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June 16, 2008 (512) 463-0300

SELECT COMMITTEE EXAMINES TEXAS SCHOOLS

(DALLAS) -- A legislative committee is examining challenges to the Texas educational system. The Select Committee on Public School Accountability is traveling throughout the state, hearing from educators and the public alike on the issues they face in general, but specifically how good a job the schools are doing. Today's meeting was at the University of North Texas campus in Dallas.

Some of the educators testifying today were critical of the goals that have been set for the schools. They were saying that there is no way to measure how well the schools are doing if the state's expectations or standards aren't clear. That, the educators said, is where the state must begin if it expects to have a good idea of how successful schools really are.

Former Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff told the committee that his group, Raise Your Hand Texas, is examining what the curriculum is and what it should be. The group, a bi-partisan coalition of business and community leaders, says it is working to strengthen Texas schools. Ratliff says they have a plan to create a reporting system that will have fair, understandable and concise information about how any subject on any campus is doing. The main part of the plan proposes using a model that gives credit for a school's success or for showing improvement in any area. Ratliff says their system is more fair, but more stringent, than the current accountability system. He also said there was much more information available about other schools than was presented today.

Committee Member Sandy Kress commented that such steps are necessary, as in his area there are schools that, while gaining academic honors from the state, are currently failing to properly educate their Hispanic and African-American students. Mary Ann Whiteker, Superintendent of Schools at the Hudson Independent School District, testified that under the current system one child can change the rating of a single campus.

During public testimony, parents testified that the pressure of the TAKS test has interfered with the learning process, and that time spent preparing for it is not time spent actually learning. Others said that under the current system, any work and growth the students may achieve is considered failure if certain goals are not met, while other students, who start out with higher scores, are considered successes even if they learn little.

The Select Committee on Public School Accountability is Chaired by Senator Florence Shapiro and Representative Rob Eissler. Members include Senator Tommy Williams, Representative Diane Patrick,

Education Commissioners Robert Scott and Raymund Paredes as well as public members Salem Abraham, Ronald Steinhart, Sandy Kress, Larry Kellner, Susan Lewis, Dalia Benavides, Dr. David Splitek, Dr. Thomas Randle and Beto Gonzalez. The meeting recessed subject to call of the chair.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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