Texas revised ESSA plan illustrates clash between state and federal law

After a U.S. Department of Education review found problems with the state's proposed plan to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, Texas could end up with two different systems to measure accountability.

Much of the department’s critique of Texas’s plan centered on state law accountability provisions that could potentially run afoul of ESSA requirements. Given that state laws can only be changed by the Legislature, which next meets in 2019, it is unclear how state and federal law conflicts can be resolved before then. This could lead to two separate accountability systems — one state, one federal — in contradiction to the state's initial goal of structuring the new state accountability system so it aligned with ESSA accountability requirements. 

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Feds warn TEA to fix ongoing special education issues

The U.S. Department of Education has ordered the Texas Education Agency to fix ongoing issues related to special education. In response to USDE and a Jan. 11, 2018, order from Gov. Greg Abbott to respond within seven days, TEA on Jan. 18 released a preliminary corrective action plan to address the issues identified by USDE. TEA will seek public comment on the draft beginning Jan. 23.

Be on alert for scam seeking your school login information

The Texas Education Agency on Jan. 3 notified school administrators of a growing threat to K-12 school employees nationwide who are paid via direct deposit.

Cyber criminals are using phishing emails to attempt to gain account login information from users so they can change bank account information to reroute employees’ directly deposited paychecks.

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TRS meeting includes board briefing on pension fund health

The TRS Board of Trustees received a briefing on the annual actuarial valuation of the pension fund — the analysis of the retirement fund’s health as of Aug. 31, 2017. The valuation showed mostly positive news, including a 12.9 percent return on investments for the fiscal year, which was well above the assumed 8 percent. The TRS fund now holds more than $146 billion in overall assets, up from $134 billion in 2016.

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Educator political involvement drawing attention in Texas

Efforts encouraging Texas teachers and other school employees to become more involved in the 2018 statewide and legislative elections appear to have drawn the attention of certain statewide leaders and groups.

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TCTA ensures flexibility for CPE courses for teacher certificate renewal

During a recent effort to revise State Board for Educator Certification rules regarding continuing professional education requirements for standard teacher certificate renewal, TCTA was instrumental in ensuring that teachers continue to have as much flexibility as possible in selecting which CPE opportunities they pursue. 

Morath to seek federal accountability waiver to help hurricane-affected areas

In a significant victory for educators and students in Hurricane Harvey-impacted school districts, Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced Dec. 14 that he would seek a federal accountability waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to ensure the state has maximum flexibility as accountability decisions are made. TCTA and others had expressed concerns about whether student test results from hurricane-impacted schools would accurately represent students’ knowledge or ability, given the significant trauma and displacement many of them had experienced.

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Texas seeks waiver from federal cap on special education alternative assessments

In anticipation of slightly exceeding the federal 1 percent state-level cap on the percentage of students taking an alternative assessment, the Texas Education Agency posted for public comment a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education for the 2017-18 school year. TCTA submitted comments supporting the waiver request.

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TCTA member testifies at House Public Education Committee hearing

As Hurricane Harvey's impact continues to be felt across Southeast Texas, lawmakers gathered in Austin on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, to get an update on the recovery effort. The House Public Education Committee, led by Chair Dan Huberty, invited educators in the affected region to talk about the storm's impact, specifically whether the state needs to adjust accountability measures this year.

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TCTA member earns $25,000 Milken Educator Award

In a surprise ceremony Oct. 18, Katie Negen, a TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement master teacher at Slaton Junior High School in Slaton ISD, was presented with a 2017 Milken Educator Award.

The national award — which is often referred to as the “Oscars of Teaching” — recognizes exemplary elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education.

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