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EDUCATION TEXAS-ANOTHER TESTING PROGRAM FAILURE!

When will educators and politicians admit that every child is not equipped to be a doctor, lawyer or rocket scientists? Likely never, as we will now look for a new magic test that will also fail. We need occupational education for those children that will be welders, technicians, salesperson, beauty operators, etc. Although some programs exist, they are funded by outside donations except our prison system schools. If we train some of these young people, trades they may not have to go to prison to get qualified? If interested, I posted other articles about this subject during the same time frame. You can find these by searching my site.

Except for some minor changes in the first paragraph this article was posted some 19 months ago on May 22,2011.

The new STAAR testing program will be just another untested wild goose chase. After wasting millions on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) testing program, some Texas school districts have captured the costs for TAKS. Based on the factual costs the STAAR program will double the costs of TAKS. Taxpayers will face increased waste of state funds and no improved knowledge for the majority of students.

An article by Hawley Kappes in The Daily News on May 15 revealed some significant facts I wish to share. Teachers now have to teach to pass a test or face possible discipline. With all of the 1265 Texas school districts facing budget cuts, the Clear Creek ISD decided to review all expenditures including the TAKS costs.

The review revealed that $1.3 million costs associated with TAKS, which includes paying substitute teachers who support administering the test, tutoring for students who need additional help and supplies — including sharpened pencils, highlighters, dictionaries and graphing calculators.

This included the salaries of testing coordinators at each high school and deans of instruction at all campuses that ensure teachers are following curriculum guidelines.

Texas provides no funding to cover these costs.

Clear Creek ISD did not capture all cost because some testing aspects were difficult to quantify. Assistant principals at elementary and intermediate schools are responsible for implementing state assessments on their campuses, and it was difficult to assign a dollar amount for the time associated with that work.

The Dickinson ISD reported that the TAKS costs of about $430,000 this year. This includes the salaries of the district’s director of assessment, evaluation and compliance and the testing coordinator at Dickinson High School, plus 30 percent of the salary for an assistant principal at each campus.

The district spends $50,000 a year on extra tutoring for students who need it.

Testing protocol has strict rules that govern the handling of test materials from the time school districts receive the packets until the items are shipped off after testing is finished. Staff members spend time counting test booklets, ensuring no seals have been prematurely broken, keeping the tests locked after hours and training for hypothetical situations that could occur in the testing environment.

Substitutes are needed on testing days to monitor bathrooms and hallways and watch over students if a teacher needs to step out of the classroom. Counselors and testing coordinators spend time identifying if certain students require special test environments, including linguistically assisted testing, which requires a teacher to read questions for students. Most preparation for assessments happens after hours during nights and weekends.

Goodbye TAKS, Hello STAAR

Next year, the state will implement a new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, which will replace the TAKS as a measure of student performance.

Changes include a four-hour limit on testing periods, expanded accommodations for students with dyslexia and makeup days for all tests. Legislators in Austin still are hashing out details of the STAAR, but the tests will include 12 end-of-course assessments mandated by Senate Bill 1031 in 2007 and new assessments for grades three through eight as required by House Bill 3 in 2009.

STAAR is more individualized to what classes a high school student is taking that year. A student’s course load, instead of his grade level, will determine which tests he will take. The test will measure more of the thinking involved and ability to do more processing of information and divergent thinking.

School district officials are grappling with the increased test days the new state assessment will require. Total testing days will increase from 25 under TAKS to 45 under STAAR.

Freshmen this year were tested for reading and math, but next year will take assessments in English, math, social studies and science. Major curriculum revisions will finish this summer to adjust for the more specialized end-of-course exams. New textbooks also will be necessary for school districts.

Some think it would be better to test students in alternating grades or perhaps staggering subjects for different grades at the elementary level. The amount of testing that’s going to happen is encroaching so much on teachers instruction time with students they do not have time to go that deep into curriculum before the test comes.

A Breakdown of Clear Creek ISD’s TAKS Costs were; High school testing coordinator salaries — $216,310; Deans of instruction — $357,066; Substitutes to help administer the tests — $120,000; Target assistance tutoring — $500,000; Graphing calculators — $83,468; Supplies — $25,000 Dictionaries — $1,600.

