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August 22, 2014

TEA suspends SSI math requirement for grades 5 and 8

The Student Success Initiative (SSI) requirement that students in grades 5 and 8 must pass the STAAR mathematics test to be promoted to the next grade level has been suspended for the upcoming school year, state Education Commissioner Michael Williams announced today. He said the suspension was necessary because of the state’s transition to revised statewide curriculum standards in math.

The commissioner’s action demonstrates the necessity of aligning tests with curriculum standards that are taught. Williams’ announcement and yesterday’s announcement that the federal government will give states flexibility for a year in tying test scores to teacher evaluations also reinforce TSTA’s argument that an over-reliance on testing is not the way to educate students.

To read the full news release from TEA go to http://www.tea.state.tx.us/news_release.aspx?id=25769815716.

August 21, 2014

Duncan: we'll allow flexibility in tying high stakes consequences to student test scores

Today, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that the Obama administration WILL allow flexibility in tying high-stakes consequences to student test scores for up to two years. In response, NEA released a statement to media that reads in part:

“There is increasing evidence that the collision between old and new standards and assessments with already flawed evaluation systems are fraught with pitfalls and dangerous consequences for student learning and growth—especially when these systems are developed hastily with too much external pressure and too little time for collaboration. It is just common sense to allow a moratorium on high-stakes consequences of test scores,” said NEA President-elect Lily Eskelsen García.

NEA’s full statement can be found in the press center at: http://www.nea.org/home/60170.htm

Duncan’s full announcement can be found at: http://www.ed.gov/blog/2014/08/a-back-to-school-conversation-with-teachers-and-school-leaders

TSTA will be looking at how this impacts the waiver that is the basis for TEA's pilot program, which includes test-based teacher evaluation, and legislative efforts that seek to tie teacher evaluation to standardized test scores.

Participation in state teacher survey is low

The Texas Education Agency released the results of the Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning (TELL) Texas Survey this week
and the responses from educators who actually took the survey about teaching and working conditions were mostly positive. But since only about 20 percent of school-based licensed educators participated, no one really knows how accurately TELL portrays what most Texas educators think.

TSTA encouraged its members to participate when the survey went online last spring. But the timing wasn’t good. The survey was conducted while many teachers were preparing to administer STAAR tests and finishing up many other chores as the end of the school year was approaching. Here is a link to the TEA news release: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/news_release.aspx? id=25769815625.

August 20, 2014

New poll shows skepticism over standardized tests

As students, parents, educators and community members continue to push back against the overuse and abuse of standardized testing in our public schools, the most recent PDK/Gallup poll reinforces that Americans have had enough of the nation’s obsession with testing. According to the results, parents are concerned about the amount of testing and an overwhelming majority of public school parents (68%) are skeptical that standardized tests help teachers know what their students are learning or what to teach.

“More and more Americans understand that over testing is taking a toll on our students and on what and how we teach,” said National Education Association President-elect Lily E. Garcia. “Students and teachers continue to lose more and more class time to testing and test preparation, and that time should be spent teaching and learning a rich, engaging curriculum. The serious consequences of these toxic tests will only snowball unless parents, educators and community members push back against lawmakers determined to tie high-stakes decisions to fill-in-the-bubble tests.” 

As opposition to the overuse of standardized tests increases, so has opposition to connecting those tests to teacher evaluations. According to the poll, 61 percent say they oppose the use of standardized tests in teacher evaluations. “More and more parents and the public understand the flaws of these tests. And what's even more absurd is that we've seen educators being evaluated on students and subjects they don’t even teach,” said Garcia. “Enough is enough.”

The poll also indicated that public support for Common Core State Standards is diminishing as the majority of Americans are learning of the standards from the media instead of their schools.

“It’s no surprise that many aren’t behind the Common Core as they are victims of targeted misinformation campaigns. Some on the far right have turned high standards for all students into a political football,” said Garcia. “Our students’ futures aren’t a game. These Standards are an opportunity for all students to have access to a great education, but are being overshadowed by a propaganda war on TV and poor implementation by too many states and districts on the ground. Educators need the resources, time and training needed to get it right for students."

Other key findings of 46th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools:

    • 50% of Americans gave the schools in their communities either an A or B, with parents awarding local schools even higher marks. These grades have remained consistent over the last few years.
    • Two-thirds of Americans oppose public school vouchers.

Read the PDK Survey Part I here: http://pdkintl.org/noindex/PDK_Poll46_2014.pdf.

August 19, 2014

Candelaria: Back to school brings new opportunities

An op-ed by TSTA President Noel Candelaria ran in the Lufkin News today:

At the start of the school year, I am reminded of the remarkable connection between teacher and student that is at the heart of learning. When a new class of students meets its new teacher, each student brings both a challenge and an opportunity for success.

My greatest opportunity in the classroom was Robert. That is not his real name, but his challenges, and mine, were very real. Robert was a special needs student. He was often in trouble, in and out of police custody for aggressive behavior. He even shoved a filing cabinet toward a teacher.

Robert was referred to the alternative campus where I taught and was assigned to my class. I was concerned about how he might affect my other students, but I was determined to get through to Robert.

I visited Robert’s home and learned that he acted up when he didn’t take his medication, and that often happened because his single mom was a quadriplegic and sometimes she couldn’t find transportation to the pharmacy.

Some may have seen Robert as impossible, or a failure, but I told his mother my job was to make sure he graduated from high school. After arrangements were made to get help for Robert and his mother, his behavior improved. It wasn’t easy, but Robert made progress and he graduated. He now attends community college and loves to write.

There are other Roberts in neighborhood public schools throughout Texas, where there are teachers equally dedicated to turning their challenges into success stories. Most students’ needs are less dramatic than Robert’s, but just as real. Some enter school speaking little, if any, English. Some come to school too hungry to hunger for knowledge. Others are gifted and talented.

We don’t have standardized students, and teachers must work to find a way to help them meet their unique needs and develop their unique skills. We teach for that moment when a light flickers in our student’s eye that says “I get it,” when learning is fun and builds the confidence needed to reach the next level.

Those moments define success in the classroom, but these days, teachers face other challenges. Crowded classrooms make it harder to give our students the individual attention they deserve. Teachers are frustrated by a high stakes testing epidemic that steals valuable time needed for teaching, dulls the joy of learning, and improperly judges them and their students by a single standardized test score.

As school begins this year, teachers simply want to be free to teach so our students can be free to learn. Teachers are getting ready, spending their own money to buy classroom supplies, preparing to meet their challenges and turn them into opportunities. More than anything, your child’s teacher wants to reach that “aha” moment that lights a child’s eyes when learning happens, because those moments light the path to a successful future, for all of us.

August 5, 2014

TSTA applauds Leticia Van De Putte’s education plan

The Texas State Teachers Association today applauded Leticia Van De Putte for proposing education priorities that will give educators and students the resources and the time they need for classroom success.

“Senator Van De Putte knows that students aren’t standardized. She knows that each student needs a good teacher and the time to learn, not a battery of stressful standardized tests,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria.

“Leticia is from a family of educators,” Candelaria noted.  “As lieutenant governor, she will work to make sure our teachers have the resources they need to teach effectively and restore common sense to Texas classrooms.”

See the plan here: http://leticiavandeputte.com/texasfirst-education-2

Read a Grading Texas blog on the plan here: http://www.tsta.org/grading-texas/testing/fighting-the-testing-plague.

July 25, 2014

Charter rule hearing

A long line of charter school operators and supporters complained to TEA administrators Friday that new proposed rules designed to hold charter operators more accountable for the tax dollars they receive from the state were too restrictive.

The rules were drafted to comply with requirements of Senate Bill 2, a law enacted by the Legislature in 2013 to raise the previous limit of 215 charters that could be granted in Texas to more than 300 over the next several years. Legislators agreed to the charter expansion only after imposing higher accountable standards on the schools’ academic performances and financial practices.

TSTA believes that the state should hold charter operators to strict accountability standards in how they spend the public’s money. Each tax dollar granted to a corporate-style charter is one less dollar spent on neighborhood public schools, where the vast majority of Texas school children will continue to be educated. (Press release here: http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/20140725-Charter.pdf.)

Even with the new accountability standards, charters still have fewer restrictions than traditional public schools. Charters don’t have to provide bus service, and many don’t, and many charter operators cherry pick the best and brightest students, while a neighborhood public school is required to educate any child who lives in its district.

TEA will accept public comments on the new charter rules through Aug. 18.

July 17, 2014

The heartbreak of being a teacher in Texas

TSTA and Del Valle Education Association member Katie Plemmons pens an excellent column in the Texas Tribune about the challenges facing Texas teachers today, and the impact of teacher turnover on our students. http://tribtalk.org/2014/07/17/the-heartbreak-of-being-a-teacher-in-texas/

July 15, 2014

New TSTA president, vice president take office

President Noel Candelaria and Vice President Ovidia Molina, the new leadership team for the Texas State Teachers Association, took office today, following their elections by delegates to TSTA’s annual state convention in April. Each was elected to a three-year term.
 Read press release

July 11, 2014

TRS-ActiveCare and TRS-Care

On Thursday, July 10, the House Committee on Pensions and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III (Education) held a joint hearing on the state and future of TRS-ActiveCare and TRS-Care. TSTA testified, urging legislative action to help educators who are bearing the cost of rising health care premiums and preserve the TRS Care program for retirees. read more

July 10, 2014

Getting involved

The November election is critical to Texas public schools and the educators, support staff, and students who work and learn on our campuses and in our classrooms. TSTA is supporting Wendy Davis for Governor and Leticia Van de Putte for Lt. Governor because they have a proven record of fighting for us in the Texas Senate. And their records are far superior to their opponents, who have supported devastating school funding cuts, vouchers, and privatization.

Many TSTA members have asked us how they can get involved in the effort to elect our endorsed “education candidates.” Battleground Texas is organizing neighborhood teams to get the message out in every Texas community, neighbor to neighbor.  With two candidates who are stressing the importance of education in their campaigns, TSTA members can play an important role by  volunteering whatever time you have to be part of a neighborhood team in your community. 

For TSTA, this is about more than just this fall’s election. By volunteering for a neighborhood team, you get practical community organizing experience and build relationships in your community that will help local TSTA efforts when we are working to elect school board candidates who will work with us.

Signing up for a neighborhood team is easy. Simply use this link to sign up, and we’ll get a Battleground Texas neighborhood team leader in touch with you. https://tsta.wufoo.com/forms/yes.

July 9, 2014

NEA RA votes to end toxic testing

The 9,000 delegates to the NEA RA launched a national campaign to put the focus of assessments and accountability back on student learning and end the “test, blame, and punish” system that has dominated public education in the last decade. The campaign will, among other things, seek to end the abuse and overuse of high stakes standardized tests and reduce the amount of student and instructional time consumed by them. http://www.nea.org/home/59453.htm 

July 7, 2014

New TSTA leaders take office next week

On Tuesday, July 15, Noel Candelaria will become state president of TSTA. Prior to his election as vice president in 2011, he was a special education teacher in Ysleta ISD and president of Ysleta Teachers Association. Ovidia Molina, an ESL and history teacher in Alief ISD and Region 3B president, will become vice president. 

All-minority, all-female team to lead NEA

At the NEA Representative Assembly July 3-6 in Denver, delegates elected a new president: current Vice President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. Garcia, who was an ESP and teacher in Utah, takes office Sept. 1. Mary Hatwood Futrell was the last woman to lead NEA, from 1983-89.

Delegates also elected Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle, a Pennsylvania science teacher, as vice president, and Executive Committee member Princess Moss, a Virginia music teacher, as secretary-treasurer. 

More about the leaders: http://www.nea.org/grants/59617.htm 

Farewell to outgoing president Dennis Van Roekel: http://www.nea.org/grants/59670.htm 

Honoring Malala Yousafzai

In 2012, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, an activist in Pakistan, was gunned down by Taliban militants determined to ban girls from attending school. NEA honored Yousafzai, who continues to advocate for education and children, with the Mary Hatwood Futrell Human and Civil Rights Award and the 2014 NEA Friend of Education Award. Watch a video here: http://www.nea.org/grants/59660.htm.

July 3, 2014

Class size waivers still rampant

From the Dallas Morning News: The Texas Education Agency excused 1,272 elementary schools from the 22-pupil limit in kindergarten through fourth grade. Most cited “financial hardship” or “unanticipated growth” in their requests for waivers. That’s a slight improvement from the previous year, when 1,480 schools were exempted. But it’s nearly 30 percent of the elementary schools in the state. It is also more than 2 1/2 times the number of campuses that received waivers in 2010-11, the last school year before the Legislature dramatically reduced per-pupil funding in an effort to close a huge budget shortfall without raising taxes. Read more at http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20140702-class-size-waivers-still-rampant-in-texas-elementary-schools.ece.

TSTA: Education Commissioner wrong to allow charter expansion

The Texas State Teachers Association today rebuked State Education Commissioner Michael Williams for overturning a veto by the State Board of Education and allowing a corporate charter company from Arizona to expand into Dallas and Irving.

“It was wrong for a political appointee like Commissioner Williams to overturn the decision of elected state officials and give Great Hearts Academies a license to cherry pick students and profits from Dallas County’s public schools and Texas taxpayers,” said TSTA President Rita Haecker.

Numerous reports indicate that Great Hearts has a history of skipping over Hispanic, black and low-income students when it fills its classrooms. In fact, Anglo students make up a majority of students enrolled in Great Hearts classrooms in predominantly Hispanic Phoenix.

“An appointed commissioner should not force Texans to enrich a corporation insensitive to the needs of the majority of Texas school children,” Haecker concluded.

July 1, 2014

Education Austin leader takes spotlight at NEA Annual Meeting

Montserrat Garibay, vice president of Education Austin, spoke at the Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women in Denver June 29; it’s part of the NEA Annual Meeting (http://neatoday.org/2014/06/30/nea-activists-vow-to-continue-fight-for-social-justice). She also will be on stage for the Empowered Educators Day, which will be live streamed July 2 at http://www.gpsnetwork.org/welcome/ra2014.

June 30, 2014

Harris v. Quinn ruling creates uncertainty

In a 5-4 ruling in Harris v. Quinn today, the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated agency fee arrangements for Illinois home healthcare workers. Harris v. Quinn was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a political group that seeks to weaken the power of working people.

At issue in the case was whether non-union members could reap the wages, benefits, and protections negotiated in a collectively bargained contract without needing to pay their fair share. 

“Quality public services, economic stability, and prosperity start with strong unions, but today the Supreme Court of the United States created a roadblock on that path to the American Dream. This ruling jeopardizes a proven method for raising the quality of home health care services —- namely, allowing home health care workers to join together in a strong union that can bargain for increased wages, affordable health care, and increased training,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said. “Every educator who enjoys the benefits and protections of a negotiated contract should, in fairness, contribute to maintaining the contract. And fair share simply makes sure that all educators share the cost of negotiations for benefits that all educators enjoy, regardless of whether they are association members.”

Read more at http://neatoday.org/2014/06/30/with-harris-ruling-supreme-court-silences-voices-of-working-families. 

June 24, 2014

TSTA: Abbott playing politics with school finance

The Texas State Teachers Association today applauded the visiting judge’s decision to deny Attorney General Greg Abbott’s attempt to get state District Judge John Dietz removed from the school finance lawsuit.

“As an impartial judge has clearly pointed out, Greg Abbott’s clumsy attempt to remove Judge Dietz was a frivolous, political attempt to delay judgment on an unconstitutional school funding system. The school children of Texas need an attorney general and a governor who will fight for adequate and fair education funding, not someone who will defend school budget cuts and shortchange Texas’ future,” said TSTA President Rita Haecker.

Read more in an Austin American-Statesman report here: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/judge-dietz-can-stay-on-school-finance-case/ngRJq

Volunteer for a TSTA Committee

TSTA relies on member volunteers to serve on its governing committees. There are three standing committees: Legislative, PAC (Political Advocacy), and Credentials, Bylaws and Elections. In addition, there are the following non-standing committees: ESP, Special Education, Communications and Community Outreach, Governance and Compliance, School Board Policies, Member Advocacy, and Teaching Profession.

The TSTA President Elect has begun the appointment process for 2014-15. All members are eligible to serve. If you are interested in a committee appointment, please contact Neocha Campbell at neochac@tsta.org by July 11. Please indicate your particular area of interest and give a brief explanation of why you would like to serve on a TSTA Governance Committee. Please contact the Center for Executive and Governance at 877-ASK-TSTA if you have any questions.

TEA advises districts of Community and Student Engagement deadline

The Texas Education Agency has advised all school districts and charters of the summer deadlines to submit locally-assigned performance ratings.

Under House Bill 5 (passed last year by the 83rd Texas Legislature), all districts are required to evaluate the district’s performance and the performance of each campus in regard to community and student engagement. Districts must assign one of four performance ratings – Exemplary, Recognized, Acceptable or Unacceptable – to the district and each campus for overall performance, including the following categories:

  • Fine arts;
  • Wellness and physical education;
  • Community and parental involvement;
  • 21st Century Workforce Development program;
  • Second language acquisition program;
  • Digital learning environment;
  • Dropout prevention strategies; and
  • Educational programs for gifted and talented students.

House Bill 5 requires a local committee or committees to determine the criteria that the district uses to evaluate and assign performance ratings and to evaluate the district’s compliance with statutory reporting and policy requirements. The Texas Education Agency will begin collecting information regarding locally-assigned district and campus community and student engagement ratings beginning in late June.

While districts must assign locally-determined performance ratings for the district and all campuses in the district, ratings are not required for budgeted (non-instructional) campuses, Disciplinary Alternative Education program (DAEP) campuses, Juvenile Justice Alternative Education program (JJAEP) campuses and facilities operated by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

Under House Bill 5, districts must post the ratings and compliance status for the district and each campus on the school district’s website by August 8, 2014.

