New Component of Texas Accountability System: FASTLE

Posted on May 13, 2012

7



Fiscal Accountability System for Texas Legislation in Education (FASTLE)

I wrote this in response to Representative Aycock’s request for ideas on improving the accountability system. Unfortunately, he chose not to publish this suggestion. Perhaps he thought I was not serious (I am) or that it would never pass the Legislature (he is correct).

I think reasonable people believe individuals should not be held accountable in the workplace unless the person was provided adequate resources and support to meet her/his expectations. I also think most reasonable people would agree that schools and districts should not be held accountable unless they are provided the necessary resources and support to meet the expectations that under gird the accountability system.


Expectation #1: Allocate enough money per pupil to ALL districts in an amount sufficient to meet the expectations set forth by the legislature.

This would be determined through adequacy studies conducted by a panel of five nationally recognized experts. For any district taxing at the maximum allowable tax rate and not generating enough funds through all revenue streams to meet expectations as determined by the panel of experts, then the district could choose not participate in any state mandated testing and accountability system.

In the last school finance court case from 2005, experts found that the state was underfunding an adequate education. Since then, per pupil funding increased a miniscule 7% over the cost of living increases (This will surely decrease to near 0% with recent budget costs coupled with increased enrollment). Further, the meager growth in per pupil spending came during a time of explosive growth in the percentage of economically disadvantaged students that are far more costly to educate than non-economically disadvantaged students. Moreover, expectations have risen dramatically since 2005. Districts and schools are now expected to ensure all students are college and career ready, graduate from high school, and now pass STAAR and End-of-Course exams that are touted by state leaders as being far more rigorous. If the legislature is not going to provide the necessary resources for districts to meet the expectations of the legislature, then why should school districts be held accountable by that very same legislature?

Expectation #2: Allocate money in a fair and equitable manner, including money provided through a bi-annually updated cost-of-education index (CEI) to ensure all districts competed on an equal playing field.

This would be determined by a panel of five nationally recognized experts. If the system was not considered equitable across districts with different levels of property wealth and percentage of students living in poverty, then any district in the bottom 25% of schools in WADA would be exempted from the state’s district and school accountability system.

The weights for the weighted average daily attendance (WADA) should be based on the findings of the adequacy studies. The studies would estimate the amount of money necessary to educate a student to achieve particular outcomes as measured by a low-stakes assessment or an assessment for which no teaching to the test could corrupt the scores.

The CEI should be updated every two years and re-weighted. Districts should not operate under the “hold harmless” provision that is the largest obstacle to updating the CEI currently.

Expectation #3:  Require all individuals entering a classroom as a teacher of record to have a minimum of eight weeks of training, at least 3 weeks of some form of clinical training, and at least a minor in the subject area to which they are assigned.

Currently, low-performing schools are disproportionately staffed by teachers that obtained certification through alternative means. Worse yet, the schools with the greatest needs typically must resort to hiring teachers from private alternative certification programs, many of which provide less than a month of preparation before entering the classroom, allow individuals with college GPAs lower than 2.25 to enter the program (sometimes GPAs are as low as 2.0), and require only 12 college hours in the subject area to be taught. In comparison, high quality preparation programs (both traditional and alternative) provide hundreds of pre-service hours, have high entrance standards with respect to GPA, and require all teachers to have at least a minor and typically a major

Research has clearly shown that teachers that have received more preparation are typically more effective and stay longer in the field. That low-performing schools must resort to hiring teachers from private alternative certification programs simply decreases achievement while concomitantly increases costs through higher teacher attrition.

Unlike high-performing countries across the world, the United States has chosen to reduce barriers to entry into the profession rather than make entrance into teaching more rigorous. Texas has been at the forefront of this effort to deregulate the teaching profession by creating private alternative certification programs whose primary motive is to generate profit rather than prepare quality teachers. In fact, the worse the preparation provided by these programs, the higher the attrition rate which simply drives the demand for new teachers higher. And who benefits? Private alternative certification programs!

To change the current status of teacher preparation in Texas will likely require additional state funding for stipends for teachers in high-need areas (STEM, bilingual education, special education) that agree to teach in high-need schools as well as an appropriate school finance system that includes an appropriate CEI.

FASTLE Report Card

A final panel of experts and educators would consider all available evidence (which would be made available to the public on a website) and assign a grade for each of the three expectations and a final, overall grade. Categories could include less than satisfactory, satisfactory, or exemplary. If the overall grade was “less than satisfactory,” then the state’s district and state accountability systems would cease to operate until the rating improved to satisfactory.

My Estimation of the Current Report Card Grades

Based on my reading of the literature, analysis of the data, and discussions with experts knowledgeable of the Texas school finance system, I provide ratings for each of the three areas of responsibility.

 

Expectation #1: Allocate enough money per pupil to ALL districts in an amount sufficient to meet the expectations set forth by the legislature.

Rating: less than satisfactory

 

Expectation #2: Allocate money in a fair and equitable manner, including money provided through a bi-annually updated cost-of-education index (CEI) to ensure all districts competed on an equal playing field.

Rating: less than satisfactory


Expectation #3:  Require all individuals entering a classroom as a teacher of record to have a minimum of eight weeks of training, at least 3 weeks of some form of clinical training, and at least a minor in the subject area to which they are assigned.

Rating: less than satisfactory

OVERALL FASTLE RATING: 2011-12:

Less Than Satisfactory

I am open to suggestions and comments. I am sure some people will respond that school districts are inefficient and waste money. Some fit this bill. Others do not. And I can guarantee one thing—I can walk into any business in which a Legislator works or a business person works and find plenty of areas of inefficiencies and waste. The free market does not clean up inefficiency and waste in businesses and corporations, so any argument that a free-market approach would clean things up is simply nonsensical (that, and the fact that research shows a free-market approach to education simply does not work very well).

Advertisements
Posted in: Uncategorized