QUESTION 2: In the 83rd legislative session, the number of state assessments required for graduation was reduced. In the 84th legislative session, a proposed bill would have eliminated state testing in writing at grades 4 and 7 (the bill was left pending in committee). What is your position on further reform of STAAR testing? 

I believe we have fallen far short of reasonable expectations regarding state assessments. We definitely need reform in several areas. The common state assessment is but a single measure that should be among other equally revealing measures. State assessments now for the most part are federal requirements. Our standards are required to be assessed. How we do that should be continually evaluated for appropriateness and alignment. But in addition, state-level support for educators should accompany changes in expectations. 

A broader picture of student progress is definitely needed. Regarding writing, the state has flexibility. We know writing is vital for our students' future. I was happy to see the legislative support for a pilot to study some alternative ways of assessing student progress in writing. I believe we must get away from "writing" years in grade 4 and 7. Every year is a writing year. Our system should be aligned to support that philosophy. With a portfolio approach, I believe we can get much closer to writing that will be of lifelong benefit to the students.

We have been dogged on the collection of state testing data but have not spent nearly enough time focusing on the delivery of meaningful data for parents and students. The state should be supplying clear, informative, actionable reports with the data collected.

QUESTION 3: Last year, the US Department of Education approved the Texas State Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators. What can the SBOE do to support this effort to ensure that poor and minority children have equal access to experienced, qualified teachers? 

The State Board of Education should support and encourage state focus and action specifically for the economically disadvantaged, 60 percent of our student population. Coming alongside the state plan is key. In support of important educational needs, as Chair I started a series of Roundtables to feature the challenges as well as best practices to inform education leadership and policymakers on issues such as “Educating the Digital Generation” (held last November) and the upcoming “Educating the Children of Poverty” (in September). The Poverty Roundtable will focus on research and include national and state experts as well as state practitioners working effectively with students, in spite of the challenges students face. There is no doubt we must find and support more ways to encourage excellent teachers to choose to work with our most vulnerable students.

QUESTION 4: The SBOE is charged with setting curriculum standards, and this year new English Language Arts/Reading and Spanish Language Arts/Reading (ELAR/SLAR) TEKS are being developed. What role can the SBOE play in the effective implementation of these new standards? 

Evaluating professional development needs called for by the change in standards is key. I believe the Board must be more proactive as to requesting and advocating for the stronger state support and coordination required to experience an effective implementation. We must collect not only staff's evaluation of the need, but request an evaluation from the field in order to truly understand the support level necessary. The Board must step up current efforts for this vital phase of our work with any new set of standards.

My priorities are: 

  • Greater engagement and accessible pathways with those affected by the work of the State Board of Education in both curriculum standards and "textbook" adoptions. We have moved forward by requiring textbook publishers to provide a public portal for materials review during our review period. Instead of having to go to an Education Service Center to review materials prior to adoption, experts and the general public can provide feedback with the easy access now provided. In addition, TCTELA has helped the Board to explore providing greater access to educators and others to curriculum standards under development. This new work should continue. In addition to the traditional appointed review team members, we simply must engage more educators as part of our standards development process to have better standards and more buy-in.
  • Hosting roundtables featuring national and state experts and practitioners on big topics that need greater focus and support. In 2015, we hosted "Educating the Digital Generation," discussing the challenges and expectations over the next five years as more and more of our classroom content is delivered digitally. In September, we are hosting "Educating the Children of Poverty," focusing on the research and success of high-performing, high-poverty schools. This is critical in a state where 60% of our students are economically disadvantaged. More relevant and robust roundtable discussions and follow-up afterwards can be key to moving forward in the focus areas.
  • Developing a robust and relevant Long Range Plan (LRP) for Public Education. The Board begins work this fall on the LRP as we discuss the challenges and opportunities for public education over the next five to seven years. This plan will be a large scale, collaborative project undertaken by the Board working with the Commissioner, HECB, educators and educator leadership, parents and the public and should support the 60x30 Plan as well as the Texas State Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators. As we did with the survey conducted this year for the Next Generation of Assessments and Accountability Commission, the Board will seek wide public input.

Greater engagement with educators, higher education and the public concerning our responsibilities is critical. Considerable effort is required to open up our work to include greater transparency, support and engagement, but I believe what the Board has accomplished already and will continue to move toward is important for the future of Texas public education.

QUESTION 5: What do you, as a representative of your district, see as priority issues for the State Board of Education? 

DISTRICT 6 - R. Dakota Carter (D), No response
                         Laura Palmer (G), Dropped out of the race