The Texas Education Agency is required to report the performance ratings and compliance statuses on the TEA website no later than October 1, 2014. Please note that while TEA has reporting responsibilities under House Bill 5, the agency has no authority to provide policy guidance to districts regarding the criteria for determining the community and student engagement performance ratings and compliance statuses.

June 19, 2014

Austin member to lead Empowered Educators Day
As you know, nearly 9,000 educators will be in Denver June 26-July 6 for the NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly (RA).

The RA, the top decision-making body for our nearly 3 million members, will set Association policy for the coming year. But what happens before the RA begins on July 3?

June 29: The Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women looks at past, present, and future social justice activism. This year's theme is "Action Now: Unleashing the Power of Diversity."

June 30: Outreach to Teach has been sponsored by the NEA Student Program for 18 years. Future, current, and retired teachers, support professionals, and higher education faculty will repair, landscape, paint, clean, and decorate Denver's Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy and Valverde Elementary School.

July 1: NEA's Read Across America will host a read-in at the Denver Public Library.

July 2: Raise Your Hand - Empowered Educators Day will showcase the work of educator innovators who are leading the way for quality instruction and student success. TSTA's Montserrat Garibay, vice president of Education Austin, will join NEA President Dennis Van Roekel on stage. In the evening is the Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner.

Read more at http://www.nea.org/grants/2014-annual-meeting-agenda.html

June 18, 2014

Students protest proposed cuts in Beaumont

Through social media, flyers, and protest signs, Beaumont ISD students are fighting to save teacher jobs. While BISD administrators argued against a Texas Education Agency takeover of their district in an Austin courtroom Tuesday, students stood outside with signs about saving their teachers and their fine arts programs. 

"This is serious for us. We care about our teachers, and we don't want to lose our programs," junior Kayla Simmons said. "We know this will affect our future."

Using the hashtags #fineartsmatter and #saveBISD, students have mounted a protest that has reached from their hometown to the state Capitol.

"They probably look at our age and think 'They're just a bunch of kids,' but I think we're just people trying to make a difference," Hope Flores said.

A decision on the TEA takeover is expected Friday. "The plaintiffs in evidence tried to establish harm by demonstrating they had to do a major layoff and had a hard time filling high level jobs because of the uncertainty and low morale that looms because of the possible conservatorship," Portia Bosse, TSTA government relations specialist, said.

June 13, 2014

TSTA fighting home rule takeover of Dallas ISD

A big money effort, fueled by Houston billionaire and former Enron executive John Arnold and supported by the Dallas mayor, is trying to use home rule to pave the way for a hostile takeover of Dallas neighborhood schools. Arnold is the same hedge fund manager who is trying to destroy defined benefit pensions for teachers and public employees, along with his support for a charter takeover of New Orleans schools.

A group with a misleading name, “Save Our Public Schools (SOPS),” has secured the number of petition signatures required for the appointment of a charter commission, and the Dallas ISD School Board is appointing that commission while grappling with numerous legal problems raised by the lack of clarity in a statute that was adopted 19 years ago but has never been used.

• TSTA and NEA-Dallas have been working with the “Our Communities, Our Schools” coalition that includes the AFT Alliance, the NAACP, LULAC, and other community groups opposing home rule. TSTA staff and/or officers have attended five meetings in Dallas in support of NEA-Dallas efforts on this issue.

• TSTA has worked with NEA-Dallas to develop and distribute anti-home rule flyers and information to NEA-Dallas members and other Dallas ISD employees.

• TSTA has also alerted NEA to the need for funding should home rule go on the November ballot, and we are working with other potential funders to outline a campaign plan should one be necessary.

• TSTA is spending PAC funds for direct mail and calls in support of Joyce Freeman in the Dallas ISD District 6 School Board runoff. Freeman opposes home rule, and her opponent is supported by so-called “reformers.” Most observers see the outcome of this runoff as important to giving the home rule opposition much needed momentum.

• TSTA is considering the best timing for any appropriate legal action against the DISD home rule effort. AFT has filed suit against the appointment of a teacher member who may not have met the proper criteria for appointment, and TSTA is monitoring that action closely.

June 12, 2014

No value added model this year but... 

Texas Education Agency will not use test-based Value-Added Model (VAM) in the teacher evaluation pilot this year, but it is funding development of a statewide VAM.

This week, TEA notified us that the 20% VAM will not be scored during the pilot year for teachers in school districts participating in the teacher evaluation pilot program. However, TEA is not backing off their intention to require statewide test-based value-added modeling to be used for teacher evaluation, should the legislature give TEA that authority in the 2015 session. 

TEA locals in Cypress-Fairbanks and Pflugerville were active in their opposition to the test-based VAM being used in the TEA pilot program. Cy-Fair withdrew from the pilot and Pflugerville decided they would not use test-based value-added modeling to evaluate teachers.

At this time, if the legislature approves it, VAM scoring may not happen statewide until the fall of 2016 due to logistical problems with the modeling. TEA is contracting with SAS – a firm that has developed VAM models in Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee – for the value added modeling that would ultimately be used in the new teacher evaluation system as a condition of the federal waiver agreement under NCLB.  

TEA is using Title II federal discretionary funds to pay SAS for its services – another example of funds that could be used for other educational purposes being spent on private contractors in a business born of test-based accountability. 

TSTA has a number of specific concerns related to the directives for developing modeling that would attempt to use a VAM that scores an individual teacher, which research has consistently found to be both impossible and inappropriate. While taxpayers pay for another year of this “modeling development,” the pilot year will also be used to come up with alternative growth measures and to determine the cost of the new system.

TSTA fighting home rule takeover of Dallas ISD

A big money effort, fueled by Houston billionaire and former Enron executive John Arnold and supported by the Dallas mayor, is trying to use home rule to pave the way for a hostile takeover of Dallas neighborhood schools. Arnold is the same hedge fund manager who is trying to destroy defined benefit pensions for teachers and public employees, along with his support for a charter takeover of New Orleans schools. 

A group with a misleading name, “Save Our Public Schools (SOPS),” has secured the number of petition signatures required for the appointment of a charter commission, and the Dallas ISD School Board is appointing that commission while grappling with numerous legal problems raised by the lack of clarity in a statute that was adopted 19 years ago but has never been used.

TSTA and NEA-Dallas have been working with the “Our Communities, Our Schools” coalition that includes the AFT Alliance, the NAACP, LULAC, and other community groups opposing home rule. TSTA staff and/or officers have attended five meetings in Dallas in support of NEA-Dallas efforts on this issue. 

TSTA has worked with NEA-Dallas to develop and distribute anti-home rule flyers and information to NEA-Dallas members and other Dallas ISD employees.

TSTA has also alerted NEA to the need for funding should home rule go on the November ballot, and we are working with other potential funders to outline a campaign plan should one be necessary.

TSTA is spending PAC funds for direct mail and calls in support of Joyce Freeman in the Dallas ISD District 6 School Board runoff. Freeman opposes home rule, and her opponent is supported by so-called “reformers.” Most observers see the outcome of this runoff as important to giving the home rule opposition much needed momentum.

TSTA is considering the best timing for any appropriate legal action against the DISD home rule effort. AFT has filed suit against the appointment of a teacher member who may not have met the proper criteria for appointment, and TSTA is monitoring that action closely. 

June 11, 2014

Student loan bill fails in Senate

Partisanship has killed another important piece of legislation aimed at helping Americans who are struggling with student loan debt. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act failed to get the 60 votes needed to proceed to a floor debate. http://www.nea.org/home/59360.htm

June 10, 2014

Wrong call: teacher tenure

A California judge chooses big money over student and teachers in a landmark teacher tenure ruling.

June 9, 2014

TRS Board Increases ActiveCare Rates, Again

The TRS Board of Trustees held their long-awaited June Board Meeting on June 5-6. After two days of waiting, the Board finally revealed and approved the new rates for TRS ActiveCare and Care for the next fiscal year. read more

Here's a link to more extensive info on the new ActiveCare setup – including AC Select: http://www.trs.state.tx.us/trs_activecare/documents/ppo_rates_benefits_fy15.pdf

June 5, 2014

TSTA urges halt to increases in educator health insurance premiums, seeks legislative funding

The Texas State Teachers Association today urged the Teacher Retirement System Board of Trustees to hold the line on health insurance costs for school employees and to join TSTA in demanding that the Legislature increase the state’s share of those costs. The TRS board is expected to consider an increase in employees’ premiums for ActiveCare, the state health insurance program for teachers and other school workers, when it meets on Friday.

press release

June 3, 2014

Beaumont teachers ask state education commissioner to block layoffs

The Beaumont Teachers Association today asked the state education commissioner to block a proposed reduction in force that could cost the jobs of more than 200 teachers and other employees in the Beaumont Independent School District. press release

June 2, 2014

Tell TRS how an expected premium increase will affect you

This Friday, the TRS Board will be setting rates for ActiveCare for the next plan year.  TSTA has learned that TRS is expected to increase ActiveCare premiums again, effective next September. We have no indication about how much the premium increase might be.

It also appears likely that TRS will eliminate ActiveCare 3 and move any participants in ActiveCare 3 to ActiveCare 2. TRS will also select an HMO vendor for ActiveCare and discuss the sustainability studies for Care and ActiveCare. 

The Friday portion of the Board meeting will begin at 9:30 am and start with a public comment session.  We encourage you to attend on Friday morning to inform the Board about how premium increases are affecting you and your families, and to let them know that raising rates on active teachers is unacceptable. Please let us know if you plan to attend and comment. 

After public comments have concluded, the Board will immediately dive into the healthcare portion of the meeting. The Board meeting will be held at the TRS offices at 11th and Red River. For those of you who cannot attend the meeting, you may still monitor the meeting through the TRS webcast.

300 jobs at risk in Beaumont 

The first step in Beaumont ISD Superintendent Timothy Chargois’ plan to lay off some 300 employees was approved by the school board on May 29, in spite of a strong campaign by Beaumont Teachers Association that included a rally at the board meeting and collecting more than 1,000 signatures on a petition in one day. 

TSTA believes BISD has no legitimate reason to adopt the “financial exigency” declaration needed to cut these jobs, and we will do everything possible to prevent these layoffs.

“The problems facing Beaumont ISD are not the fault of the educators who work to provide our students with the quality education they deserve,” BTA said in a press release. “The very idea that someone could suggest firing 300 people without public hearings and input from teachers, parents, and the community is an insult to everyone who cares about our schools.”

Beaumont leaders on television: http://kfdm.com/shared/news/top-stories/stories/kfdm_live-report-teachers-protest-looming-cuts-10259.shtml

Local newspaper report: http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/article/Chargois-sets-June-date-to-notify-staff-of-layoffs-5514102.php

May 28, 2014

TSTA: Clear contrast on education in governor and lieutenant governor races

Dan Patrick’s nomination as the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor completes a GOP top-of-the-ballot ticket that is hostile to public schools, a clear contrast with the strong pro-education records of Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic nominees for governor and lieutenant governor. http://tsta.org/pressroom

May 27, 2014

BISD press release on May 26

The problems facing BISD are not the fault of the educators who work to provide our students with the quality education they deserve. However, by sending this notification on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, Dr. Chargois’ action has shown utter disrespect for the teachers and students who will pay the price should his recommendation go forward. The very idea that someone could suggest firing 300 people without public hearings and input from teachers, parents and the community is an insult to everyone who cares about our schools. The Beaumont Teachers Association will utilize every resource at our disposal to prevent this harmful proposal from taking effect while we work to find a more appropriate resolution to the problems facing BISD.

--The Executive Committee of the Beaumont Teachers Association

May 23, 2014

TRS staff recommends no premium increases

This week, the Retirees Advisory Committee of the Teacher Retirement System met to hear from staff about TRS-Care rates for FY 2015 and receive an update on the TRS-Care Sustainability Study.

Staff informed the Committee that they will be recommending to the Board that there be no premium increases for FY 2015. There may be a benefit restatement for FY 2015, but staff insisted that benefits will not change either.

Staff discussed the TRS-Care Sustainability Study, stating that they are looking at all options. The TRS-Care Fund will be facing an almost $1 billion shortfall in the next biennium, and TRS intends to ask for that amount in an exceptional item of its legislative appropriations request.

TRS, however, is looking at doing all they can to help the TRS-Care fund become solvent in the future. They are looking at a number of options, including: a pay-as-you-go system; a system where the retiree pays for all optional coverage; a defined contribution plan with a health reimbursement account that will allow retirees to shop for coverage; modifying eligibility for Care 3; and combining ActiveCare and Care. Staff will also be looking at using a combination of some of the above-listed options. The Sustainability Study should be finalized in the fall.

The full Board meets next on June 5-6, 2014.

May 20, 2014

TSTA applauds Davis debate proposal, focus on education

“Texas was made great by confident leaders who met the challenges of their times. Today, Texas is changing, and for the first time in 24 years, there is no incumbent running for Governor. Now more than ever, it is time for candidates to come out of the shadows of their campaign ads and tell us how they would meet today’s challenges and keep Texas strong," TSTA President Rita Haecker said in a statement issued today regarding Senator Wendy Davis’ proposal for six gubernatorial debates during the 2014 campaign.

“We are especially pleased with Senator Davis’ proposal to have one debate focused entirely on education, the most important responsibility of state government. Parents and educators deserve to hear the candidates debate their plans to provide educational opportunity, and that requires
more than sound bites, slogans and campaign ads.”

May 19, 2014

Stanford: Abbott education plan writes big check to failed experiment

In budget cutting session, Lege incorporates language that opens door for TEA to dramatically expand K12,Inc.

From columnist Jason Stanford: "Greg Abbott opposes universal pre-K, arguing that we should not spend tax dollars on unproven education methods. But earlier this month in rolling out the third plank of his education platform, he proposed doing even worse—spending more money on something we know doesn’t work: K12 Inc., the country’s largest online education company. We hold schools, students, and soon teachers accountable. It’s time to hold purveyors of failure accountable as well.

"Founded in 2000 with funding from convicted Wall Street felon Michael Milken, K12 Inc. has a great business model. Virtual schools cut out the expensive brick & mortar facilities and move the entire school online where students can point and click their way to a high school diploma. No schoolhouse means no light bill, no cafeteria, no janitors, and no gym teacher. Their overhead is a fraction of a neighborhood public school, but thanks to a loophole snuck into the same 2011 bill that cut funding for Texas public schools by$5.4 billion, virtual schools get funded at the same level as public schools.

"K12 Inc. might be great for its investors, but it’s horrible for its students. Everywhere virtual schools have been tried they have failed to meet minimum standards or do better than public schools, according to a report by Progress Texas. K12 Inc. is so ineffective that the NCAA announced last month that it was K12 Inc. credits would no longer count towards eligibility." Read more at http://www.chronicle-tribune.com/peru_tribune/opinion/stanford-k-inc---great-for-investors-horrible-for/article_a6c1c2ae-df84-11e3-84e3-0019bb2963f4.html.

May 15, 2014

TSTA to House Public Education Committee: a test-based “value-added measure" is not a valid measure for teacher evaluation

In a preview of what promises to be a critical organizing issue as we approach the 2015 legislative session, the House Public Education Committee met in Austin on May 14 to hear testimony regarding its interim charge requesting the committee to look into ways to improve teaching practice, including teacher evaluation.

TSTA was invited to testify on a teacher evaluation panel and provide feedback on the NCLB waiver extension currently being negotiated between the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the United States Department of Education (DOE). The waiver would be necessary to prevent local school districts from losing a portion of their federal Title I funding should the district not meet federal student performance measures. The DOE is using the waiver process to push states to use “student growth” measures as a factor in teacher evaluation, although DOE has started granting extensions to states in response to research that shows standardized test scores are not a legitimate measure for teacher evaluation.

TSTA expressed very serious reservations about the proposed evaluation system TEA has submitted to the federal Department of Education. TEA should not rush into the NCLB Waiver with test-based evaluations,
which include a “pilot” program in 72 school districts. Most troublesome is the fact that TEA indicated that they intend to push this system statewide in the 2015-16 school year, even though the data needed to analyze the pilot would not be available until August 2015, about the time school starts.

TSTA strongly encouraged legislators to slow down TEA’s rush to test-based evaluation based on a pilot that won’t be complete by the time the next legislative session is finished, citing several critical concerns.

• Research has consistently shown that student performance on standardized test scores in not a valid measure of any one teacher’s performance, and test-based evaluation should not be the basis of employment decisions. You can read the most recently published research at: http://epa.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/04/11/0162373714531851.full.pdf+html?ijkey=Uwvo4Eg6.hQHI&keytype=ref&siteid=spepa
• The proposed TEA pilot would require that a minimum of 20% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on Value Added Modeling (VAM), which means test scores - and TEA would that prefer 50% be based on test scores if they had their way.
• In fact, a 20% “floor” would allow local districts to increase the percentage of evaluation based on tests.
• The “steering committee” that was convened by TEA to devise this system included teacher representatives, including a member of TSTA who opposed the use of any VAM as an evaluation measure.

In written and oral testimony, TSTA objected to the use of a Value Added Model (VAM) that uses high stakes standardized test scores as a measure of student growth for teacher evaluation.  Such a VAM l is just that, a model, and it may not comport with what is going on in a 21st century Texas classroom.
• A test-based VAM methodology cannot control for or measure factors that cannot be tested, including the motivation to learn, family circumstances, and student health, to name just a few.
• The VAM has not yet been scientifically validated as a legitimate method for estimating the value a teacher adds to a student’s academic performance, and every VAM will have a margin of error, a potential double whammy for an unsuspecting “good teacher.”
• A policy that dictates a 20% VAM teacher evaluation component is punitive in nature, increases the high stakes nature of standardized tests, and has no intuitive or useful value to the teacher seeking information that could be used to make adjustments to improve student learning in the classroom.

