Report from the SBOE meeting, Nov. 16-18, 2011

The State Board of Education and its committees met on November 16-18, 2011. The meeting consisted of the following: Committee of the Full Board, Committee on Instruction, Committee on Finance/Permanent School Fund, and Committee on School Initiatives. The State Board of Education meeting, itself, was on Friday, November 18th.

Business discussed and/or acted on included the following:

REQUIRED CURRICULUM

Overwhelmed and Left Behind

The State Board of Education discussed proposed revisions to the Math TEKS. The revisions take into consideration input from panels of educators as well as experts from across the education spectrum. The revised TEKS do include instruction in the use of Math algorithms in primary grades and the exclusion of calculators in through Grade 5.

Significant discussion focused on the sheer number of Math TEKS resulting in a curriculum that is “an inch deep and a mile wide.” For instance, most every elementary grade has almost 50 standards — which means that, on average, a teacher has about 3 days to ensure that an increasingly larger and more diversified group of students master these TEKS. SBOE did advise TEA to bring back the educator panels to possibly reduce the number of Math TEKS as well as ensure proper alignment with the Science TEKS.

At the January 2012 SBOE meeting, the Board will have to revise its TEKS revision process and this may have an impact on future TEKS revisions. This will delay final adoption of the Math TEKS until the July 2012 Board meeting.

A major implication that was also discussed is the five-year lag between the adoption of the revised Math TEKS and the availability of instructional materials, including textbooks, necessary to implement the TEKS. So, for at least five years, teachers will be expected to master the revised TEKS using instructional materials based on the current TEKS so that students can pass an assessment based on the current TEKS which will impact a teacher’s performance based on instruction of the revised TEKS.
None of the current conversation included any reference to proposed ESEA 2011, which may pose (and impose) its own set of problems on the TEKS.

Proposed Math TEKS are available at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=2147499971

Graduation Requirements — “Just What in the Sam Hill Were They Thinking?”

This was the question posed by SBOE member Pat Hardy when TEA Counsel reviewed recently adopted statutory language that states that a 4th credit in Math may only be taken after or concurrently with Algebra II and Integrated Physics and Chemistry could only be taken after or concurrently with Physics. This change applies to the Recommended High School Program and the Distinguished Achievement Program.  SBOE approved language that resolved this issue following a directive from the Committee of the Full Board.

SBOE also added a Chapter G to TAC Chapter 74 that specifies new graduation requirements.
In changes to the secondary curriculum, SBOE

  • approved moving Economics from the enrichment curriculum to the foundation curriculum as a part of Social Studies
  • changed the name of U. S. History Since Reconstruction to U. S. History Since 1877
  • eliminated Health Education as a required part of the high school curriculum
  • Inserted language stating that a school district must offer a course required for graduation at least once every two consecutive years or once a year if it has an EOC

SBOE also added a Chapter G to TAC Chapter 74 that specifies new graduation requirements.
Information on Curriculum Requirements/Graduation Requirements may be found at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/graduation.aspx

PERMANENT SCHOOL FUND

Outperforming Benchmarks But Not Peer Funds

SBOE received a report on the status of the Permanent School Fund. Presently, the fund has a value of $22.8 billion. The good news is that the fund is surpassing benchmarks set by SBOE; the bad news is that it is not performing as well as similar funds across the nation. The fund did earn just over $48 million between 01 August — 30 September 2011.

SBOE is also considering a TEA recommendation to move from external fund managers to internal fund managers who, in turn, will have a strategic partnership with external fund managers. This generated some debate as to who will be accountable for fund performance as well as the relationship between TEA and external fund managers, including those that are currently on the TEA Watchlist.

A Relationship Between Payments from the Permanent School Fund to the Available School Fund and the General Land Office — Like Paying Someone Else’s Property Tax Without the Benefit of Their Income
A recently passed constitutional amendment the additional payment due to the inclusion of General Land Office (GLO) assets in the base would come out of investments managed by SBOE. Also, the 6% limitation to the PSF distribution in any single year does not apply to the additional discretionary payments made by GLO directly into the Available School Fund. In other words, SBOE is responsible for the additional payment even though it receives no money directly from the GLO.

Additional information on the Permanent School Fund is available at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=2147485578&menu_id=2147483695

Direct vs. Indirect Cost Rates — What Exactly Constitutes a Cost “Directly” to the Students?

SBOE engaged in much dialogue relative to the approval of a rule to cap the maximum allowable indirect cost rate for Compensatory Education, Special Education, Bilingual Education, and Special Language Education. The rule included a recently added amendment giving the Commissioner of Education the authority to develop a methodology to ensure that any increase in the indirect cost rate was equal to the percentage decrease in WADA school funding. Social Conservatives wanted to remove the language contained in the amendment that would have granted the Commissioner that responsibility but this motion failed along a 7-8 vote.

The primary concern of all members was to ensure that more money went into the classroom and that districts had the flexibility to set how much money would be spent on indirect costs up to the maximum allowable caps. Board members asked for a comparison of direct vs. indirect costs. Indirect costs include facilities acquisition, administrative costs, student transportation, and administration.  Direct costs include instruction, school leadership, libraries, counseling, and nursing.

Upon query by Board members, a jumbotron TV screen for a football stadium would be considered a permissible indirect cost.

After extensive debate, the board approved the proposed rule with the authority for the Commissioner to establish a methodology and with the following caps in place.

Approved caps are:

  • Career and Technology Education: 40%
  • Gifted/Talented Education: 45%
  • Compensatory Education/Special Education/Bilingual Education/Special Language Education: 48%

IN OTHER ACTION

  • Approved costs for home-school and private school students to participate in the state assessment program. Currently, 28 private schools participate in the state assessment program
  • Took no action on proposed rules from SBEC, which makes them effective. (SBOE has two options relative to SBEC rules — take no action, which puts them in force; or reject them, which sends them back to SBEC for review and revision.