House Public Education Committee discusses STAAR tests, special education

The House Public Education Committee met Thursday, May 24, regarding two more of its interim charges: examining research-based options for evaluating student achievement beyond standardized test scores, and examining programs in public schools that have proven results meeting the needs of and improving student achievement for students with disabilities.

TCTA participates in roundtable discussion on school safety

TCTA Executive Director Jeri Stone was asked to participate in one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s roundtable discussions on school safety this week, held in response to the recent tragedy at Santa Fe High School.

Stone was the only teacher representative included in the talks, attending the meeting on Wednesday along with Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Joe Straus, Education Commissioner Mike Morath, several legislators, mental health experts, school administrators, and representatives of gun groups and other associations.

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Commissioner takes action following STAAR glitches

Following two online STAAR testing disruptions this spring, Education Commissioner Mike Morath said TEA won’t penalize certain students who didn’t pass the state standardized test this year. Their scores also won't be counted in campus and district accountability ratings, unless they raise the overall score. TEA will also ask Educational Testing Service to pay $100,000 in liquidated damages for the testing problems.

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TCTA testifies against weakening teacher preparation

TCTA testified at the May 18, 2018, State Board for Educator Certification meeting against a proposal to expand the types of certificates that could be obtained via a shortened educator preparation program. In response, although the board voted to advance the proposal, board members cautioned that they wanted a more thorough vetting of the expansion proposal with all interested stakeholders before the next board meeting when the proposal will be up for final adoption.

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TCTA member elected president-elect of statewide science group

Members of the Science Teachers Association of Texas recently elected retired Brady ISD teacher Linda Schaake as their president-elect for the 2018-2019 school year. Schaake, a TCTA member since 2013, will serve as president of STAT during the 2019-2020 school year and as past president during 2020-2021.

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TCTA testifies at House Pensions Committee meeting in Dallas

TCTA's Ann Fickel provided testimony at a meeting of the House Pensions Committee in Dallas on Thursday, May 10. The Dallas City Council Chambers were packed with retired teachers, several of whom also testified with their concerns about retirement and health insurance benefits.

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TEA’s final special education plan narrows scope of required school district actions

TEA issued the final version of its strategic plan for special education in response to a federal monitoring report that required TEA to correct areas of deficiency, including the proper identification of special education students and assuring access to appropriate services at the local level. A key focus is rectifying a situation identified by the federal Office of Special Education Programs in which some school districts delayed or denied potentially eligible students the right to an initial evaluation for special education in order to avoid exceeding TEA’s former 8.5 percent monitoring target for referral of students for special education services.

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TRS Board deadlocks on assumed investment rate

The Texas Retirement System Board of Trustees had scheduled action during its April meeting to lower the pension fund’s assumed investment return rate — a key financial benchmark in evaluating the health of the pension fund — from the current 8 percent. With one of the nine trustees absent, the board was deadlocked on revising the rate, so it will remain at 8 percent for now.

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TRS Board OKs higher ActiveCare rates

TCTA testified as the Teacher Retirement System Board of Trustees considered new premium rates and plan changes for ActiveCare health insurance in the 2018-19 school year. The board voted to increase premium rates for levels 1-HD, Select, and 2 by 4.4 percent, 5 percent, and 9.5 percent, respectively. 

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TEA makes major state accountability announcement

In conjunction with Commissioner Mike Morath's release of his final decisions regarding the A-F Accountability System Framework, TEA noted that an appendix with be included with the Accountability Manual to address any adjustments to be made due to the impact of Hurricane Harvey on testing and accountability measures. TEA also announced its intent to seek a federal waiver to exclude second-year English Learners from the state accountability system for 2018.

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