Finally, TSTA believes teacher evaluation is too important to be based on an inappropriate VAM measure based on standardized tests. A meaningful teacher evaluation system should be designed to be transparent, with clear standards and positive feedback to help a teacher improve her or his craft. The complex VAM equations and the punitive nature of this model is neither supportive nor is it designed to improve teaching practice.

TSTA doubts that any VAM methodology would be transparent to all but a few practitioners on its face.  Very few educators would be able to dispute an evaluation based on the way a VAM model’s complex differential equation determined that an individual teachers was scored “below” or “well below” average, for example. To make the point in a very personal way, educators in such systems have already seen their VAM based evaluations go from award-winning to worthy of dismissal in two years, even though their teaching practice remained constant.

This fight has just begun, and TSTA will utilize every political and legal option available in our organizing efforts as we work to stop this most recent intrusion of standardized testing into the teaching and learning process. However, this is an issue where we can make a difference, working with parents and others who know that the purpose of education is not producing standardized kids.

May 13, 2014

Cy-Fair ISD withdraws from TEA teacher evaluation pilot

The Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District has withdrawn from a state pilot program that would tie teacher evaluations, in part, to student test scores. Cy-Fair had been the largest district among as many as 72 districts and charter schools that the Texas Education Agency had listed as participants in the evaluation during the 2014-15 school year. http://tsta.org/pressroom

May 9, 2014

Video: teachers write a letter to themselves on first day teaching

In honor of teacher appreciation week, SoulPancake and Edutopia asked teachers to write a letter to themselves on their first day teaching. http://youtu.be/miPYLJI247g

May 8, 2014

TSTA: Another Abbott Education proposal for a select few

Greg Abbott’s latest education proposal would continue to pick winners and losers among Texas schoolchildren, rather than giving every Texas child the resources to succeed.

“Greg Abbott’s digital learning plan is another timid proposal that would benefit only a select few of our students, much like his limited pre-K plan,” said Texas State Teachers Association President Rita Haecker.

“Texas needs leaders who are ready to meet today’s challenges and offer real educational opportunity to every child,” Haecker added. “With every proposal, candidate Abbott sounds like the same Greg Abbott who continues defending an inadequate and unfair school finance system and $5.4 billion in school budget cuts.”

May 7, 2014

Education International report: 'Getting Teacher Migration and Mobility Right'

Around the world, many teachers feel compelled to leave their home countries and pursue employment opportunities abroad. Education International’s report, “Getting Teacher Migration and Mobility Right,” is a comprehensive report of these teachers’ experiences. The report contains important information about the role that unions can play in protecting migrant teachers. 

Education International surveyed 1,358 teachers to better understand the rewards and challenges associated with teaching abroad. The study aims to identify more effective practices for international teacher migration and spotlight issues of concern such as trafficking of teachers and exploitative job recruiters.

Further information about the report and teacher migration can be accessed on the newly launched web portal, Migrant Teacher’s Rights, http://www.migrantteachersrights.org.

May 6, 2014

Tours for teachers

Global Exploration for Educators Organization (GEEO) is a 501c3 non-profit organization that runs summer professional development travel programs designed for teachers.

GEEO is offering the following travel programs for 2014: India/Nepal, Italy, Amalfi Coast, Greece, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Thailand/Laos, Cambodia, China, Turkey, Peru, New Zealand, Costa Rica, South Africa/Mozambique/Zimbabwe/Botswana, and The Galapagos Islands. The registration deadline is June 1, but space is limited and many programs will be full well before the deadline.

Educators have the option to earn graduate school credit and professional development credit while seeing the world.  The trips are 8 to 24 days in length and are designed and discounted to be interesting and affordable for teachers. GEEO provides teachers educational materials and the structure to help them bring their experiences into the classroom. The trips are open to all nationalities of K-12 and university educators and administrators, as well as retired educators. Educators are also permitted to bring along a non-educator guest.

Detailed information about each trip, including itineraries, costs, travel dates, and more can be found at www.geeo.org. GEEO can be reached 7 days a week, toll free at 1-877-600-0105 between 9AM-9PM EST.

May 5, 2014

Join in: Vine campaign for Teacher Appreciation Week

Join NEA's Vine campaign by submitting your own six-second video using the #ThankATeacher hashtag. If you’re not on Vine and don’t want to take the time to create an account, no worries — as long as you use the #ThankATeacher hashtag, you can be included your posts from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Want to participate? Here’s how:

  • Vine is a free download in the app store of all three major smartphone platforms. After installation, you'll be prompted to sign up with either your Twitter account or email address.
  • Start recording! Press the camera icon in the top-right corner of the app. Holding your finger to the screen begins recording, and releasing your finger pauses it.
  • Once you've recorded your video, press the arrow in the top-right corner of your screen and preview your finished product. If you'd like to rearrange your sequence of clips, press the Edit button and simply drag and drop your individual clips to their new places in your timeline. You can delete clips by dragging them to the top of the screen into the trashcan icon, as seen above.
  • When you're finished editing, press Save, then press the green checkmark at the bottom of your screen. You'll be brought to the Share screen where you can add a caption and the #ThankATeacher hashtag.
  • Share your Vine on your Facebook and Twitter and ask your network to #ThankATeacher.

NEA will be searching the hashtag and highlighting their favorite Vines on the NEA Today social media properties during Teacher Appreciation Week May 5-9. Be sure to “follow” them on Vine, “like” them on Facebook, and “follow” them on Twitter.Click here to see examples of what other people have done: https://vine.co/u/917198843584581632

TSTA joins Thank A Million Teachers initiative

As part of a national initiative to recognize our nation’s teachers, TSTA has joined with the Farmers Insurance family and its member 21st Century Insurance to urge America to thank teachers, present and past, for the positive impact they have had in communities across the nation. Everyone is encouraged to visit www.ThankAMillionTeachers.com to thank deserving teachers today. At that website, teachers can also submit proposals for $2,500 grants. Proposals for the next round are being accepted in May and June for public voting in July.

April 30, 2014

TSTA applauds Davis plan to reduce standardized testing (4-30-14)

TSTA President Rita Haecker applauded the announcement of Senator Wendy Davis’ “Great Standards, Great Texas” plan to reduce the emphasis on standardized testing in Texas schools.

Join the thank-a-teacher Vine campaign!

NEA’s National Teacher Day #thankateacher Vine campaign is taking off! Join in by submitting your own six-second video (instructions below) using the #ThankATeacher hashtag. If you’re not on Vine and don’t want to take the time to create an account, no worries — as long as you use the #ThankATeacher hashtag, we can include your posts from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Want to participate? Here’s how:

  • Vine is a free download in the app store of all three major smartphone platforms. After installation, you'll be prompted to sign up with either your Twitter account or email address.
  • Start recording! Press the camera icon in the top-right corner of the app. Holding your finger to the screen begins recording, and releasing your finger pauses it.
  • Once you've recorded your video, press the arrow in the top-right corner of your screen and preview your finished product. If you'd like to rearrange your sequence of clips, press the Edit button and simply drag and drop your individual clips to their new places in your timeline. You can delete clips by dragging them to the top of the screen into the trashcan icon, as seen above.
  • When you're finished editing, press Save, then press the green checkmark at the bottom of your screen. You'll be brought to the Share screen where you can add a caption and the #ThankATeacher hashtag.
  • Share your Vine on your Facebook and Twitter and ask your network to #ThankATeacher.

NEA will be searching the hashtag and highlighting their favorite Vines on the NEA Today social media properties during Teacher Appreciation Week May 5-9. Be sure to “follow” them on Vine, “like” them on Facebook, and “follow” them on Twitter.

Click here to see examples of what other people have done: https://vine.co/u/917198843584581632

April 29, 2014

Texas' high school graduation rates shine

In a study released this week by the U.S. Department of Education, only Iowa posted a higher graduation rate than Texas for the Class of 2012. Texas, with a graduation rate of 88 percent, tied for second place with Nebraska, Vermont, and Wisconsin. http://www.tea.state.tx.us/news_release.aspx?id=25769810912

April 28, 2014

Deadline extended on TELL Texas Survey

The Texas Education Agency has extended the TELL Texas survey window until May 31. While the survey is voluntary for educators, it is TEA's expectation that principals, as agents of TEA, will distribute the access codes to all licensed professional educators in their schools.

If a principal has misplaced the packet of anonymous access codes, replacement codes for the entire school can be requested by clicking on the "Need Help?" button at www.telltexas.org. The Help Desk will send the codes electronically, and they can be printed out for distribution.

If you missed the earlier notices, this  is the first statewide TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning) Texas Survey. It is your chance to tell leaders if you have the tools you need to do your job well. TSTA supports this effort and hopes members will participate.

You will be able to access the survey using a unique, anonymous access code that will be included in the materials mailed to each school the week before the survey begins. This anonymous online survey concerns teaching conditions that are important to student achievement and teacher retention, such as instructional practices and support, leadership, facilities and resources, community engagement, professional development, managing student conduct, and new teacher support.

The TELL Texas Survey is funded as part of HB2012, which requires the commissioner of education to develop an online teaching and learning conditions survey to be administered statewide biennially to teachers, principals, counselors, and other school-based professional staff. Results will be reported approximately five weeks after the close of the survey window and will be available for schools and districts to use in campus and district improvement planning.

The survey is administered by the New Teacher Center, a national organization dedicated to supporting the development of a high-quality teaching force. The Center has conducted similar surveys in other states, and since 2009 has heard from more than one million educators.

April 23, 2014

TSTA: Abbott continues to tinker while education needs grow

While Texas continues to shortchange public education, Greg Abbott continues to tinker with selective programs that would benefit only a few of Texas’ 5 million schoolchildren. http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/20140423_Abbott_tinker.pdf

Thank an ESP this week!

Today we celebrate the contributions of administrative professionals. http://educationvotes.nea.org/2014/04/23/thank-an-education-support-professional-on-administrative-professionals-day/

April 21, 2014

Going to the Emerging Leaders Conference this July?

It's one of TSTA's most popular events! Mark your calendar for July 19-21 at the Austin Airport Hilton Hotel, and watch the Emerging Leaders page on Facebook for the latest details. http://www.facebook.com/tstael2014

April 15, 2014

Hear Wendy Davis speaking at the convention!

A new video clip features Sen. Wendy Davis, TSTA's endorsed candidate for governor, speaking at the TSTA House of Delegates about her opponent's plan for Texas four-year-olds. It's six minutes long but worth it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7f_lDFGtPMY&list=UU_qv082qWYDnaNts0gduk2Q&feature=share 

April 14, 2014

Davis, Van de Putte address TSTA Convention

The TSTA House of Delegates, meeting April 11-12 in San Marcos, elected new officers and heard from Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, the pro-education candidates TSTA is backing for governor and lieutenant governor.

Noel Candelaria was elected the new TSTA president and Ovidia Molina, vice president. Both will take office on July 15. Linda Estrada was elected to the NEA Board of Directors.

Davis and Van de Putte re-emphasized their commitment to public schools, educators and students, including their support of strong pre-K programs and opposition to excessive standardized testing.

“Everyday heroes, that’s who you are,” Davis told the delegates. She repeated her call for Texas teachers to be paid at least the national average (Texas teachers are now paid about $7,000 below that) and outlined her plan to encourage Texas’ best students to enter the teaching profession.
Van de Putte, who chairs the state Senate Education Committee and comes from a family of educators, vowed to fight privatization of public schools and assured delegates that, as lieutenant governor, she would continue to place a high value on education professionals.

“Teaching is what will keep Texas strong,” she said.

TSTA President Rita Haecker, making her last address to a House of Delegates convention, recounted her successes during six years as TSTA’s leader, including the recruitment of more than 30,000 new members and establishing a “pipeline” for training and developing new leaders.
“Our members join us to create a better world, a better world for themselves and their students,” Haecker said.

Candelaria, who has been TSTA vice president since July 2011, is former president of the Ysleta Teachers Association and a former special education teacher in Ysleta ISD. He said he is “ready to lead the members of TSTA, organize all educators who teach our 5 million students and urge our students’ parents to join us in helping to shape a quality public education system in Texas.”

Molina is a TSTA Advisory Board member, vice chair of the TSTA/NEA Hispanic Caucus, Region 3B president, treasurer of Alief-TSTA/NEA and former president of Alief-TSTA/NEA.  She is a teacher in Alief ISD.

Estrada is a member of the TSTA Board of Directors and Advisory Committee, chair of the TSTA ESP Committee and president of Donna TSTA/NEA. She is employed by Donna ISD.

Please visit TSTA's Flickr album to see photos of this weekend's meetings, including the speeches by Sens. Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, and Sunday's ESP Conference. https://www.flickr.com/photos/tstapublicaffairs/sets

TSTA recognizes the best

At TSTA’s state convention last weekend, the Ronnie Ray ESP Advocate of the Year Award was presented to Bobbie Cunningham, a custodian at Cypress Springs High School in Cypress Fairbanks ISD. Watch a video at http://youtu.be/Jywoz_tc2SA.

Monica Washington, the Texas Teacher of the Year, won the Ermalee Boice Instructional Advocacy Award. There was an article about her in your Winter 2013 Advocate.

Social Justice Awards were presented to El Paso Teachers Association for its two-day community forum to discuss problems in the district and work on solutions; to Education Austin for a wide range of projects, including efforts to stop charters, keep a school open, and support immigrant students; and Ruben Cortez, who has worked as a member of the State Board of Education to stop vouchers and privatization.

TSTA’s Pride in Communications Awards recognize outstanding communication efforts by local or regional associations. Edgewood Classroom Teachers Association won the award for best newsletter; Cy Fair TSTA/NEA won best website; and Lubbock Educators Association won best electronic newsletter.

Membership Awards went to Laredo United, Southwest Educators Association, Alice Local Association, NEA-Dallas, and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah (one award each); Lubbock Educators Association (two awards); Edinburg Local Association, Del Valle Education Association, New Caney Local Association, and Socorro Education Association (three awards); and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo TSTA Professional Association (four awards).

School Bell awards went to Alex Hinojosa, Andrew Kreighbaum, and Robert Moore, El Paso Times; Mark Wiggins, KVUE-TV, Austin; Terrence Stutz, The Dallas Morning News; Morgan Smith, Texas Tribune; Natalie Gross, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal; Ericka Mellon, Houston Chronicle; O. Ricardo Pimentel, San Antonio Express-News; and Sandra Sanchez, The Monitor.

Congratulations to all!

April 13, 2014

Photos: TSTA Convention and ESP Conference

Please visit TSTA's Flickr album to see photos of this weekend's meetings, including the speeches by Sens. Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, our endorsed candidates for governor and lieutenant governor. https://www.flickr.com/photos/tstapublicaffairs/sets

April 10, 2014

SBOE members visit TSTA Board meeting

TSTA Board members, who are meeting in San Marcos today prior to the House of Delegates, were visited by State Board of Education members Marisa Perez, Marta Dominguez, and Ruben Cortez, the three who spearheaded passage of a motion to develop Mexican American, African American, Native American, and Asian American studies textbooks.

April 9, 2014

TSTA member named HEB finalist

Congratulations to Nicholas Solis, a TSTA member at Hillcrest Elementary in Austin. Nicholas is a finalist in the HEB Excellence in Education Awards competition. See www.facebook.com/HEBExcellenceinEducationAwards

April 8, 2014

Nominate your outstanding school volunteers

The State Board of Education is now accepting nominations for the 2014 Heroes for Children Award. This annual award recognizes public school volunteers who have been strong advocates for Texas schoolchildren.

Volunteers may be nominated by individual persons or by organizations; forms must be received by 5 p.m. May 30. The State Board of Education will select one hero from each of the 15 State Board of Education districts. Heroes will be honored during the board's September meeting. Educational employees, elected government officials, and organizations are not eligible to be nominated. The application form is available at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=4140.

April 7, 2014

Davis, Van de Putte to address TSTA House of Delegates

TSTA's House of Delegates will meet Friday, April 11 and Saturday, April 12 at the Embassy Suites in San Marcos. Delegates will elect new TSTA officers, and at mid-day on Saturday, gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis and lieutenant governor candidate Leticia Van de Putte will address delegates and guests.

TSTA: Abbott Pre-K would help only a select few

At a news conference, TSTA President Rita Haecker delivered a strong rebuttal to an early childhood education plan proposed by Greg Abbott that would exclude thousands of Texas school children while inviting unproven private operators to run some pre-K programs. Wendy Davis, TSTA's choice for governor, is supporting universal pre-K programs for every eligible Texas child.

Press release: Pre-kindergarten works for children; Abbott doesn't

Press release: Abbott hypocritical on early childhood education

April 4, 2014

TSTA supports Mexican American Studies course curriculum

The TSTA Board voted unanimously to support an initiative, which the State Board of Education will consider next week, to create a Mexican American Studies course curriculum as a new high school elective. In light of past efforts by some SBOE members to remove Hispanic and African American leaders such as Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall from the social studies curriculum, TSTA views this course as a first step toward recognizing the diversity of our state, and particularly our student population. Ysleta ISD recently adopted a Mexican American Studies curriculum and El Paso ISD is considering a similar proposal.

Currently, the majority of Texas K-12 students are Hispanic, but the sponsors and supporters of this Mexican American Studies course hope this ultimately will lead to the creation of additional courses related to African American and Asian American studies, which would better prepare Texas students to work and prosper in our great and diverse state for generations to come.