STAAR is also unfunded, untested and with budget cuts another method for the state to intensify teacher responsibilities to approach the level of “Kamikaze Pilots.” No wonder Texas has some 60 vacancies for K-12 Superintendents. I recommend that many more update their resumes or look into retirement packages.

The Texas Education Agency and the legislature do not have a clue on the damage and waste they have enacted by law. If someone would capture the costs for all 1265 Texas school districts, it might attract attention for the voters to care? The largest Texas school district, Windom, is exempted from TAKS and STAAR as it covers the Texas prison system.   CB

EDUCATION TEXAS- IS TOP DOWN THE ANSWER?

 

Recently I read an article on chron.com, headed “Texas Politics” that got my attention. This article announced that a diverse group of Texas business, philanthropic and community leaders have formed a group named the “Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education”. It was described as a “nonpartisan group” of more than 200 founding members, innovators, job creators, former office holders and education advocates. Their mission was for Texas to lead the nation in higher education. It noted that this was done in support of governance proposed by Rick Perry.

The article went on to say that they were alarmed about the cuts in funding of research and professors. It was predicted as a prescription for mediocrity for Texas. I commend this group of concerned citizens for forming this movement.

It is a shame that our Governor, the legislature, these distinguished business leaders and scholars have no time or desire to improve our K-12 basic education. With all of the interest in higher education Texas has decimated the primary education programs. With no facts to support the spending of billions of dollars by adding more testing in lieu of discipline and better teachers is idiotic at best. Adding additional math and science courses with no foundation or preparation will be another disaster. Creating new testing programs appear designed as a way to evaluate teachers rather than improve our children’s knowledge.

We can’t afford to downgrade education in Texas as our current standing in 43rd place out of 50 states in K-12 schools is unacceptable. Testing does not improve knowledge, teachers do.

This new higher education drive does not even follow the laws of nature. To get an pecan tree we plant, water andFertilize a pecan. We do not wait until it reaches adult life to nourish its growth.

Most of the people who formed this new group, our academics, legislators, business leaders and Governor Perry were educated in another era like myself. We did not have discipline problems, aliens, and a welfare society to distract K-12 education. We also had fewer one parent children and parents who shared education responsibilities. Now we expect a teacher in K-12, who is responsible to teach, to also provide nurturing and discipline that is a parental obligation. Teachers spend an enormous amount of time defending their actions with parents.

Common sense will prevail that not every teacher is perfect and some will need guidance and some removed from education. If anyone believes that every K-12 child is 100% angel, they need an awakening. Our Texas leaders have decided, without any facts that the solution will be to use outside testing agencies to evaluate teacher and administrator performance.

We now live in a technological era where the entire problem could be isolated and corrected at a fraction of the costs of the STAAR testing program.

All that needs to be done is to install a digital sound camera in every classroom, office and board room from kindergarten to graduate school. This would provide the facts necessary to know exactly what to do to improve education at every level. This would pinpoint teacher, administrator, student and school board performance evaluation. Parents could witness discipline problems; administrators could review teacher performance; school boards could evaluate administrators and the state could evaluate school boards. This is what a business would do if their costs keep increasing and the performance diminished. Doing the right thing right, every time, is called success and common sense. Unfortunately politicians have little business or common sense.

How many teachers, administrators, school boards, university/college professors and trustees will fight these suggestions? All of them will. Unfortunately politicians will just ignore them.

Hoping that a child will be smarter with testing, so the professors in college task will be easier is a pipe dream. From my perspective our leadership in Texas has their education priorities bassackwards. Pardon my east Texas vocabulary.

Clyde Brewer

EDUCATION TEXAS-SALARY FACTS AND FIGURES

 

Over the past several weeks I have posted a series of articles about the proposed reduction of state funds for educating our children. At this juncture I can make one solid statement that our Governor and Legislature are so wrapped up in politics; they have no concept of the real Texas education administrative costs. Most of the blame expressed by the politicians is waste at the local school district level and action at that level certainly needs focused attention. 

