Preparing students for success in the workforce or higher education is secondary to preparing them for success in life. The core business of schools is to provide experiences for students so they may learn and apply their knowledge in the real world, not merely learn to pass a standardized test.
Federal, State and Local Partnerships:
* Core Belief: The creation of a public education system is a primary responsibility of the state; however, the day-to-day operation of public schools is a local function.
We need to transform the relationship between the SBOE and local school districts into a relationship based on trust, shared values, creativity, innovation and, most importantly, mutual respect. The SBOE should engage educators in a dialogue, not subject them to a monologue on how they can do their jobs better.
We must constantly guard against the desire to set education policy from Austin or Washington D.C. School districts should be more accountable to local parents and taxpayers than the Texas Legislature or the U.S. Congress. School districts' roles have been relegated to compliance officers first, educators second. If this continues, the lack of ownership by the local educators and taxpayers will result in a decline in the performance of our local schools.
The SBOE should focus on the what, not the how, of public schools. It should spend less time trying to control the content that students are required to use and spend more time establishing overall goals for the comprehension of information.
We need the SBOE and school districts to operate in a partnership in which the SBOE establishes a framework for learning standards and enables school districts to customize assessment and accountability systems that inform the community about the quality of their schools and the level of student success.
We need a governance structure where the SBOE does not involve itself in minute details and directives, nor does it impose one-size-fits-all regulations.
We need to provide enough local flexibility in the standards to allow a school to encourage students to recognize and pursue their talents and learning in other areas, even if those students lack proficiency in core skill areas.
We should foster a relationship between the SBOE and local school districts that will specify the standards for graduation and general accountability but not detail how those standards are to be achieved, nor the content required to achieve them.
We should establish a pilot project that will allow selected school districts to operate free from many of the inhibiting laws and regulations to see how those districts could transform themselves in ways that reflect the spirit and intent we all would support for our schools. This would allow for a real world comparison of the local control model as contrasted with a Federal & State top-down model.
* Core Belief: Accountability systems do not produce excellence. Excellence comes from commitment, cooperation and meaningful educational experiences.
Assessment should provide accountability, but not in the form of single-shot, high stakes tests. Appropriate and varied assessments using multiple tools for different purposes would do a better job of informing students, parents, educators and the community about the performance of the students and what schools are doing to continually improve.
The current TAKS structure creates students who are expert test takers but it comes at the cost of the ability to retain or apply what they know in a real-world context.
We must establish high standards with reasonable local flexibility to challenge every child regardless of their background or future plans after high school.
We need assessment processes that are designed to inform parents, educators and students in a timely manner, not wait until it is too late. Nor can we continue to use accountability ratings that over-simplify a school's performance or penalize the entire school district for the performance of a small percentage of students. This demoralizes students and teachers and creates division within the student body.
We must develop assessments focused on three different aspects: the classroom, the campus and the entire district. If focused on all three levels, assessments will better inform parents, teachers, students, the community, and policymakers.
We should allow school districts to design aspects of their own accountability systems, as long as they meet or exceed the overall state standards, so they may better reflect what their local community wants and needs from its schools.
We should develop accountability measures that recognize that the teacher's most important role should be as a designer of engaging experiences for students and supporting students in their work by using their talents as a planner, presenter, instructor, mentor and role model. Teachers should not be relegated to serve as a report writer or instructor on how to fill in a bubble sheet.
Education Environment in Texas:
* Core Belief: To keep students engaged, the SBOE must adapt to the rapidly changing environment. It must embrace new technologies and digital devices that are prevalent today with our children. These tools can make learning more relevant, vibrant and stimulating for educators and students alike.
We must develop, maintain and constantly adapt a curriculum that is relevant, challenging and meaningful to all students.
We must engage students in a technological way that mirrors their life outside of school. When students have to "power down" in class, learning suffers.
We must educate students in such a way that they can remember what they learn and more importantly, can apply their knowledge to the real world as an adult.
We need schools that are staffed by competent, committed adults who are supported and appreciated, not continually criticized or micro-managed.
We must foster a sense of community surrounding our local schools. Parents, taxpayers and civic leaders need to know that the schools belong to them, not the State of Texas or the Federal Government.
We must continually seek out and respect input from students regarding their learning experience and the tasks they are assigned. Without this feedback, we run the risk of education losing its relevance and increasing the risk of dropouts.
We need to design curriculum standards that will increase engagement by the students and recognize that the variation in student learning is as much a function of student effort as it is student ability.
We need to foster a relationship between local public schools and those who choose to educate their children at home. All students should have the opportunity to be involved in their school's community of learning.