March 31, 2014

TSTA:  Abbott hypocritical on early childhood education

TSTA President Rita Haecker said it was hypocritical for Greg Abbott to claim to support early childhood education while continuing to defend in court $5.4 billion in school funding cuts, including almost $200 million from pre-kindergarten programs.

“When it comes to providing educational opportunity for the children who need it most, Greg Abbott’s actions speak a lot louder than his words,” Haecker said. “If Greg Abbott really cared about improving early learning opportunities for Texas children, he would stop defending $200 million cut from pre-kindergarten programs and stop promoting a budget plan that would shortchange public education.”

“Early learning opportunities are particularly crucial for children in the Rio Grande Valley, and hypocritical lip service adds up to nothing for them,” Haecker added. “The schools in the Valley have been neglected for too long by people like Greg Abbott, but we can change that this year. We need a governor like Wendy Davis, who fought the budget cuts and has a plan to ensure access to full-day pre-kindergarten for every eligible Texas child.”

March 28, 2014

House Public Ed holds first interim hearing

The House Public Education Committee held its first interim hearing this week in Austin with six panels of invited testimony regarding the implementation of HB 5 (83R) and recommendations for improvement; from Texas Education Agency, the State Board of Education, and public and higher education stakeholders to ensure the creation of additional rigorous mathematics and science courses needed to address the current and projected needs of the state's workforce; and to review the broad scope and breadth of the current TEKS in the tested grades, including the format, testing calendar, and the limitation on instructional days available.  The committee invited recommendations for streamlining the assessment of TEKS and focus on core concepts, and asked for review of current federal testing requirements in grades 3-8 to determine if testing relief is possible.

Testimony from district administrators explained to the committee that currently most districts are only able to offer two of the endorsements of the five passed last session, the multidisciplinary endorsement being the most common.   It was also expressed from a number of the invited guests that testified on HB 5 implementation that more guidance is needed to equip counselors with the tools to help students decide on the individual graduation plans and more counselors are necessary.

It was also reported from TEA staff that 76% of students are on track to graduate in 2015, but 24% of students have failed at least one of the five end of course STAAR exams needed for a high school diploma.

With regard to the Algebra II debate, the Commissioner of Higher Education, Raymund Paredes, cautioned the committee that if a student wants to go to university, the student better take four years of math in high school.  

Finally, a number of guests and public testimony stressed the necessity to amend the TEKS requirements in all grades.  It was noted that due to the cumbersome nature of the TEKS it is difficult for teachers to get through all the requirements in any given school year for any given course and grade.  

The Senate Committee on Education has its first interim hearing on April 14, 2014.

March 26, 2014

Taxpayers subsidize private school tuition

Taxpayers in 14 states will spend nearly $1 billion this year subsidizing tuition for private schools, including many religious schools that teach creationism, an alternative the U.S. Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional
for teaching in public schools, according to a new media report. http://www.tsta.org/grading-texas

Texas ranks 46th in per-pupil spending

Texas will spend an average of $8,998 per student this school year, well below the national average of $11,674. We rank 46th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday, drawing on data from the National Education Association. http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20140325-texas-improves-school-funding-but-still-trails-most-states.ece

Retirees gain organizing skills at NEA conference

Training retired members to organize their communities to advance the cause of public education. That's the purpose of the NEA-Retired Organizing Conference, which this year was held at Houston's Westin Galleria Hotel on March 25-27. It included national speakers, skill development, knowledge building, and great opportunities to network with peers. See http://www.nea.org/retired for more about NEA-Retired.

March 24, 2014

TELL Texas Survey opens soon

The first statewide TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning) Texas Survey will be administered April 7 – May 5. This is your chance to tell leaders if you have the tools you need to do your job well. TSTA supports this effort and hopes members will participate.

You will be able to access the survey using a unique, anonymous access code that will be included in the materials mailed to each school the week before the survey begins. This anonymous online survey concerns teaching conditions that are important to student achievement and teacher retention, such as instructional practices and support, leadership, facilities and resources, community engagement, professional development, managing student conduct, and new teacher support.

The TELL Texas Survey is funded as part of HB2012, which requires the commissioner of education to develop an online teaching and learning conditions survey to be administered statewide biennially to teachers, principals, counselors, and other school-based professional staff. Results will be reported approximately five weeks after the close of the survey window and will be available for schools and districts to use in campus and district improvement planning.

The survey is administered by the New Teacher Center, a national organization dedicated to supporting the development of a high-quality teaching force. The Center has conducted similar surveys in other states, and since 2009 has heard from more than one million educators.

Go to www.telltexas.org for more information.

March 20, 2014

Now online: campus-based emergency toolkit

The Texas School Safety Center has developed a campus-based emergency toolkit, which provides guidance on the training all students, staff, and visitors need to respond to emergencies.

March 19, 2014

FAQs on the new graduation plan

May a course satisfy both a foundation and an endorsement requirement? If a specific course can be taught for more than one credit, how will the credit be applied to the new graduation requirements? The Texas Education Agency has posted the answers to these and other questions about the new graduation requirements; click on “Foundation High School Program FAQs — March 2014” at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=25769806149.

March 10, 2014

TSTA: Texas women deserve equal pay and a governor who will advocate for it

Today, the Texas State Teachers Association challenged Attorney General Greg Abbott to explain why he is content to see Texas women continue to be paid, on average, about 80 cents for every dollar a man earns in the same job. http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/20140310EqualPay.pdf

February 28, 2014

Photos from the Read Across America tour

TSTA Vice President Noel Candelaria took some great shots of NEA's national Catavan tour, which kicked off in Texas this week at Rivas Elementary in Donna. Other photos are from Jefferson Elementary in Edinburg, Milton and Muller Elementaries in Laredo, and Spicewood Park (Southwest ISD) and Vestal (Harlandale ISD) Elementaries in San Antonio. See them in our Flickr album at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tstapublicaffairs/sets/72157641474532525.

We are experiencing problems with our Flickr account, but the photos from Austin's Metz Elementary and Del Valle's Hillcrest Elementary should be up by the end of the day.

What are you doing to celebrate?

Here's what Socorro Education Association is doing for Read Across America, NEA's national celebration of reading: http://www.sisd.net/Page/33577.

February 25, 2014

Education Austin wins three-year contracts

In a resounding victory for Education Austin and Austin ISD students, the local school board voted 5-4 last night to restore teachers' three-year contracts. More than 100 Education Austin members pleaded for stability for students and their teachers, chanting, “Here is our plea: Give us three!” and wearing bright red stickers that said simply "3." State funding cuts to public education prompted AISD to switch from three-year to one-year contracts in 2011. Read more: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/austin-teachers-rally-for-3-year-contracts-its-a-r/ndbLb.

Links to news coverage: 

National reading campaign kicks off in Valley

From the Monitor: More than 300 elementary students donned floppy red-and-white striped hats Monday as they sat in their school’s gym and listened to a diverse lineup of speakers promoting the virtues of habitual reading. But even before the program at Jefferson Elementary in Edinburg — which included readings of the Dr. Seuss favorites Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, and a “reader’s oath,” led by state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg — the National Education Association kicked off a three-week nationwide tour with an appearance at another Hidalgo County elementary school. 

NEA's Read Across America kicks off in South Texas

From NEA Today: Life in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas is relatively quiet. It’s a family-oriented area, where much of the excitement surrounds local football or basketball games. On Monday, Feb. 24, however, students from two elementary schools in Hidalgo County received a special treat from local, state and national guests, who read books from the beloved author Dr. Seuss. The event was part of the 17th anniversary of the National Education Association’s award-winning Read Across America literacy program. http://neatoday.org/2014/02/25/nea%E2%80%99s-read-across-america-kicks-off-in-south-texas

February 24, 2014

It's time for Read Across America!

Your TSTA officers and NEA Executive Committee member Princess Moss are in the Rio Grande Valley today with Thing 1 and Thing 2 to kick off NEA’s annual nationwide celebration of reading.

"We're so excited that NEA chose to come to South Texas for RAA's kickoff," Ruben Cortez, Jr., a member of the State Board of Education, said. "We're working to bridge the literacy and opportunity gaps and excited to see the progress at M. Rivas."

Rivas Elementary in Donna was the tour’s first stop; in the afternoon, the group visited Jefferson Elementary in Edinburg, where Thing 1 and Thing 2 read in the school gym.
On Tuesday, the Catavan will visit Milton Elementary in Laredo and Muller Elementary in Laredo United, and on Wednesday it travels to San Antonio with stops at Spicewood Park Elementary in Southwest ISD and Vestal Elementary in Harlandale ISD. The tour ends Thursday with Metz Elementary in Austin and Hillcrest Elementary in Del Valle ISD. Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tstapublicaffairs/sets/72157641474532525/

Austin to vote on three-year contracts

The Austin ISD Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote Monday whether to extend the length of teacher contracts, after the district and the teacher’s union, Education Austin, declared an impasse over the issue last month. Read the rest of the story at http://kut.org/post/austin-school-board-weigh-three-year-teacher-contracts.

February 21, 2014

Faculty group sues over Brownsville job losses

The Texas Faculty Association (TFA) on Thursday filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Brownsville against the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) and Texas Southmost College (TSC) on behalf of three former faculty members who were illegally terminated after the two schools dissolved their joint operating arrangement.

TFA, the higher education affiliate of the Texas State Teachers Association and the National
Education Association, acted on behalf of plaintiffs Juan Antonio Gonzalez, Dorothy Boven
and Karen Fuss-Sommer, who were tenured faculty members at UTB and TSC when they
were dismissed. All live in Brownsville.

Filed by TSTA staff counsel Russell Ramirez, the lawsuit contends the three, all older than
40, were terminated in violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act
(ADEA) and University ofTexas System rules. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Boven
was denied equal pay under federal law because, while still employed, she taught a fifth
class for which she was not paid while male faculty members were paid for teaching a fifth

"When faculty rights are violated, we are going to defend them," said TFA Executive
Director Mary Aldridge Dean. "Tenure is a property right, and it is not to be taken without
good cause or due process, and these individuals were denied both."

The three plaintiffs were granted tenure by Texas Southmost College and were retained by
the University of Texas at Brownsville as tenured faculty after the two schools merged in
1992. “Tenure denotes a status of continuing appointment as a member of the faculty at an
institution of The University of Texas System pursuant to The University of Texas System
Rules and Regulations," the lawsuit states.

But when UTB and TSC separated in 2012, the three were terminated under a provost's
charge that gave non-tenured faculty members priority over tenured faculty with master's

The suit alleges:

# The priority given non-tenured faculty members "had a disparate impact on faculty
members who are over 40 years of age" because most tenured faculty, including the
plaintiffs, are older than 40. The designation was an "artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary
barrier to employment."

# The plaintiffs' academic programs and academic positions weren't eliminated. The
plaintiffs were terminated, and the defendants sought new applicants for their positions.

# The plaintiffs were not terminated for performance, good cause or because of a financial
exigency. "Defendants had no bona fide academic reason to terminate Plaintiffs'
employment" under UT rules.

The lawsuit contends the plaintiffs have suffered a "substantial loss" of income and
benefits, including retirement benefits and health and life insurance policies, as well as
"damage to both their professional and personal reputation." It seeks reinstatement of the
plaintiffs to their former positions with tenure, back pay and other benefits, court costs and
reasonable attorney's fees and exemplary damages "sufficient to punish the Defendants
and deter future similar conduct."

Named as defendants, in their official capacities, are UTB President Juliet Garcia, UTB
Provost Alan F.J. Artibise and TSC President Lily F. Tercero.

Contact Mary Aldridge Dean, Executive Director, Texas Faculty Association at

February 20, 2014

TSTA calls on Abbott to settle school finance suit

The Texas State Teachers Association today called on Attorney General Greg Abbott to settle the school finance lawsuit on terms favorable to Texas schoolchildren. According to a tweet by Texas Tribune reporter Morgan Smith, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said a school finance settlement was up to the attorney general. “If we can find a fair way to settle it, that’s great,” Dewhurst was quoted as saying.

“There is nothing fair about Greg Abbott’s continued defense of the $5.4 billion in education cuts that were imposed by David Dewhurst and the legislative majority in 2011,” said TSTA President Rita Haecker.

Although the Legislature restored part of the cut funding last year, school districts are still operating with far less state aid than they received prior to the devastating cuts. Meanwhile, enrollment has increased by about one-quarter of a million students, while Abbott continues to waste tax dollars defending an indefensible, unconstitutional system.

“Even Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, who helped engineer the deep cuts, is passing the school finance buck to an attorney general who has refused to do what is fair for our children and their teachers,” Haecker concluded.

February 19, 2014

Early voting underway – know what you need to vote under voter ID law

TSTA works closely with organizations that work to protect every citizen’s right to vote. Thanks to Empower the Vote Texas and Progress Texas, there is a website - http://www.gotidtexas.org/ - that provides all the information you need to make sure you are able to vote and have your vote count. Please remember to vote and share this useful information with your members.

Wendy Davis Announces “Great Start” Plan for Early Childhood Education

Senator Wendy Davis has once again demonstrated that education is her priority by announcing her “Great Start, Great Texas” plan last week in Houston and San Antonio. She was joined in San Antonio by Senators Leticia Van de Putte and Carlos Uresti and Mayor Julian Castro. Davis’ plan emphasizes pre-K expansion, developing reading skills, and providing additional support for teachers and teacher’s aides. Earlier this year, Davis announced her “Great Teachers, Great Texas” plan. TSTA Vice President Noel Candelaria, Harlandale Education Association President Cathy Stein and San Antonio Alliance President Shelley Potter were present at the San Antonio event, which was held at Leal Middle School in Harlandale ISD.

TSTA Leaders Take Case for Affordable health Care to TRS Board meeting

On Wednesday, February 12, 2014, TSTA leaders took our “Fair Share” health care campaign to the TRS board meeting in Corpus Christi, and made quite a powerful impression there, bringing some Board members to tears. TSTA Vice President Noel Candelaria, San Marcos Education Association President Susan Seaton, Del Valle Education Association (DVEA) President Michelle Cardenas, DVEA members Katie Plemmons and Brenda Dominguez, and Killeen Education Association President Stacy Stoll made the trip to the Corpus Christi meeting, capping off a week of action that began with a successful press event help by Region 2D leaders in Austin the previous Saturday. TSTA leaders and staff worked together and we are off to a great start in our efforts to demand health care affordable for educators and all educational employees. Photos and videos of the testimony can be found on our YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook pages (see icons at the bottom of the home page).

REMEMBER to VOTE. EARLY VOTING continues through February 28 and Primary Election Day is March 4.

SBEC meeting largely uneventful

As in the past, there was a plethora of hearings at last week's State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) meeting.


• The four-year review for 19 TAC Chapter 247 (Educators’ Code of Ethics) will begin at the August SBEC meeting.  This chapter establishes definitions, ethics, and standards of practices for Texas Educators. 

• On 04 April 2014, SBEC will conduct a planning retreat to address, among other things, its legislative agenda for the upcoming legislative session, prioritize SBEC policies, and review the process for disposing of disciplinary actions.

Action items:

SBEC approved

• Approved professional development requirements for teachers, principals, and counselors to align with state statute.  The requirement places a 25% rule on the number of continuing education requirements necessary to meet the 150 hours required for certificate renewal.  The 25% mandate would apply to professional development an educator decided to seek on their own and the educator would have the onus of responsibility to keep track of the hours.

• New TExES Generalist EC-6 and Generalist 4-8 Examinations, which include a two-year overlap to facilitate the transition to the new examinations.  The overlap allows pre-certification candidates to finish their requirements under the current program by 2016.

It was reiterated that pre-certification candidates must pass each core subject of an examination to get a passing score on the overall examination. 

• The transitional provisions, which are necessary to clarify the years for the standards of performance for certification examinations.  The baselines date is the 2012-13 academic year.

• Amended language relative to the Personnel Assignments that address Career-Technology Education, Information Technology, Special Education Counseling Services; and Administrators and other Instructional and Professional Support Assignments.

The proposed rule also clarifies language as to the hiring of professional support personnel who require other professional licenses (e.g. Audiologist, School, Psychologist).  An assignment as a Speech-Language Pathologist is allowed pursuant to the Texas Occupational Code 140.054

• A rule to align with HB 798 that allows the Texas Occupation Code to define the types of misdemeanor convictions that may be pursued under the TOC.  The adopted rule would not minimize the authority of SBEC in disciplinary hearing and actions.

• The authorization of the rule review process for Chapters 227 (Provisions for Educator Preparation Candidates); 228 (Requirements for Educator Preparation Programs); and 229 (Accountability System for Educator Preparation Programs). -- Bryan Weatherford, Teaching & Learning

February 18, 2014

What do you need to vote?

The Got ID Texas? website will explain what documents you 'll need to vote and how to get them. http://www.gotidtexas.org/

February 14, 2014

TRS update

At its meeting this week in Corpus Christi, the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Board picked a new Health Plan Administrator for ActiveCare, Aetna. The board also decided to choose a new Pharmacy Benefits Manager, CVS/Caremark.

The board also discussed the process they will undertake to prepare for the next legislative session, which commences on January 13, 2015. In July of this year, the board will approve TRS’ legislative appropriations request (LAR). In August, TRS will submit its LAR to the Governor’s office and the Legislative Budget Board (LBB). In September, the Governor’s office and the LBB will hold joint hearings on the LARs of all state agencies, and in November, the LBB will adopt the spending limit.

TRS has made the following assumptions for its LAR:

• Member contribution rate: 6.7% in FY ’15; 7.2% in FY ’16; and 7.7% in FY ‘17
• State pension contribution rate: 6.8%
• Local pension contribution rate: 1.5%
• State contribution rate for TRS-Care: 1.0%

TRS will also ask for $1 billion for TRS-Care in an exceptional item.