I have spent several hours on the internet collecting some actual facts that are available for public review. Although all of the actual figures are not directly related to education, you should find some of the numbers interesting, I did. I found most of these facts at THE TEXAS TRIBUNE website.

The 25 highest paid state employees are all education related. The highest paid is Mack Brown, University of Texas (UT) head football coach, whose annual salary is $2,511,667.00 (ESPN’s website shows his salary to be over $5,000,000.00). Second place go’s to another UT coach, Richard D. Barnes at $2,916,667.00. Fourth place is Texas Tech coach, Thomas Tuberville, at $1,500,000.00. Thirteenth place is UT coach, Gail A. Goestenkors, at $930,834.00. Eighteenth place is UT coach, August E. Garndo, at $760,000.00 and at 25th place is Clarence Byme, Texas A&M athletic director at $711,434.00. The other eighteen individuals on the highest 25 paid state employees are all professors at various medical schools. Their salaries ranged from $700,000.00 to $$1,750,000.00.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has a total of 1054 employees doing something. The highest salary is $480,000.00, lowest is $21,015.00 and the average is $60,875.00. This produces a total salary only expense for the TEA of $64,162,250.00. Do they actually teach the student anything?

I found another state agency I was not aware of, the Texas Teacher Retirement System. This agency has 511 employees with the highest salary being $480,000.00; the lowest is $20,217.00 and the average of $56,116.00. This amounts to an annual salary only expense of $28,675,276.00.

The Tribune reports that there are 1154 school superintendents in Texas. Apparently some of the 1265 districts do not have any superintendents. Many of the school districts are charter schools. A review reveals that the Beaumont ISD superintendent, Carrol Thomas has the highest salary of $347,834.00. There are 78 that make more than $200,000.00; 511 earn between $100-200,000.00; 475 earn between $50-100,000.00 and 90 that make less than $50,000.00. Other than the outlandish salary in Beaumont, school superintendents are not overpaid. When you compare most to business leaders they are underpaid. The University of Texas alone has 190 positions that pay salaries over $200,000.00. The President, William Powers, salary is $511,491.00. The wide separation between the pay for a college professor and a K-12 school superintendent is another concern that Austin and the TEA have priority problems.

Wow, it would be nice to really know the true costs of education at the state level. If I had a staff to research this I would. It would be interesting to know if our Governor or Legislators had even a foggy idea of what a business would call overhead. At most only 25 of the above would ever come face to face with a student. Can you imagine what these costs would be if fringe benefits were available to review?

While I was accumulating these facts I decided to look at the entire State of Texas salary structure. The Tribune reports that the state currently has 660,000 employees. They report that we have 434,210 who have a salary up to $50,000.00; 203,795 with a salary from $50-100,000.00; 14,728 with a salary from $100-150,000.00; 2,783 with a salary from $150-200,000.00; 1,404 with a salary from 200-250,000.00; 786 with a salary from $250-300,000.00 and 2,294 with salaries from $300,000.000 to the $2,511,667.00.

By the way we pay Governor Perry $150,000.00 a year plus fringes. If every student in our universities had the brains to accumulate this knowledge, they would be idiots if they did not pursue a career in public service. You can’t blame this situation on the republicans now in power as the roots of these systems were created during democratic majority years. When you multiply this by all 50 states and throw in the education waste generated in Washington, it should tell the common folks that it is time to demand change.

What we all can do is blame the current republican leadership in Austin if they fail to understand and correct the problems that are so evident. Shifting the burden to the next generation to fix this is unacceptable to me. Are you satisfied? Please send me your comments and send your questions to your state Senator and/or Representative.

The sad part is the K-12 children are at the bottom of the priorities in Austin. That is probably because they can’t vote.

Clyde Brewer

EDUCATION TEXAS- A LOCAL ADVANTAGE?

