicating your message to policymakers. We’ve made it easy for you with this toolkit.
For your convenience, enclosed is a toolkit that you may use as a roadmap to communicate with Texas policymakers. If you do not know your Senate and House legislative district or who represents you in the Texas Legislature, visit http://HoustonISD.org/TexasLegislature. Policymaker contact information, including social media, is provided below.
Please share this toolkit with your communities and let your voices be heard by Texas policymakers. Your support is critical in addressing the challenges facing public education. Do not let the needs of our children go ignored in Austin.
HISD Board President
Things to know
What is “accountability” and who may grant schools a reprieve?The Texas Education Agency (TEA) sets the accountability measures it uses to rate school districts and individual campuses. Each spring, students in grades 3-12 take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, also referred to as the “STAAR” exam. Each district and campus receives an accountability rating of “Met Standard” or “Improvement Required” based on the results of the STAAR Exam. The exam is generally taken each spring, with the results released the following August. The TEA commissioner may grant an accountability reprieve.What is “Improvement Required” status, or “IR”?Improvement Required is the state designation of a campus that did not meet the minimum requirements in the state’s accountability system. Under House Bill 1842, enacted by the Texas Legislature in 2015, a campus may not hold an “IR” designation for five or more consecutive years beginning August 15, 2018. The sanctions imposed by the state include either campus closure or a districtwide state takeover, meaning the state will replace the school district’s locally elected Board of Education with a state-appointed board of managers to oversee all district functions.
Senate Bill 1882, enacted by the Texas Legislature in 2017, provides options for districts to avoid the sanctions imposed by House Bill 1842. Under Senate Bill 1882, a district may avoid campus closure or state takeover by moving forward with one of the following options: a district-initiated campus closure and restart with an entirely new staff or the formation of a partnership with either a nonprofit, institute of higher education, local government, or an open-enrollment charter in good standing.What is the new A-F accountability model?The new A-F accountability model is set to replace the state’s current system of providing districts and campuses with “Met Standard” or “Improvement Required” designations. The new model will rate the academic performance of school districts and individual campuses with three domains: student achievement, school progress, and closing the gaps. The results from the STAAR exam will largely determine how each campus performs in the three new domains. Starting in the fall of 2018, school districts will receive an A-F rating for each of the three domains and a rating for its overall performance. Campuses will receive A-F ratings beginning in August 2019.What happens if the state of Texas does not provide HISD a reprieve from accountability and sanctions?If a one-year accountability reprieve is not granted to HISD and each of the district’s campuses that have been IR for four or more years do not meet the state’s minimum standards, the state will either replace the school district’s elected Board of Education with a state-appointed board of managers or close any campus still holding an “Improvement Required” designation. The school district may avoid these sanctions by moving forward with either of the relief options under SB 1882, listed in question 2.What happens if the state of Texas does provide HISD a reprieve from accountability and sanctions?If a one-year reprieve is granted to HISD, schools will be provided a “Not Rated” designation for the 2017-2018 school year, and all state sanctions associated with House Bill 1842 will be halted for one year.