State funding for the TRS health plans will be of primary importance next legislative session. Stay tuned for more TRS updates. The next board meeting will occur in Austin on March 27 & 28. -- report from John Grey

February 13, 2014

TRS report: TSTA leaders launch “Fair Share” health care campaign

On Wednesday, February 12, TSTA leaders took our “Fair Share” health care campaign to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) board meeting in Corpus Christi, where they made quite an impression on the TRS Board. Vice President Noel Candelaria and several TSTA local leaders from Central Texas Region 2D made the trip to the meeting, capping off a week of action that began with a press event last Saturday in Austin.

The TSTA leaders addressed the board prior to the Town Hall Meeting, driving home the detrimental effects that TRS insurance premium increases have on our members. TSTA was the only education association represented by active teachers and educational employees at the board meeting, and that made quite an impact on the board.

Vice President Candelaria spoke as the TSTA Association representative and stated:

“As you heard earlier today from several of our members, the recent premium increases for TRS ActiveCare have caused severe financial hardship. Many of our members received no salary increases during the last three years, only to be given a marginal pay raise this year that was swallowed up by these premium increases. So it’s no secret that our members are suffering financially.”

Several TSTA local leaders took time off to drive to Corpus Christi and formally address the board during the early morning public comment period. San Marcos Education Association President Susan Seaton, Del Valle Education Association President Michelle Cardenas and members Katie Plemmons and Brenda Dominguez, and Killeen Education Association President Stacy Stoll all made powerful presentations to the board, bringing several board members to tears. They relayed personal stories of how high health care premiums were causing financial devastation for some of our members. They also asked the board to consider their actions in relation to the everyday lives of public school employees.

Susan, Michelle, Stacy, Katy, and Brenda also presented the TRS board with a large Valentine, asking TRS to “Have a Heart” when it comes to premium increases. The Valentine also contained thousands of petition signatures asking for lower premiums. Chairman David Kelly came from behind the table, over to our local leaders, accepted the Valentine, and thanked them for their commitment to their profession.

TSTA leaders expressed our appreciation that the Board will not raise premiums now, in the middle of the school year, and asked that the Board do everything possible to prevent another premium increase in the next school year.

TSTA also asked the TRS Board to join us in asking for additional funding from the legislature for ActiveCare and TRS Care. The legislature has not increased the minimum state contribution to TRS ActiveCare in over a decade, while the cost of health care has skyrocketed. Employees now carry 57 percent of the burden for their own health coverage, and many cannot afford to keep the coverage levels they need.

TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie stated that TRS has the responsibility to properly educate our elected officials at the legislature so that they can make the right decision on health care funding.

In addition to addressing the TRS Board, our TSTA leaders also addressed the press who were covering the meeting, a great follow up to the press coverage garnered the previous Saturday at the Austin press conference that featured the many of the same Central Texas leaders.

Thanks to Noel, Susan, Stacy, Michelle, Katy, and Brenda for their incredible efforts.  This week, we saw what can be done when TSTA leaders and staff work together as we kicked off the “Fair Share” health care campaign and prepare to take it statewide to local school boards and the legislature.

February 12, 2014

TSTA to TRS Board: hold the line on teacher health care premiums, support legislative action

TSTA today urged the TRS Board to hold the line on health care premiums for educational employees and join educators in asking the legislature for the first increase in the state contribution for educators’ health insurance in over a decade. TRS administers TRS-ActiveCare, a health insurance program that provides health insurance coverage in most Texas school districts.

“Recent TRS insurance premium increases have caused severe financial hardship for many school employees,” said TSTA Vice President Noel Candelaria, who addressed the TRS Board at their meeting in Corpus Christi. “It’s time for the state to step up and do its fair share for Texans who teach and care for our children every day at our neighborhood schools.”

Candelaria cited TSTA’s recent moonlighting survey – done by professors at Sam Houston State – that found that 44 percent of Texas teachers take a second job during the school year just to make ends meet.

“One of our members told us he had to take a second job just to pay for health insurance,” Candelaria observed. “Texas educators, who are already underpaid, should not have to suffer financially in order to secure health insurance for their families.”

He said TSTA was pleased that the Board will not raise premiums now, in the middle of the school year, and asked that the TRS Board do everything possible to prevent another premium increase in the next school year. “Health expenditures have increased dramatically in the past decade, but during that same time the legislature has not increased the state contribution for educational employees’ health coverage one dime,” Candelaria said, noting that ten years ago, educational employee contributions accounted for 32 percent of TRS-ActiveCare costs, compared to a 57 percent share today.

“We want the very best for our children, and we can’t keep the best teachers and educational employees in our schools if we keep forcing them to shoulder the burden of rising health care costs and budget cuts,” Candelaria concluded.

Watch videos of our members testifying today at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkHA9tlHv0EYFK6h9hsm-aUJOYWMsZ7b8!

Webinar on Defered Action for Childhood Arrivals is Feb. 26

You’re invited to a webinar for educators entitled "How to Support Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) & Undocumented Students."

More than half a million young people have taken advantage of DACA, a program that allows them to stay in the United States without fear of being deported. Many more are eligible to apply but need help to complete the process. DACA, created by President Obama in June 2012, offers young people who were born abroad but raised here a way to stay in the United States and pursue their dreams of giving back to the country they call home.

Please join two of the nation's foremost advocates for DREAMERS and experts on DACA for a webinar for educators who want to help students through the DACA process. Join us online on Wednesday, February 26  at 5:00 p.m. PST / 8:00PM EST for this special program.

WHO: Immigration Advocates Network
National Education Association
National Immigration Law Center
Own the Dream

WHEN: Wednesday, February 26
Pacific Time: 5:00PM to 6:00PM
Eastern Time: 8:00PM to 9:00PM

WHERE: Webinar and Conference Call

RSVP: http://bit.ly/DACAwebinarRSVP

MORE INFO: http://bit.ly/DACAwebinar-info
Delia Garcia: dgarcia@nea.org
Monica Thammarath: mthammarath@nea.org

February 11, 2014

Petition for National Day of Service for Chavez

The NEA Board last weekend supported the petition calling for a National Day of Service in honor of Cesar Chavez’s birthday, March 31. Please sign the petition to President Obama at http://www.takepart.com/chavez

TEA asks school districts to submit bad weather waivers in March

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is asking school districts and charters seeking
waivers for bad weather days for this school year to submit their requests in March.

Snow, sleet and icy conditions have impacted districts statewide over the last several weeks
resulting in the cancellation of instructional days. As a result, the agency anticipates an influx of
waiver requests. The March timeframe allows the full impact of winter weather to be assessed by
school districts and charters on their 2013-2014 school year calendars.

School districts and charters in Texas must build two “makeup days” for school closures into
their adopted school calendar. If dates for the designated makeup days have already passed,
schools are still required to make up at least two of the scheduled instructional days lost. The
makeup day must be at least seven hours in length (including intermissions and recesses).
It is the local school district’s responsibility to make its school calendar for the school year. TEA
does not direct any school district or charter on the specific days to identify or designate as
makeup days in their school calendar. That is strictly a local decision.

Waiver requests submitted to the agency will be reviewed by the commissioner of education. A
decision will be provided in a timely fashion. If a district receives a lost-instructional day waiver,
it does not lose any state funding for that day.

February 6, 2014

Watch Marisa Maher accept her award in D.C.

Phylicia Rashad, the Tony Award-winning actress best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” will host the NEA Foundation's 2014 Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on Feb. 7 in Washington, D.C.

TSTA member Marisa Maher, a business teacher and coach at Dripping Springs High School in Dripping Springs, will be one of 36 educators to receive the California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence at the event.

For the first time, the NEA Foundation will live stream the entire event on www.neafoundation.org, beginning at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on Feb. 7.

February 5, 2014

CSCOPE review complete

Some 140 Texans examined 431 CSCOPE social studies lessons plans and posted their reviews at www.cscopereviews.com. CSCOPE was a curriculum management system that provided lesson plans to participating school districts and charters. The review process included a public hearing. In August 2013, CSCOPE was formally renamed the TEKS Resource System.

February 4, 2014

TSTA endorses Leticia Van de Putte for lieutenant governor

The Texas State Teachers Association today announced its endorsement of Senator Leticia Van de Putte for lieutenant governor.

“Senator Van de Putte knows the classroom is the heart of public education, and she has worked tirelessly to free teachers to teach and give every student the opportunity to succeed,” said TSTA President Rita Haecker. www.tsta.org/sites/default/files/20140204LeticiaVandePutte.pdf

TRS to hold Town Hall Meeting on Health Care Programs

TRS will be conducting a Town Hall Meeting in Corpus Christi Feb. 12 to discuss TRS-ActiveCare, the active school employees’ health insurance program, and TRS-Care, the retiree health insurance program. The panel discussion will focus on the current financial condition of both programs as well as possible changes that could help make the programs more sustainable over the long term.

The Corpus Christi meeting will be webcast live through the TRS website. Not only will viewers be able to watch the meeting from their own homes or offices, but they will also be able to send their questions by email during the Town Hall Meeting. Those watching may also submit questions via our Twitter account @TRSofTexas using the hashtag #TRStownhall. TRS asks that participants not submit personal, health-related questions as panelists will not be able to address them. The webcast will also be recorded for later viewing. 

The Health Care Town Hall meeting is scheduled for: Wed., Feb. 12, 1-3 p.m., Education Service Center, Region 2, Room 3-23, 209 N. Water St., Corpus Christi, TX 78401. It is part of the three-day TRS Board Meeting/Retreat Feb. 12-14. Agendas and board materials for all three days can be found on the home page of the TRS website along with links to the live/on demand webcasts. http://www.trs.state.tx.us 

TEA considers teacher evaluation tied to test scores

TSTA has submitted public comment to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) regarding Commissioner of Education Michael Williams’ proposed new "teacher standards" for effective teaching. The proposal has positive elements, but the good could be subverted by a separate teacher appraisal model being developed by TEA that would base individual teacher evaluations on student performance on standardized tests. TSTA supports high standards for teachers, but we urge the commissioner to scrap plans to develop test-based teacher evaluation as a key element of teacher appraisal. The vast majority of Texans, and especially parents and teachers, oppose the excessive emphasis on standardized tests in our schools.

February 3, 2014

House interim committee charges are released

On Jan. 31, House Speaker Joe Straus released interim committee charges for the 83rd Legislature. Among the charges for the House Committee on Public Education: to explore “innovative, research-based options for improving student achievement beyond standardized test scores. Evaluate standards for effective campus management as well as teacher preparation, certification, and training. Review current teacher evaluation tools and instructional methods, such as project-based learning, and recommend any improvements that would promote improved student achievement. Engage stakeholders on how to recruit and retain more of our ‘best and brightest’ into the teaching profession.”

The committee’s other charges include monitoring the implementation of HB 5 and ensuring “the creation of additional rigorous mathematics and science courses needed to address the current and projected needs of the state's workforce”;  looking at strategies that have improved student achievement at chronically underperforming schools; and reviewing TEKS.

January 31, 2014

SBOE approves graduation requirements

The State Board of Education today approved new graduation requirements on a 14-1 vote, pursuant to HB 5 which established the Foundation High School Program. These graduation requirements will become effective 20 days from filing with Texas Register. 

The SBOE ad hoc committee on CSCOPE reviewed 431 lessons, which now are available for review at www.cscopereviews.com. The board also approved the advertisement of bids for instructional materials, including textbooks aligned with the controversial Social Studies curriculum adopted in 2010, and approved guidelines to expand the Permanent School Fund Bond Guarantee to benefit open-enrollment charter schools. See the full report from Teaching & Learning Specialist Bryan Weatherford at http://www.tsta.org/sites/default/files/SBOE_January2014_Report.pdf.

January 30, 2014

Get ready for Read Across America

Smilemakers.com is the official Seuss Store for Read Across America 2014.  Use promo code NEAMB when ordering and receive 20% off entire order, free shipping (on orders over $25), free "Reading is Fun" stickers (while supplies last), and you can order pre-packed Dr. Seuss Classroom Celebration Kits. Visit www.neamb.com/smilemakers or call 888-800-SMILE(7645). Learn more about Read Across America at www.nea.org/readacross.

January 29, 2014

Two things to follow this week

The State Board of  Education meets this week on the new high school graduation plan and curriculum standards for Languages Other Than English. It's livestreamed at http://www.texasadmin.com/tea.shtml or follow it on Twitter @TeacherChat or @teainfo. The school finance trial is also going on; follow it on Twitter @EquityCenter.

January 27, 2014

GRAMMY recognizes NEA member

The first educator to be honored by The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation is NEA member Kent Knappenberger of New York! He received his award earlier but was recognized during last night’s show.

SBOE meets this week

The State Board of  Education will meet Jan. 28-31 in Austin. The board is expected to finalize the new high school graduation plan and vote on new curriculum standards for Languages Other Than English. The full agenda is available at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/agenda and the meeting will be livestreamed at http://www.texasadmin.com/tea.shtml.

TEA considering teacher evaluation tied to test scores

Commissioner of Education Michael Williams has proposed new "teacher standards" for effective teaching. The proposed standards have positive elements, but the good could be subverted by a separate teacher appraisal model being developed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) that would base individual teacher evaluations on student performance on standardized tests. TSTA will be submitting public comment to TEA that supports high standards for teachers, but we will also urge the commissioner to scrap plans to develop test-based teacher evaluation as a key element of teacher appraisal. The vast majority of Texans, and especially parents and teachers, oppose the excessive emphasis on standardized tests in our schools. For more, go to http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=25769808607 and click on Item II at the top of the page.

January 24, 2014

TSTA offices are closed

Due to icy road conditions, TSTA is closed today.

January 23, 2014

TSTA endorses Wendy Davis, the education candidate

TSTA today announced its endorsement of Wendy Davis for governor. “TSTA is proud to endorse Senator Wendy Davis for governor because she has worked tirelessly in the Senate on behalf of students, parents, and teachers to give every Texas child the opportunity to succeed,” said TSTA President Rita Haecker. “Too many candidates give education lip service, but when others defended cuts that harmed our neighborhood schools, Wendy Davis fought successfully to restore funding for our schools.”

Haecker noted that this week Davis’ opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, sent his assistants back to a courtroom to defend an unconstitutional school finance system from which the legislative majority cut $5.4 billion in 2011. Abbott supports so-called education “reforms” hatched by “experts” who haven’t set foot in a classroom for years, while the school cuts continue to have serious consequences. Teachers now spend an average of $700 a year out of pocket to pay for classroom supplies, and 44 percent must take a second job during the school year, according to a study commissioned by TSTA and conducted by Sam Houston State University. http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/January23release.pdf

NEA investing $60 million to improve student success

NEA announced today a series of initiatives focused on expanding the ability of educators to create solutions in our public schools, including a fund that will invest more than $60 million over the next 10 years to improve student success and strengthen the education profession. The Great Public Schools Fund (GPS Fund) is one of several recently launched NEA initiatives to prepare the next generation of teacher leaders and create concrete solutions for our nation’s public school students.

“With more than 3 million members working in schools and communities across the nation, NEA is a leading voice for student success and great public schools,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “It is time for us to accelerate the transformation of public education. Nobody knows better than educators what their students need to succeed in the classroom. Through the new GPS Fund we are providing the resources to put these plans in action and help ensure opportunity, equity, and success for every public school student in America.” http://www.nea.org/home/57755.htm

January 21, 2014

Are you on Pinterest?

TSTA has a Pinterest page at http://www.pinterest.com/TSTANEA/tsta. Who else is pinning?

Federal budget's teacher quality programs: winners and losers

Congress agreed to halt sequestration—across-the-board cuts of about 5 percent to nearly all programs—as part of a fiscal 2014 budget deal completed this week (and now awaiting President Obama's signature).
With that in mind, which of the federal teacher-quality programs look to get some of their mojo back? To read more: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2014/01/the_budget_deals_teacher-quali.html?cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS3

Cumulative end-of-course passing rate rises to 76 percent

The Texas Education Agency announced today that approximately 309,000 students in the Class of 2015 have taken all or most of the end-of-course (EOC) assessments required for graduation. Of that number, approximately 76 percent of students - who are currently in their junior year of high school - have already passed the assessments they have taken and are on track to graduate under requirements set by the Texas Legislature in House Bill 5. The latest statewide summary reports are available at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=25769809035.

January 17, 2014

TSTA: Dewhurst out of touch with teachers

In remarks to The Texas Tribune yesterday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst demonstrated he is out of touch with the needs of Texas teachers, ignores their financial reality and doesn’t understand what effective classroom instruction requires.

Wendy Davis: the education candidate for governor

Sen. Wendy Davis is making it clear that she is the education candidate for governor. Her first policy proposal was “Great Teachers, Great Texas.” On Thursday, she announced a “Great Pathways” plan to help more students attend college and earn dual college and high school credits, which would save families money and make it more likely a student will attend college or receive timely job training.

Beware of education “reformers” with lots of money

New on Grading Texas: “Teachers and other public school advocates should be wary of any group promoting ‘education reform’ because that has become a code term for school privatization. Texans for Education Reform has backers who know how to make money but know little about public education,” blogger Clay Robison says. http://www.tsta.org/grading-texas/texans-for-education-reform/beware-of-education-reformers-with-lots-of-money

Diane Ravitch to speak at Austin conference

The Network for Public Education’s national conference March 1-2 in Austin features some of the most important figures in the education reform debate, including Diane Ravitch, Karen Lewis, and John Kuhn. Registration is now open. http://wp.me/p2D92I-1Oc

Get ready for Read Across America

Smilemakers.com is the official Seuss Store for Read Across America 2014. Use promo code NEAMB when ordering to receive special discounts, free shipping on orders over $25, free "Reading is Fun" stickers while supplies last. Check out the pre-packed Dr. Seuss Classroom Celebration Kits. www.neamb.com/smilemakers

Wendy Davis: The Education Candidate for Governor

Wendy Davis is making it clear that she is the education candidate for governor. Her first policy proposal was “Great Teachers, Great Texas.” Today, she announced a “Great Pathways” plan to help more students attend college and get dual college and high school credits, which saves families money and makes it more likely a student will attend college or receive timely job training. Read the news release from Wendy’s campaign.