For those who have children or grand children in K-12 schools, let me encourage you to find out if your if this described advantage exist where you live. It is obvious to me that the Texas Legislature uses politics to provide educational variables to pacify themselves and the appointed and elected Boards to favor certain school districts. Nationally the US Department of Education uses 90% of their billions to provide social justice for the minorities and aliens. Just read the itemized 92 page budget if you doubt my words. If the states and the federal governments would admit that a local program like the one described below would find the right path for aligning children’s capability with a mixture of academics and vocational programs necessary to prepare them for their place in society. We may all be created equally but we all do not fit into society equally. It is time for the people to stop this waste of money and demand change. CB

Article

“First let me apologize to Dr. Lana Comeaux, whose name I misspelled in the last article. I have lived in Sabine county, very close to Louisiana, for nearly 20 years. When Dr. Pearson suggested I meet Ms. Como, my age drove me to associate the name to Perry when I took notes.”

I had the pleasure to visit with Dr. Comeaux on Monday April 11th at the Sabine Area Career Center in Pineland, Texas. I had no conception of what a great advantage was available to the citizens of Sabine and San Augustine counties.

The center has several specialized classrooms to conduct classes and a welding facility with modern equipment and seven individually vented weld stations. The computer classroom is well equipped and is available for students use in searching the internet for assignments. Classrooms are available to permit students to participate and interact by video with some specialty classes being conducted at Angelina College in Lufkin.

The Career Center also has a large meeting room that is available for community meetings and special events. Currently this room is utilized for programs like Dance, Taekwondo, Photography, Flower Arranging and Computer classes. Another program available is support meetings for parents with autistic children.

In addition to the Angelina campus, some of the classes are conducted at Hemphill ISD and Jasper ISD where science labs or other specialty facilities exist. I have another meeting scheduled this April 21st with Dr. Pearson and Dr. Comeaux to view the Hemphill laboratories and other specialized facilities.

Some of the two year college credit courses are; English, World History, US History, Texas History, Sociology, Algebra, Chemistry, Biology etc. The Career Center also provides Community Service Programs that include; Phlebotomy, Certified Nurse Asst., Medical Asst., GED Preparation, and Welding. Future planning includes courses for EMT, LVN, Police and Fire careers, Automotive and A/C & Repair.

All of the programs are available to students at Hemphill, West Sabine, Brookland, Broadus and San Augustine school districts.

Citizens of the area are fortunate to have this facility. It does require the five school districts to work closely with Dr. Comeaux. This includes a student’s needs assessment and scheduling classes to permit the students to be able to take the Angelina programs. Each of the five school districts provide either the superintendent or a principal to serve on the on the Board of Directors.

The program is totally funded by grants, donations and private foundations. Currently the Beaumont and TLL Foundations provide significant funding for the Center. No state or local taxes are appropriated for the center. This is an unusual advantage for both the students and parents of Sabine and San Augustine counties.

A student can take up to twenty classes which can result in roughly 60 credit hours if they take full advantage of the program. Students are eligible after their sophomore year to start in that summer and can take 2 courses each semester. There are two summer sessions in addition to the regular fall and spring school semesters. This means that if a student is academically driven, they can start their college or university education as a junior. For those families with funding limitations, a high school student can obtain an Associate’s Degree in the summer after they graduate from high school.

Every parent should be aware of this advantage. The economic distress and the mystery of what the politicians in Austin and Washington D.C. will dream up next, demands that we prepare today’s students who will have to pay for the debacle.

Clyde Brewer

EDUCATION TRAIN WRECK-TEXAS STYLE

I posted a letter I received from my State Representative, Wayne Christian, a few days ago. The following is my response to his message. I have also requested a chance to meet face to face and discuss the train wreck Texas is headed for if someone can’t bring common sense into the equation.  C Brewer 

March 25, 2011Wayne Christian, State Representative, Texas District 9

Dear Sir,

Thank you for the time you took to reply to my concerns related to education in Texas. Your response indicates that you have an interest in education.

How much money the state provides to educate our children is the Legislature’s responsibility. How we spend whatever is provided is also the Legislatures responsibility. If taxpayers ignore the way we waste money with expanded administrative programs we deserve the horrible results we have in Texas schools. Texas rankings nationwide related to reading and math scores are totally unacceptable. With all of the money we spend, that your letter emphasizes, why is performance so poor? Surely someone in the bloated Texas Education Agency (TEA) bureaucracy has an answer. They would never respond to me but they should respond to you if you asked!