January 15, 2014

More than 3,000 lesson plans available

NEA and BetterLesson launched a new website today, cc.betterlesson.com/mtp. The site, where teachers share what works in the classroom, features more than 3,000 classroom-ready lessons that are easily accessible and can be integrated into any curriculum. It features the lessons of 130+ Master Teachers representing every K-12 grade level for math and English Language Arts & Literacy. This is one of several long-term partnerships NEA has pursued to support its members’ professional development and leadership in the teaching practice. 

NEA on the Roswell school shooting

“We will probably never know all the factors that accumulate to unleash this kind of violence, but we must commit to doing all we can to make sure students and educators are safe in our schools,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said, concerning the school shootings in Roswell, New Mexico on Jan. 14. “Preventing gun violence, bullying prevention, and greater access to mental health services are key issues that must be addressed, so educators and families can identify problems and intervene before it’s too late.” http://www.nea.org/home/57686.htm  

January 14, 2014

Ready to purchase a home?

The Homes for Texas Heroes Home Loan Program, created by the Texas Legislature, provides low interest rate loans with down payment and closing cost assistance in the form of a grant (meaning no repayment or second lien) to eligible public school employees, including teachers, full-time aides, librarians, nurses, and counselors. The program can be used to purchase a home or refinance an existing mortgage loan. For more information and to find out if you’re eligible, visit www.tsahc.org.

January 13, 2014

Public education conference in Austin

Registration and Information now available! @NetworkPublicEd Conference in Austin March 1 & 2.

January 9, 2015

Senator Wendy Davis unveils “Great Teachers, Great Texas” plan

Today, Senator Wendy Davis announced her first education policy proposal, and she put teachers first. Davis will work to provide incentives to encourage the best and the brightest to become certified, career teachers. The plan also would provide additional support to keep current Texas teachers in the profession by providing local districts funding to get Texas teacher salaries in line with the rest of the country. Today, too many teachers have to take second jobs to make ends meet, and the “Great Teachers, Great Texas” plan is designed to give talented teachers the time and the freedom to teach a growing Texas student population.

For more details of the plan, go to: www.tsta.org/sites/default/files/GreatTexas_summary.pdf. To read TSTA's press release on the plan go to: www.tsta.org/sites/default/files/TSTAnewsDavisplan.pdf.

January 6, 2014

When teaching doesn't pay the bills

A recent survey, conducted by Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Media with the help of Clinton Gill, organizational development specialist for TSTA, revealed many local teachers moonlight to make ends meet. Teachers who work two to four jobs said they stayed in the field to make a difference, but some are now forced to consider a career change. http://lubbockonline.com/education/2014-01-03/when-teaching-doesnt-pay-bills-survey-reveals-low-pay-causing-teachers#.UssgbtJDvTp

Win up to $3,000 for your high school athletic program

The California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grant was established to provide support to public high school sports programs negatively impacted by reduced budgets. Apply by Jan. 15, 2014. https://www.calcas.com/web/calcasathleticsgrant

December 18, 2013

Abbott tightlipped about education plans

Abbott, who was conducting a series of education roundtables last week, was asked by reporters about his position on vouchers and tuition tax credits, which rob public school students of valuable state funding by allowing some parents to send their kids to private schools using public tax dollars. Abbott didn’t give a straight answer but stopped short of ruling out the use of public funds to pay for a private school education.

Read more at: http://educationvotes.nea.org/2013/12/17/tx-gubernatorial-hopeful-greg-abbott-tightlipped-about-education-plans/

December 17, 2013

Education needs more than empty promises

In a recent oped in the McAllen Monitor, TSTA member Leticia Lopez says educators need more than the empty promises offered by Republican candidate Greg Abbott in the governor’s race. Lopez was responding to Abbott’s recent visit to the Rio Grande Valley, during which he once again failed to address the real needs of Texas public schools. Lopez , a teacher in Edinburg ISD, is vice president for professionals for TSTA’s local in Edinburg. Read the commentary at http://www.themonitor.com/opinion/columnists/article_6432c53e-644e-11e3-ab74-001a4bcf6878.html.

December 16, 2013

TRS Board gets strong forecast for pension fund

The TRS Board met last week in Austin to receive year-end reports from departments across the agency. It was stressed once again that the forecast for the pension fund is dramatically improved, as the result of SB1458 enacted during this year’s legislative session, market asset returns, and liabilities slowing down due to lower than expected salary increases.

But much of the improved forecast will be borne by active employees because the employee contribution rate will be increased over the next few years.

The liabilities reported were due to the one-time cost of living adjustment for members who retired prior to Aug, 31, 2004. That adjustment – which cost about $700 million -- was equal to the lesser amount of 3 percent of a retiree’s monthly annuity or $100 per month. Staff cautioned the Board to abstain from granting future ad hoc or one-time cost of living adjustments unless additional revenue is raised for that purpose.

Legislative changes will raise an active member’s contribution rate to 7.70 percent by 2017, and the state contribution rate will increase to 6.80 percent by 2015.  Districts not participating in Social Security will contribute 1.50 percent of minimum salary by 2015. The new law provides that the member’s contribution rate will not exceed the combination of the state’s and district’s contribution rates.

The Board also received an update and review of TRS Care. Premiums increased by 25 percent, but no additional information was provided regarding the future costs associated with participating in TRS Care.

TRS has been conducting a review of 403(b) plans, and the Board reauthorized the rules related to these plans.
The next TRS Board meeting will be in Corpus Christi in February.

December 13, 2013

NEA ELLs: Culture, Equity and Language Module Rubric Review

Currently, more than 5.3 million English language learners (ELL) make up 10.6 percent of the nation’s K–12 public school enrollment. Wide and persistent achievement disparities between these ELLs and English-proficient students continue, placing a tremendous challenge to schools and our members to better address the language, literacy, and academic needs of ELLs more effectively. 

As a result, the NEA Human and Civil Rights Department is undertaking a process to update its 2006 English Language Learner: Culture, Equity and Language Training Module and wants to notify you that, in January 2014, we are going to call for assistance from members to help us: 1) assess the “usability” of our NEA-developed rubric to evaluate the module; or 2) self-nominate to serve on a 10-person panel to review our NEA ELL training module and materials. Please note that interested members must choose one option or the other. Below please find information regarding these two roles and a listing of key dates.

Rubric Reviewers Information: 

·         We have developed a list of questions (RUBRIC) to review the ELL Training Module in collaboration with ELL experts. Members who opt to review the rubric will inform us if the questions are clear and aligned.

·         Members opting to assist in the rubric review process will be provided a live link under separate cover on January 8, 2014 –and the deadline to complete the rubric review will be January 29th by 8PM EST. 

·         Selected members will go online to complete their review of the evaluative rubric and provide their feedback to NEA. 

·         Desired competencies for rubric reviewers include: familiarity with the NEA ELL module and materials; TESOL Standards; ELL Theory and Practice; and professional development training.

·         We estimate that the total time commitment to review the rubric is no more than an hour.

Review Panel Information:

·         Members opting to participate in the 10-person panel selection process for review of the ELL training module will need to self-nominate. 

·         A live link will be provided under separate cover for the self-nomination process and made available to members on January 8, 2014 –and the deadline to complete Review Panel self-nomination will be February 10 by 8 p.m. EST. 

·         Selected review panel members participating in the 10-person panel will join five nationally recognized ELL experts, over a 3-day period, to review the NEA ELL module at a soon to be determined site. 

·         The desired Competencies for Review Panel Members include: professional knowledge of the NEA ELL module and materials; thorough knowledge of the TESOL Standards; proficiency in ELL theory and practice; and cutting-edge professional development training experience. 

·         We estimate that total time commitment for this process, including additional time to review the materials, will be up to two weeks. 

Key Dates:

·         January 8th  – Notice will be sent to Rubric Reviewers and Review Panel Nominees

·         January 29th  – 8PM EST Deadline to Complete Rubric Review

·         February 10th – 8PM EST Deadline to Complete 10-Person Panel Self-Nomination

December 12, 2013

PBS is looking for innovative educators

If you are a digital superstar interested in advancing the use of digital media and technology in your class, apply to the 2014 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators Program. http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/collection/digitalinnovators

December 10, 2013

12 Days of Gifting contest

Horace Mann is showing its appreciation for educators with a “12 Days of Gifting” contest on Pinterest, featuring prizes that include a $100 DonorsChoose gift code, an HP Chromebook, a $200 Barnes & Noble gift card, and a Swivl video accessory. The contest runs Dec. 9-21. Enter by following Horace Mann’s Pinterest page and completing the official entry form. If Horace Mann reaches 3,000 followers on Pinterest during the contest, a grand prize winner will receive every prize awarded. http://www.pinterest.com/horacemannins

December 9, 2013

Coverage of Friday's rally 

Here is a sampling of the media coverage of Friday's rally (see December 6 entry for details).

NEA Education Votes: http://educationvotes.nea.org/2013/12/06/our-schools-day-of-action-kicks-off-in-austin-texas/
Associated Press: http://www.statesman.com/news/news/state-regional/groups-issue-f-grades-to-cruz-cornyn/ncDcL/
KAKW-TV (Univision/Austin): http://univisionaustin.univision.com/videos/video/2013-12-06/maestros-y-dreamers-de-texas?ftloc=channel4659:wcmWidgetUimStage&ftpos=channel4659:wcmWidgetUimStage:2
KVUE-TV (ABC): http://www.kvue.com/news/Teachers-rally-at-State-Capitol-calling-for-more-education-funding-234808441.html
Updated story: http://www.keyetv.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/teachers-give-lawmakers-failing-grades-14819.shtml

KOSA (CBS): http://www.cbs7kosa.com/news/details.asp?ID=51998

NEA Today Storify: https://storify.com/NEAToday/our-schools-our-solutions-day-of-action

December 6, 2013

Rallying for congressional accountability

Today's Texas Hold ‘Em Accountable Rally called attention to the F report card that U.S. Senators Cruz and Cornyn and U.S. Representatives Carter and Williams have on issues critical to Texas families, including public education, health care, immigration reform, voting rights, and labor issues.

Education Austin, TSTA, NEA, National Council of Urban Education Associations, Texas American Federation of Teachers, LULAC, NAACP, University Leadership Institute, Sierra Club, and Workers Defense Project were cosponsors.

"It may be cold – really cold – outside, but we’re here to turn up the heat on officeholders in Austin and Washington who have left millions of Texans out in the cold," TSTA President Rita Haecker told the crowd. "It may be frigid outside, but we give Perry and Cruz, Dewhurst and Cornyn, a big, fat “F” on their report card  -- an F for giving a cold shoulder to Texas families."

Haecker backed up her claim with examples.

"Education cuts in Austin left Texas school funding $3,000 per pupil below the national average – 49th among the states. And federal cuts demanded by so-called leaders like Ted Cruz will leave almost half a million students out in the cold, without career and technical training, without special education support, without English language learning opportunities," she said.

"More than one million Texas children are still out in the cold without health care, and our governor and senators have tried to freeze them out of access to affordable health care. Thousands of immigrant families contribute to the Texas economy and have children in our public schools, but they are left out in the cold without immigration reform while these officeholders sip Tea Party Kool Aid that defies what’s good for our communities and our economy.

"It may be cold outside, but how cold hearted must a senator be to promote his career by shutting down the government, and cutting off help for our veterans and kids in Head Start? Today, we’re here to turn up the heat on officeholders in Austin and Washington who freeze out the people they are supposed to represent," Haecker said in conclusion. "They work for us, and we will hold them accountable."

Rally is now at the Capitol

Update: Today's rally is now on the south steps of the Capitol, beginning at 10:45 a.m. Education Austin, TSTA, and NEA are sponsoring the "Texas Hold 'Em Accountable" rally to protest the federal report card of U.S. Senators Cruz and Cornyn and Representatives Carter and Williams on public education, health care, immigration reform, voting rights, and labor issues.

December 3, 2013

Leaders to showcase cooperative program in Austin

Tomorrow at 10:45 a.m., representatives of TSTA/NEA, Austin ISD, and Save Texas Schools will hold a media event showcasing how the community is working together for positive outcomes at Austin's Eastside Memorial High School. TSTA President Rita Haecker, NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen García, Education Austin President Ken Zarifis, Allen Weeks of Save Texas Schools, and Austin ISD representatives also will meet with students and teachers and tour the school. Eastside Memorial High School is located at 1012 Arthur Stiles.

Why doesn’t the U.S. top the PISA ranking?

Earlier today, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test of literacy, mathematics, and science given every three years to 15-year-olds in more than 60 countries. The United States’ scores have not significantly changed since the last report in 2009.

“The United States’ standings haven’t improved dramatically because we as a nation haven’t addressed the main cause of our mediocre PISA performance – the effects of poverty on students," NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said. “Our students from well-to-do families have consistently done well on the PISA assessments. For students who live in poverty, however, it’s a different story.

“It’s time for our nation to face up to that challenge, and we must start by acknowledging that the effects of poverty are pervasive," Van Roekel continued. "Children can’t learn in school if they lack nutritious food, a safe place to sleep or access to health care, and our society must address those needs.  

“What else do the high-performing nations do differently? They invest in early childhood education. They fully fund all of their schools. They make the teaching profession attractive and they support their teachers. They value the collaboration between parents, educators, administrators, communities and elected officials." http://www.nea.org/home/57472.htm

December 2, 2013

NY Times: Closing a Fear Gap So Children Can Achieve

The work of Education Austin leader Montserrat Garibay on behalf of undocumented students is featured in a Dec. 1 article in the New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/02/us/closing-a-fear-gap-so-children-can-achieve.html?hpw&rref=us&_r=0

November 25, 2013

A Day of Action: march and rally Dec. 6

On Friday, Dec. 6, Education Austin, TSTA, and NEA are sponsoring a "Texas Hold 'Em Accountable" march and rally to protest the federal report card of U.S. Senators Cruz and Cornyn and Representatives Carter and Williams on public education, health care, immigration reform, voting rights, and labor issues. We will gather at the Capitol at 10:45 a.m.; march down Congress Avenue at 11:15 a.m.; and rally at the J.J. Pickle Federal Building, 300 East 8th Street, at 11:30 a.m. For more information, call 512-472-1124.

November 22, 2013

One charter rejected, Algebra 2 and evolution votes to come

The big items we are monitoring at the State Board of Education meeting, which is expected to continue until late today, are four charter schools; whether Algebra 2 will be reinstated as a requirement of the Foundation High School Program; and science instructional materials.

The commissioner had recommended four charters. The SBOE took no action on two -- El Paso Leadership Academy, and Magnolia and Redbud Montessori for All - which means they are approved. A motion to reject Carpe Diem failed 6-8, so it also is approved, but the board rejected Great Hearts on a 9-6 vote. (See Clay Robison's blog on Great Hearts at http://www.tsta.org/grading-texas/charter-schools/controversial-charter-operator-knocking-on-texas-door.)

Official action won't come until later today, but the committee of the whole yesterday voted 14-1 to keep Algebra 2 as a requirement for students on the STEM endorsement only (although it continues to be a prerequisite for most advanced math courses).

The committee of the whole "approved new high school science books that include full coverage of evolution without the disclaimers that had been sought by social conservatives and other critics of Charles Darwin's theory," the Dallas Morning News reported. Read more at http://share.d-news.co/yTjCEfI.

November 21, 2013

Follow the SBOE meeting live

A webcast of the State Board of Education's Nov. 19-22 meeting is available at http://www.texasadmin.com/tea.shtml.

Solving for x

“x” is an unknown integer and, at the State Board of Education hearing this week on the Foundation High School Program, x=Algebra II and the unknown is the impact it has on students over the course of their lives. 

Testifiers in favor of including Algebra II presented it as a positive integer that enhances career opportunities, increases lifetime earnings, and opens the door to college admission.  Those opposed consider it a negative integer, calling it the reason students drop out of high school and a block to local control over high school curricula.

Rep. Jimmy Don Aycock assumed the role of teacher, clarifying legislative intent, outlining the process used in the House to get where we are, and urging SBOE members to err on the side of local control. Sen. Dan Patrick was the preacher, invoking God as his witness, arguing that Texas must provide opportunities for the 30 percent of students who drop out of high school. 

Political opponents found common ground. Celina Moreno of MALDEF and Bill Hammond of the Texas Association of Business both spoke in favor of Algebra II as a requirement for all endorsements.  

The SBOE must now grapple with this equation, after listening to 12 hours of testimony.  They must weigh the: 

Fears of those who believe that not requiring Algebra II in all five endorsement areas will lead to tracking, hurting poor and minority students;

Wants of superintendents from large and small school districts begging for local control on this “seemingly small” part of the curriculum; 

Needs of trade and industry leaders who espouse the exclusion of Algebra II as they need to fill a job pool of more than 30,000 employees; 

Expectations of large businesses such as Exxon Mobil and Toyota who see Algebra II as a requisite for more highly-skilled employees;  

Desires of colleges and universities who argue that students who take Algebra II are less likely to need remediation when they matriculate; and

The structure and alignment of the math curriculum with 15 9out of 18) courses that require Algebra II as a prerequisite course.