I take issue with some of your stated facts. The Comptroller may be accurate that the spending for education has nearly doubled in the last ten years. The statement that Texas schools receive nearly $12,000 per pupil funding is not accurate or even close to being correct. It is true that some Texas school districts get that much funding. I actually found 3 school districts, out of 1265, that received over $12,000 per student from the state. Sabine County, in your district where I reside, has three school districts. None of these three received as much as $5,000 per student, why?

It appears you have used data from expenditures in the Comptrollers FAST Report? Those numbers are total expenditures that include capital expenses such as football stadiums, gyms, debt service and what appears to be a myriad of state agencies like the TEA.

One such agency I encourage you to review is the “Regional Education Service Centers” (RESC). The Legislature authorized the State Board of Education (SBOE) to establish this group in 1965. In 1967 the Legislature expanded the RESC role and created 20 separate regional centers. In 1984 the legislature directed the RESC to work closer with the TEA to raise the quality of district programs and enhance uniformity and consistency in school districts operations. In 1992 the SBOE revised the RESC rules to involve annual evaluations of each director’s performance and approve all 20 annual operating budgets. In 1997 the Legislature reauthorized the existence of the RESC’s. It produced a mandate that the RESC’s perform the following services;

*Assist school districts in improving student performance,

*Enable school districts to operate more efficiently and economically,

*Implement initiatives as assigned by the Texas Legislature and the Commissioner of Education.

RESC’s receive state funding and then charge the districts for all services. They are funded by the state from two different sources. Last year the RESC’s had more than $42,000,000.00 in profit. The current budget debate in Austin has proposed to cut the RESC state funding by only $2 million, why? The RESC should be totally eliminated.

Local districts have their own people to do the same functions as the RESC’s. Many of these positions are unnecessary and the majority of the money is expended to comply with a myriad of state unfunded mandates. Why?

Please have your staff evaluate the entire RESC program if you really desire to reduce wasted tax money. In addition to the above fiasco you will discover that the 20 RESC’s employ at least “4,046” non-instructional positions across the state. The number is approximate as many adjunct employees such as custodial staff were not included. I have spent two days trying to discover exactly how many dollars are actually spent by the RESC’s with no success.

It appears that you obtained some misleading figures from the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute (TCCRI)

The Governor placed the blame on the school districts for the administrative growth. What he failed to tell us is that 90% of the growth in administrative personnel was created by the Legislature passing unfunded mandates. The staffing ratios you reference in 1975 compared to today is misleading at best. In 1975 the TEA did not code many non-instructional positions, so people like custodians, bus drivers, school nurses, librarians and cafeteria workers were not included. Also not included is the massive staff required to comply with federal regulations for Special Education students that did not exist in 1975. School districts now have to employ non-instructional positions such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, etc. School districts are also mandated by the state to hire testing coordinators to comply with state testing programs. Like the federal government the Texas Legislature creates these mandates but they have never funded the testing programs, why? 

If you truly wish to help the children of Texas with an education, stop the unbelievable waste of our tax money on these bureaucratic boondoggles.

If can find this many questions in less than 48 hours, your staff should have a field day with the power you have to obtain hidden education waste. If you agree with Governor Perry that the entire problem of educating our children with less money is the responsibility of each School Board, I have wasted a lot of time compiling this message. Senator Nichols did not even acknowledge receipt of my letter and the Governor does not really care. Texas could privatize education, reduce the costs by 50% just eliminating waste, and provide our children a real education. The State Board of Education (SBOE) is as worthless as the U.S. Department of Education by using children as pawns to amass political power. Both of these agencies should be eliminated.

Sincerely yours,

Clyde W. Brewer

Http://cb75948.wordpress.com

Copies to:  State Senator Robert Nichols, Sabine County Reporter, Governor Rick Perry, SBOE, Barbara Cargill   

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