Sen. Patrick told the SBOE this would be the most important decision they have ever made; Tincy Miller, SBOE member from Dallas County, said she had been threatened for talking Algebra II; David Bradley raised issues of liability if a student didn’t get into college because they earned an endorsement that didn’t require Algebra II; and a high school senior said she didn’t see the benefit of taking Algebra II—even though she got into Texas A&M because she took it.

Algebra II is not just the unknown x of an algebraic equation it may well be to math what evolutionary theory is to science. -- report from Bryan Weatherford, TSTA teaching and learning specialist

November 19, 2013

Affordable premiums now!

Please “like” this page and sign the petition urging the Teacher Retirement System to rein in health insurance premium increases in TRS ActiveCare. This is the latest step in TSTA’s campaign to make sure all education employees have high quality, affordable health insurance. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Affordable-Premiums-Now/1375356596045638

November 18,2013

Duncan urges state ed chiefs to set bar higher

This week's rollback of requirements for renewal of waivers from No Child Left Behind should not be interpreted as a softening of federal expectations for high standards and creative approaches among states, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Council of Chief State School Officers meeting in Richmond, Va. Friday. Those changes included the elimination of a requirement for waiver states to use teacher-evaluation data to ensure that poor and minority students are not taught by ineffective teachers at a higher rate than their peers. Since the department announced the changes, there's been "push back" from some groups who fear states will now be less aggressive about putting great teachers in classrooms with disadvantaged students, Duncan said.

To read more:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2013/11/duncan_to_chiefs.html?cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS3

November 14, 2013

Celebrating American Education Week

NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen Garcia presented a $500 check to Lanier High School's Library Media Center on Nov. 12. Her Austin visit, which included participating in a forum at the University of Texas, was an early celebration of American Education Week, Nov. 18-22 (scroll to Nov. 12 and 13 entries for information on the rest of her day).

At Lanier, Garcia was joined by Rep. Donna Howard, Austin City Councilman Mike Martinez, TSTA President Rita Haecker, TSTA Vice President Noel Candelaria, Education Austin President Ken Zarifis, Lanier librarian Emily Hirsch, Lanier Principal Katherine Ryan, and Education Austin Vice President Monserrat Garibay. More photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/neapr/sets/72157637345867446/with/10827105794

November 13, 2013

TRS briefing: good news on pension fund, bad news on TRS ActiveCare

On Tuesday, Nov. 12, TSTA staff attended a TRS actuarial and health benefits briefing. TRS gave us good news and bad news.

First, the good news.  The TRS Pension Trust Fund remains sound after the distribution of the first COLA checks to about 2/3’s of retirees in the TRS system, pursuant TSTA’s efforts get more retirees covered with the passage of SB1458. The TRS actuaries expect the Fund to remain sound as long as the contribution rates passed by the legislature last session remain in place.

Now, the bad news: TRS ActiveCare.  As the health care industry continues its quest for profit margins, those costs are being passed on to consumers. 

TRS ActiveCare continues to face cost increases from health care providers. Executive Director Brian Guthrie said he expects premiums to increase again next September at levels similar to those enacted this past September –depending on the coverage and plan the employee selects.  

TRS would not rule out the possibility that premiums could increase mid-year, during the current coverage year.

The TRS Board of Trustees will discuss its health care plans at length at its February 2014 Board Meeting in Corpus Christi. 

TSTA will be embarking on a major effort to stem the rising cost of health insurance for educational employees. Educators and educational employees who have dealt with budget cuts and stagnant salaries should not be forced to have any recent pay increases eradicated by rising health insurance costs. 

In order to gather accurate, updated data needed to support an organizing plan to present to the TSTA Board of Directors, TSTA is currently conducting a survey of all Texas school districts to determine:

which insurer provides insurance for each district (TRS or another insurer);

how many employees are covered by the plan and how many chose to get insurance coverage from another provider; and 

any changes made in employee premiums and district contributions for the current school year. 

We will be sending you additional information on this issue in the near future. In the meantime, if your local wants support related to health care costs, please contact OCALD at TSTA headquarters. 

Important contributions of teachers

TSTA and Education Austin organized the event at Lanier High School, which is depicted in this story, to showcase the important contributions of teachers. State Representative Donna Howard, Austin City Councilman Mike Martinez, NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, TSTA President Rita Haecker and Education Austin President Ken Zarifis participated.

November 12, 2013

NEA VP visits Austin

NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen Garcia was in Austin today for three events: a school visit at Lanier High School with Rep. Donna Howard and Austin City Councilman Mike Martinez; a "Conversation about Education Reform and Accountability" at the University of Texas at Austin with TSTA President Rita Haecker, Education Austin President Ken Zarifis, and noted UT-Austin education scholar Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig; and a meeting with leaders of our Del Valle local association. The real education experts are in the classroom.

Photos from Lanier High School: www.flickr.com/photos/neapr/sets/72157637345867446 

Photos from UT event: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tstapublicaffairs/sets/72157637609645474

Photos from Del Valle: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tstapublicaffairs/sets/72157637617921623 

November 9, 2013

A Conversation about Reform and Accountability

Join us at UT Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 1 pm for “A Conversation about Reform and Accountability”

Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, Associate Professor, Educational Policy and Planning
Lily Eskelsen García,  Vice President, National Education Association
Rita Haecker, President, Texas State Teachers Assocaition
Ken Zarifis, President, Education Austin

LOCATION: Dean’s Conference Room, College of Education, UT-Austin (Parking available in the Brazos St. garage, one block to the east)                  

Equitable Funding
Community Involvement
Tests, Tests, Tests
Demographic Diversity            
Great Teachers, Great Schools
Charter Schools: Public or Private?
Curriculum and Diploma Plans

November 8, 2013

ESP Day video

In a new video, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel thanks education support professionals nationwide. The Wednesday of American Education Week, Nov. 20, is ESP Day. http://youtu.be/G3zo5QNQJbw

November 6, 2013

14 districts make AP honor roll

Fourteen Texas school districts are among 477 in the U.S. and Canada being honored by the College Board with placement on its 4th Annual AP® District Honor Roll. Texas ranked 13th in nation in the percentage of 2012 graduates participating in AP. Over the past decade, AP participation and success in Texas have increased steadily. To see the list, visit www.collegeboard.org.

November 5, 2013

KFOX piece on due process in El Paso

This report, which features TSTA leaders, says serial killers have greater due process rights than teachers. Here is a link to watch the video: http://www.kfoxtv.com/news/features/special-assignments/stories/special-assignment-presumed-guilty-20.shtml#.Unj1x2t5mSM

November 4, 2013

ALEC policies threaten to leave more students in poverty

Almost half of all students who attend public schools—48 percent—reside in low income households, with an alarming number living at or below the poverty line. Some of those students are in Tracey Pratt’s class in the Cambridge Public School District in Massachusetts, where she says students coming from impoverished homes are usually at a deficit before they even enter the classroom, which makes learning difficult. http://educationvotes.nea.org/2013/11/01/alec-policies-threaten-to-leave-more-students-in-poverty 

Big win in Pflugerville!

Pflugerville ISD, acting on a Texas Association of School Boards recommendation, eliminated the salary schedule for employees in 2010, replacing it with a hiring placement schedule. The hiring placement schedule lacked transparency and resulted in veteran district employees being paid less than new employees with the same years of experience. Pflugerville Educators Association organized around this issue since the start of this school year, and secured a pretty amazing win at the end of October.

Here's the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdyS9bY8iXA

October 31, 2013

Watch these inspiring new videos

In a series of video clips, Carilu Hernandez, a second grade teacher in Harlandale ISD (San Antonio), comments on why she became a teacher and why it’s important for us to speak out and make sure our interests are represented at the local, state, and national levels. http://tsta.org/node/1180

October 29, 2013

Abbott budget plan another slap at Texas school children

TSTA issued the following news release today: In what was billed as the first public policy speech of his gubernatorial campaign, Greg Abbott pledged yesterday to pursue a state budget policy that would continue the unconstitutional and inadequate school funding system that he has been defending in court.

“The Abbott plan is another slap in the face of 5 million public school students, their parents and more than 600,000 Texans who work in our public schools,” said Texas State Teachers Association President Rita Haecker. “The Rainy Day Fund, which Abbott wants to 'protect,' is awash in cash and continues to grow, while Texas’ school finance system is shortchanging millions of Texas children.

“Someone who wants to be our next governor should put the needs of our children first, not bow to a political ideology intent on starving public education,” she added. “Instead of putting billions of tax dollars off limits for Texas schools, our next Governor should be working to find a reliable funding source to secure our children’s future.”

According to a recent report – The Rainy Day Flood – by the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, the Rainy Day Fund will grow to between $8.2 billion and $11.8 billion by the end of fiscal 2015, depending on whether Texas voters approve constitutional amendments that would tap into the fund for water and highway needs. The report anticipates continued growth, fueled by strong oil and gas production.

But Abbott proposed further restrictions on the Legislature’s ability to spend from the fund. Those restrictions are wrong and unnecessary. Our elected legislators should keep their flexibility to tap into the fund as important public needs arise.

Even as the Rainy Day Fund approaches record balances, the Legislature still hasn’t fully restored the $4.5 billion cut from public school budgets two years ago. Schools are operating with fewer state dollars than they had during the 2010-11 school year, even though public school enrollment continues to grow by 80,000-85,000 students a year.

Plan now for American Education Week

American Education Week, Nov. 18-22, is a tribute to the team of people who work with students. The daily events honor and thank them for the work they do every day to make sure students are safe and ready and able to learn. Tools for your local celebration can be found at www.nea.org/aew.

October 25, 2013

Brownsville leader dies

Longtime TSTA and Association of Brownsville Educators leader George Borrego has died. Services: Darling Mouser, 945 Palm Blvd, Brownsville, TX  78520; 956-546-7111.

Sunday: Visitation 1-5 P.M, he will be transferred to St. Mary's Catholic Church (1914 Barnard), Rosary 7 P.M.

Monday: Funeral Mass at 3 P.M. at St. Mary's Catholic Church

In lieu of flowers there is a scholarship in George's name. See this obituary for details: http://www.darling-mouser.com/services.asp?page=odetail&id=30881&locid=31.

October 24, 2013

Texas 8th graders shine

Texas eighth graders performed well in an inaugural study linking national and international assessments. Initiated by the National Center for Education Statistics, this 2011 study has linked the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scale to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) scale so that states can compare the performance of their students with that of students in other countries. 

Results for assessments conducted in 2011 showed scores in the top 12 for Texas students taking the 8th grade mathematics exam – higher than the national scores of the United States, Finland, and the overall TIMSS scale average. To read the study, visit http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard

October 23, 2013

Does your child attend a Great Public School?

Parents want their children to attend a great school, and every student deserves a quality education. But how do you really know if a school is meeting its students’ needs? NEA has made it easy by releasing its Great Public Schools (GPS) Indicators Framework. GPS Indicators represent an evidence-based set of factors deemed critical to the success of our nation’s public schools. The primary objective of the GPS Indicators is to highlight the strengths and weaknesses in states’ support of their public schools.

The GPS Indicators should be used as a vehicle for conversations about how to improve schools in practical terms, to close opportunity gaps and to ensure that all educators and schools have the resources and tools they need to get the job done with the help of families and their communities. The GPS Indicators Framework provides a comprehensive view of the policies and practices that educators, families and community stakeholders can advocate for together. The seven GPS criteria are: 1) School Readiness; 2) Standards and Curriculum; 3) Conditions of Teaching and Learning; 4) Workforce Quality; 5) Accountability and Assessments; 6) Family and Community Engagement; and 7) School Funding.

To learn more about the GPS Indicators visit http://www.nea.org/gpsindicators.

October 18, 2013

Foster care & student success resource guide available

The Texas Education Agency today announced the release of a new groundbreaking resource to help schools better meet the educational needs of children in foster care. "Foster Care & Student Success: Texas Systems Working Together to Transform Education Outcomes of Students in Foster Care" is a comprehensive resource that gives educators relevant information, practical tips, and available resources to improve the educational experience of students in foster care. To download a PDF of the guide, visit http://www.tea.state.tx.us/FosterCareStudentSuccess/resource-guide.pdf.

October 17, 2013

Draft rules on HB 5 graduation program released

The Texas Education Agency today released draft rules to be considered by the State Board of Education at its November meeting regarding the new high school graduation program under House Bill 5. Passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature, HB 5 revises the graduation program for students entering grade 9 in the 2014-15 school year and all subsequent years.

The draft rules represent an initial proposal created directly from State Board member input and processed by TEA staff on the Board’s behalf. The Board is scheduled to vote to authorize the agency to file the draft for official public comment at its November meeting. A public hearing on the graduation program is scheduled for Nov. 20.

As part of its process, State Board members have already been accepting public comments regarding the graduation program via email at SBOESUPPORT@tea.state.tx.us. A final vote on new HB 5 graduation program by the State Board of Education is expected in January 2014.

To review the draft proposed rules for consideration by the State Board of Education at its November meeting, visit http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=25769806149.

October 15, 2013

Learning Forward comes to Grapevine

Learning Forward's annual conference is at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine Dec. 7-11. The program includes educational innovator Marc Prensky, urban education expert Pedro Noguera, and barrier breaker Consuelo Castillo-Kickbusch. They are extending a special offer to all NEA members: $50 off on any registration and a one-year digital membership to Learning Forward. http://learningforward.org/learning-opportunities/nea  

October 11, 2013

NEA launches “Not a Game” ad

Starting tomorrow, NEA will air online and television ads asking members of Congress to stop playing games and get their priorities straight. The spot, “Not a Game,” will air in Washington, D.C., and four other markets -- Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and New York -- for five days. It urges Congress to stand up to extremists and do what’s right for students and the economy. (You can preview the ad at http://www.nea.org/home/stop-the-games.html.)

“Congressional Tea Party Republicans have chosen to play games with the lives of our most vulnerable in society to score ideological political points,” said Mary Kusler, NEA director of government relations. “They have forced deep sequester cuts, shut down the government, and are on the brink of bringing the nation’s economy to its knees. Students and senior citizens will pay the price for years to come as a result. It’s time for the games to end.”

To date, a disproportionate share of the arbitrary across-the-board sequester cuts have impacted higher-poverty communities and, therefore, the students most in need. Fifty-seven thousand children have already lost critical seats in Head Start classes. Schools served by Impact Aid have already seen drastic reductions in funding, and additional harmful impacts are beginning to be felt in classrooms as the school year begins. Many school districts and their students rely heavily on federal resources for education funding; one in four students attends school in a district that receives 15-20 percent of all revenue from federal sources. http://www.nea.org/home/56986.htm


Teachers to advise NEA on attracting, retaining educators

The nation’s largest teachers’ union is partnering with Teach Plus to launch a selective fellowship that will empower solutions-oriented teachers, most of whom are in the first 10 years of their careers, to advise union leadership on teacher engagement and retention. NEA and Teach Plus, a national non-profit organization based in Boston, have selected 53 high-performing teachers and NEA members from school districts and charter schools across the country to become the inaugural Future of the Profession Fellows.  http://www.nea.org/home/56989.htm

October 7, 2013

More teachers forced to moonlight

Forty-four percent of Texas teachers moonlight during the school year, and 61 percent take extra jobs during the summer to make ends meet, according to a survey by Sam Houston State University commissioned by the Texas State Teachers Association.

Some 60 percent of respondents said they were seriously considering leaving the teaching profession, a marked increase over the 46.7 percent who were considering a career change when a similar survey was conducted in 2010.

The moonlighters work, on average, almost 14 hours a week at their extra school-year jobs. Most – 83 percent – said they believed their teaching quality would improve if they quit the extra jobs, and 91 percent said they would quit moonlighting if their teaching salaries were high enough to allow it. But respondents, on average, said they would need a $9,188 annual raise in their teacher pay to make up for the extra income. That figure roughly correspondents to the margin – $8,273 – by which the average teacher salary in Texas lags behind the national average.

This is the highest percentage of teachers to report moonlighting since TSTA started sponsoring the survey, “Texas Teachers, Moonlighting and Morale,” more than 30 years ago. In 2010, the most recent year the survey was conducted, 40.8 percent of teachers held extra jobs during the school year and 56 percent during the summer.

That was before the Legislature slashed $5.4 billion from the public education budget in 2011. Since then, the average teacher salary in Texas has dropped by $528.

As recently as 2008, only 28 percent of teachers reported moonlighting during the school year, and only 22 percent had extra jobs when the first survey was conducted in 1980.

“Dedicated educators shouldn’t have to juggle extra jobs to support their families, but the financial reality of being a teacher in Texas leaves them little choice,” said TSTA President Rita Haecker. “Even so, they remain strongly committed to the needs of their students. Our elected officials need to give these professionals the professional pay that they deserve.”

The average salary of teachers participating in the latest survey was $50,967 a year, and their average classroom experience was 16.9 years. Some 64 percent were the major breadwinners in their households.

Overall, the average teacher salary in Texas, based on data for the 2012-13 school year, was $48,110. That was 38th among the states and the District of Columbia and was $8,273 below the national average, according to the National Education Association.

The survey respondents also reported:

  • Spending an average of $697 a year from their own pockets on school supplies, an increase of more than $130 from three years ago.
  • Spending an average of $408 each month on health insurance, an increase of almost $200 from 2010.
  • Working an average 18 hours a week outside the classroom on school-related work – in addition to their moonlighting jobs.
  • Overwhelming opposition – 95 percent – to letting a single standardized test determine whether a student gets promoted.

The online survey of 306 teachers was conducted last spring by Dr. Robert Maninger, Dr. Sam Sullivan and Dr. Daphne Johnson of Sam Houston State University. Some 80 percent of the participants were women, 48 percent had graduate degrees and they represented all grade levels and urban, suburban and rural school districts.

October 5, 2013

New photos: State committees meet

TSTA's state committees for 2013-14 met today at TSTA's Austin headquarters for the first time. Our committees are: Communications & Community Outreach, Education Support Professionals, Legislative, Member Advocacy & School Board Policies, Special Education, and Teaching Profession. See the photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tstapublicaffairs/sets/72157636222452736.

October 3, 2013

Watch for NEA president at Education Nation

NBC’s fourth annual Education Nation will explore “What it Takes” to get a student through school and ready to succeed in college, career, and beyond. Teacher and student town hall meetings are Oct. 6, and the Education Nation Summit is Oct. 7-8. You will see NEA TV ads throughout the event.

President Dennis Van Roekel will participate in an Oct. 7 discussion titled, “What it Takes: Well Trained Teachers.”  Moderated by NBC’s Rehema Ellis, the panel will discuss current teacher recruitment and training programs, and whether they ensure a pipeline of well-trained talent. Van Roekel also will speak at Education Nation’s Common Core Institute, and he has interviews scheduled with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Yahoo! News, MSNBC LIVE, and Newsweek's The Daily Beast.

Digital tools and resources

  • EducationNation.com: Summit streamed live Oct. 7-8
  • Twitter: Follow @NEAToday to re-tweet
  • Official hash tag: #EducationNation
  • Facebook: Check NEAToday and NEA on Facebook

October 2, 2013

It’s time to update your TSTA app!

An update is now available for the TSTA app on your iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. Go to the iTunes Store and Google Play store to download. Among the improvements:

  • We added media sharing to articles in the Today’s News and Grading Texas Blog sections (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, email).
  • We made the Classroom Tools section more mobile friendly.
  • We've populated the Upcoming Events (calendar) section.
  • It is iOS 7 compatible.

If you haven't tried the app yet, it allows you to use your smart phone or tablet to join TSTA, get information about upcoming events, find classroom ideas, read insider commentary in the Grading Texas blog, and access discounts. It's your portal to all the resources available from the nation’s largest education union, the National Education Association, as well as TSTA’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr pages. You can sign up to receive alerts, too!

October 1, 2013

Get 20 percent off at SmileMakers

SmileMakers is a special friend of NEA and continues to provide great discounts for members. They are the official Seuss Store for NEA's Read Across America, and NEA members receive 20 percent off on all orders (no minimum), plus free shipping on all orders of $25 or more. Use promo code NEAMB when ordering. Visit http://www.smilemakers.com or call 1-888-800-SMILE by Dec. 31 to take advantage of this offer.

September 30, 2013

NCLB waiver announced for Texas

The federal government finally has granted Texas a waiver from No Child Left Behind, but there is a big string attached. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the agency had granted the waiver for the 2013-14 school year with the condition that Texas develop a new teacher evaluation system, which could include another effort to tie teacher performance to student test scores. Here is the full story: http://www.texastribune.org/2013/09/30/still-no-waiver-texas-no-child-left-behind.

Special education timelines change

A new statute took effect on Sept. 1 that changes the timeline for completing a full and individual evaluation for students referred for Special Education services. Although it is a reduced timeline, it does have some flexibility for Local Education Agencies (LEAs or school districts) in the event a student is absent or consent is received too close to the end of the school year. Highlights:
SB 816 Regarding Timeline for Initial Evaluation of a Student for Special Education Services
• Changes the timeline for conducting a full and individual initial evaluation from 60 calendar days to 45 school days, with several exceptions. In some cases, the evaluation timeline will extend into the next school year.
• The written report of a full individual and initial evaluation will be completed within 45 school days following the date on which the LEA receives written consent for the evaluation. However, if the student is absent for three or more days during that evaluation period, the period will be extended by the same number of school days that the student was absent.
• If the LEA receives written consent at least 35 but less than 45 school days before the last instructional day of the school year, the evaluation will be completed and the written report will be provided to the parent by June 30 of that year, and the student’s admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) committee shall meet not later than the 15th school day of the following school year to consider the evaluation. However, if the student is absent from school on three or more days during the evaluation period, the evaluation timeline reverts to 45 school days following the date on which the LEA received written consent, which means that the evaluation and report will be due the following school year.
• Not later than the 15th school day following the receipt of a request for a full individual and initial evaluation, an LEA must provide an opportunity for the parent to give written consent for the evaluation or refuse to provide the evaluation. -- report by Bryan Weatherford

September 27, 2013

Commissioner sends charter school decisions to SBOE

Commissioner of Education Michael Williams today advised members of the State Board of Education (SBOE) of his decision to grant four Generation 18 charter schools. Those approved by the Commissioner include: Carpe Diem Schools – San Antonio, El Paso Leadership Academy, Great Hearts Academies Dallas, Magnolia and Redbud Montessori for All. 

Under Senate Bill 2 (passed during the 83rd Texas Legislature), the Commissioner grants new open-enrollment charters in Texas and must notify the SBOE of those he approves. SBOE members can veto any new charter approved by the Commissioner. The State Board is expected to discuss the Commissioner’s decisions and take any action – if necessary – at its Nov. 22 meeting in Austin. http://www.tea.state.tx.us/charters.aspx 

September 25, 2013

Tools to help educators and parents work together

Working with the National PTA, NEA has produced brochures with practical tips and tools for parents to encourage student success in school. You can download them or order up to 10 copies of each four-color brochure at no charge. http://www.nea.org/parents

September 23, 2013

Current version of GED expires at year's end

The Texas Education Agency today issued a reminder to those seeking a high school equivalency credential that the current version of the GED test will expire at the end of 2013 and be replaced with the new 2014 Series GED test. The new GED test will officially be in place across the country on Jan. 2, 2014. 

Those who have taken the 2002 Series GED test – but not completed the 2002 Series tests   – have until the end of 2013 to pass. On Jan. 2, 2014, those who have not completed all of the requirements for the Texas Certificate of High School Equivalency under the 2002 series will need to complete their equivalency credential with the new 2014 Series GED test.  

All potential test-takers are encouraged to begin the GED registration process immediately to ensure adequate time is available to complete testing. Since March, 48 computer-based GED testing centers have been added to the 130 existing paper-based testing centers across the state. Through the end of this year, test-takers can choose to take their exams on paper, computer or a combination of the two.  

Five special paper-based GED testing sessions are scheduled in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in October and November. These testing sessions have been added to ensure that adult learners in that region (where limited testing dates and sites had previously been available) have ample opportunity to complete testing for the 2002 Series GED Test before the end of the year. 

To find testing dates and locations, as well as schedule a spot for the GED Event Testing in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, please visit: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/GEDEventTesting. To find a local GED Test Center in all areas of the state, please visit the Online Test Center Locator Service at: http://www.gedtestingservice.com/testers/locate-a-testing-center. General information on GED testing in Texas can be found at www.texged.com.

September 19, 2013

How American Education Week began

Distressed that 25 percent of the country's World War I draftees were illiterate, the NEA and the American Legion met in 1919 to consider how to generate public support for education. A resolution passed by the 1921 NEA Representative Assembly called for "an educational week ... observed in all communities annually for the purpose of informing the public of the accomplishments and needs of the public schools and to secure the cooperation and support of the public in meeting those needs."

American Education Week was first observed that same year, cosponsored by NEA and the American Legion. A year later, the then-U.S. Office of Education became a cosponsor, and the PTA followed in 1938. Today's cosponsors include the American Association of School Administrators, National School Boards Association, American School Counselor Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, National School Public Relations Association, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Association of Elementary School Principals, and National Association of Secondary School Principals.

American Education Week is celebrated the week prior to the week of Thanksgiving, which this year is Nov. 18-22. There's a special observance each day; see http://www.nea.org/aew for details and artwork.

September 18, 2013

SBOE hears testimony on FHSP

By January, the State Board of Education must approve rules for graduation requirements for the Foundation High School Program (FHSP). Passage of HB5 during the regular legislative session created the FHSP to replace current high school programs (Minimum, Recommended, Distinguished), effective with the 2014-15 school year. The purpose is to ensure high school graduates are college and career ready at graduation, by meeting credit requirements for at least one endorsement area. Endorsements areas are:

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Business and Industry

Arts and Humanities

Public Services


The SBOE heard testimony on Sept. 17 to inform its rule-making on the new FHSP.  The following major themes listed below emerged as primary considerations among the 54 testifiers:

o College and Career

o Design rigorous curriculum so students are prepared to enter college without needing remediation classes (no credit is awarded and students are less likely to receive a post-secondary credential)

o $81 million is spent on remediation at the post-secondary level

o Develop a curriculum that adequately prepares students for dual-credit courses in the 11th and 12th grades

o Develop more than one pathway to high school graduation

o Ensure all endorsements prepare all students for college (fear STEM may be college-bound and others may not be)

o Ensure high –quality of programming across the state to benefit transitory students

o Graduate all students from high school ready for at least community college

o Flexibility

o Maintain local flexibility relative to how school districts use certain CTE courses to satisfy a core content credit (especially in Math and Science)

o Grant meaningful flexibility of district partnerships with higher education, business and industry

o Give rural school districts the flexibility to build programs that meet the students needs

o Highly Qualified teachers

o Allow local school districts to address the issue of highly-qualified teachers within CTE for core courses required to meet credit for graduation

o Rule-Making

o Have rules in place by January 2014 to allow districts, counselors, and parents to walk 8th grade students through the endorsement process

o Train counselors on the FHSP

o Curriculum

o Do not recreate the 4X4

o Develop/identify more applied courses

o Endorsements

o Identify a broad array of course to meet the requirements of the five endorsement areas

o STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)

o Include Algebra II, Biology, Chemistry, (Physics as an alternative to Biology or Chemistry) and Statistics as four credits required for a STEM endorsement

o Do not require Algebra II as the only advanced Math course

o Allow Voc-Ed students to take Math and Voc-Ed classes concurrently

o Include Integrated Physics and Chemistry as an advanced Science course

o English

o Give students an option for the fourth credit in English

o LOTE (Languages Other Than English)

o Identify computer language classes that will meet this requirement (e.g Basic Computer Program, Computer I, Computer II)

o Let advanced computer classes meet a STEM requirement

o Arts and Humanities

o Coherent sequence of courses

o Add Arts classes to endorsement areas

o Allow students flexibility to take Art classes that have interest to them

o Communication

o Maintain the ½ credit for Speech Communication as a requirement for graduation

o Eliminate it as it eats up ½-to-1 credit of the Elective Credit (another course has to be paired with it to create meet one credit)

o Let Communication be a required local course as opposed to a state-mandated course


o Include CTE clusters in all endorsement areas

o Process

o Establish and maintain continuing dialogue with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB)

o Allow CTE, Math, and Science teacher to determine where certain courses fit within the STEM endorsement

o How do you define “advanced” and “rigor”

o  Is the concept of an advanced course linear or hierarchical

Science textbook debate

A three-decade battle between evolutionists and creationists may have reached a culmination point with SBOE poised to approve or reject proposed revisions to new Science textbooks in November.  In 2010-11, revised Science TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) were implemented and new textbooks must conform to the new TEKS.  The current Science textbooks are 10 years old.

Summation of the testimony this week:

o Process

o Too short [two weeks]

o Reviewers meet once as a group

o System has been broken and corrupt for three decades

o Some appointed reviewers came into the process with a specific (creationism) agenda

o Provide transparency – let public see the proposed changes publishers agree to

o The arguments (for and against)

o Biblical statements are not scientific fact

o Facts do not support creationism

o Teach both evolution and intelligent design in the science texts

o 21srt century advances are absent from the textbooks (advances that are included in the textbooks used by home-schoolers)

o Inserting proposed revisions (creationism) in the Science texts runs counter to the state certification exams for professionals in fields such a medicine, geology, etc.)

o Challenges

o ACLU pretty much stated that there would be challenges if the proposed revisions are inserted due to a violation of the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment

September 17, 2013

Increasing transparency in textbook adoption process

State Board of Education Chair Barbara Cargill today announced that, in the interest of greater transparency during the current textbook adoption process, she will ask publishers to voluntarily make public any additional content they are proposing for new instructional materials.

The board is in the process of adopting new materials for science for grades k-12, mathematics for k-8, and technology applications for use in Texas classrooms. A final vote on the submitted instructional materials will occur in November. But because of the increasing use of electronic content and the high interest in this adoption, Cargill will ask publishers to voluntarily make the new content available as quickly as possible. 

As with the original instructional materials submitted for this adoption cycle, the new content will be available for review at the Texas Education Agency in Austin and at the 20 Education Service Centers around the state. Because of copyright protections, the material cannot be distributed to requesters but may be reviewed at those locations. 

Currently, 429 instructional products are under review. Those approved by the board this fall will be available for use in Texas classrooms in the fall of 2014.

September 16, 2013

Charter decisions coming on Sept. 27

Commissioner of Education Michael Williams has advised members of the State Board of Education that he will announce his decisions regarding applications for Generation 18 charter schools on Friday, Sept. 27.

September 13, 2013

Rising numbers waive TRS-ActiveCare

On September 13, 2013, the TRS Board of Trustees concluded its two-day, quarterly meeting.

COLA Checks, October 1
The Board confirmed that COLA checks should start going out at the beginning of October, given that the fund is declared to be actuarially sound, which is expected. Thanks to the efforts of TSTA, two-thirds of retirees will receive the COLA.

TRS Active Care Exodus = Troubled Fund
Executive Director Brian Guthrie announced that for the first time, a significant number of members are waiving and dropping TRS-ActiveCare coverage, likely due to rising premiums. The exodus is having a negative impact on the ActiveCare Fund, which could lead to a mid-year premium increase.  ED Guthrie also stated that a substantial portion of the February board meeting (to be held in Corpus Christi) will focus on TRS-Care and TRS-ActiveCare. TRS also intends to update the TRS-Care study, which was presented last August, and they also intend to include TRS-ActiveCare issues in that updated study.

Trust Fund Performance
The Board also received a report on the quarterly performance of the Trust Fund. The Fund started the quarter on April 1, 2013, with a balance of $117.5 billion and ended the quarter on June 30, 2013, with a balance of $115.9 billion, a loss of 0.5%.

The Board will hold its next meeting on October 18, 2013.

September 10, 2013

Announcing two new awards

TSTA announces two new awards – the All-Star Association Representative (or All-Star AR) Award and the TSTA Leaders for Tomorrow Award. The deadline for nominations is the first Monday in March, and recipients will be recognized at the state House of Delegates in April. Watch for more information, coming soon on this website.

Planning for American Education Week

American Education Week, Nov. 18-22, is an opportunity to celebrate public education and honor the individuals who are making a difference for our kids. The annual, weeklong celebration features a special observance each day of the week. Information, artwork, and a tool kit are at http://www.nea.org/grants/19823.htm.

A day in the life of an American school district

On May 8, 2012, 50 camera crews followed individuals who attend, support, and work in a California public school district, capturing the many good things that go on every day and the teamwork it takes. The film is scheduled for national release in November (see https://www.facebook.com/GoPublicProject), but you can watch shorts online at http://gopublicproject.org/50-films.

Save 15% on your AT&T bill

It’s just one of many ways you can save, using your automatic membership in NEA Member Benefits. Log in today at www.neamb.com. 

September 9, 2013

Nominations due: Ronnie Ray ESP Advocate of the Year

This award recognizes one TSTA educational support professional (ESP) who demonstrates outstanding accomplishments and reflects the contributions of ESPs to public education. Nominations should show the contributions the individual has made to their school, community, and profession. Nominees must have been an ESP member of TSTA for three years as of January 15. Nominations are accepted from regions and/or local affiliates (one per affiliate) and should follow the ESP Award Guidelines found at http://tsta.org/news-center/awards-grants. Please return the required ESP Award Data Sheet and nomination information to: Ronnie Ray ESP Award Committee, c/o TSTA CEG, 316 West 12th Street, Austin, Texas 78701 by 5 p.m. Sept. 30.

U.S. Education Secretary to visit El Paso

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan launched his “Strong Start, Bright Future” back-to-school bus tour today in New Mexico, spotlighting the importance of all of America’s students benefiting from high-quality education opportunities. On Tuesday, he will visit El Paso’s Transmountain Early College High School, located adjacent to the campus of El Paso Community College, where he will tour classrooms and host a town hall on STEM education. For more information about the tour, see http://www.ed.gov/blog/topic/bustour.

September 6, 2013

‘Teach’: What does it take to be a teacher? 

This year-in-the-life of four public school teachers is an intense and emotional illustration of how tenacity, innovation, and passion drive educators as they help students overcome obstacles and strive for success.It premieres tonight on CBS (check local listings). 

Inside info: Director Davis Guggenheim is the same guy who gave us “Waiting for Superman,” which demonized public education, unions, and teachers. But his third documentary on education in America is more like his first, “The First Year,” which followed beginning teachers in Los Angeles.

Analysis: Thumbs up for recognizing that great teachers make great schools. Thumbs down for not emphasizing the need to provide teachers with the tools and resources to help students achieve, or recognizing the difficulty many teachers have making ends meet so they can stay in the profession they love. (For that story, check out “American Teacher,” a documentary now available online and on DVD.) 

Watch for: Commercials for Teach.org, a website that promotes teaching as a career. NEA is represented on its advisory board.

More: http://www.takepart.com/teach

September 4, 2013

Texas Tribune Festival to examine education

One track at the Texas Tribune Festival Sept. 27-29 in Austin is public education. Speakers, including legislators, will discuss early childhood education, innovation, charter schools, and reform. Register at http://www.texastribune.org/festival/2013/home.