“$18 Billion Given to Texas Public Schools by Feds: How To Be Held Accountable?
By Donna Garner


I hear Texans rail all the time about the STAAR tests.

However, without the STAAR tests (closely aligned with the Type #1, fact-based, objective, academic, traditional, measurable, observable SBOE-adopted curriculum standards - TEKS), there would be no “measuring stick.” 

Without the STAAR tests, there is no other objective way to gauge academic proficiency based upon the day-to-day instruction which Texas teachers are supposed to be offering their students.

Importantly, that TEKS-based instruction is mandated by law to be taught.

The SBOE members are the people’s voice because we voters elect them.

The TEKS are adopted by them.

The STAAR tests are aligned with the TEKS.

Such tests as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills are NOT aligned with our Texas curriculum standards.

The Iowa Test of Basic Skills is NOT constructed by Texans and could be filled with Type #2, Common Core, CRT, LGBTQ, subjective, social justice agenda questions. We Texans could do nothing whatsoever about that; we have no control over what is put into the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

We do, however, have control over the STAAR tests because they are produced right here in Texas under the watchful eye of the elected SBOE members and the Texas Education Agency.

The STAAR tests are constructed on grade-level-specific TEKS elements.

So far as I know (and I taught in Texas for 33+ years), there is no better objective instrument (with largely right-or-wrong answers) than the STAAR tests by which to judge students’ and teachers’ progress.

Subjectivity based upon the opinions of the grader are frightening and could easily penalize students who have been taught the Type #1 fact-based, academic, traditional TEKS.

If you have a better solution than the STAAR tests based mostly upon objective data (right-or-wrong answers), let’s hear it.

Portfolios, project-based learning, gamification, essays, feelings-heavy responses, extended-response questions, problem solving, performance-based test questions, etc. depend upon some evaluator’s opinion. That someone is “nameless.” What if that “someone” is a far leftist and is very prejudiced toward your child’s traditional values which might show up on subjectively scored test questions?

Before railing against the STAAR tests with mostly right-or-wrong answers, perhaps all of us need to think what would happen without these Texas-produced tests.



“Billions still untapped by Texas schools to help students recover from COVID slide”

Deadlines approaching to spend federal aid on tutoring, teachers and more.

By Emily Donaldson

Excerpts from this article:

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Schools have a once-in-a-generation infusion of massive funding to tackle a pandemic problem: millions of students struggling in school since COVID-19 disrupted education. So far, Texas schools have tapped less than a third of the cash with only two years left to spend it all.

Supply chain delays, staffing shortages and trouble hiring have tripped up plans. That means school leaders may need to rush to use all funds before deadlines.

The $18 billion designated for Texas schools, approved by Congress, represents a significant windfall for tutoring, more teachers, salary increases, upgrades to air conditioning and more. Any unused funds will be sent back.

…Duncanville, for example, spent some of the district’s aid on diagnosing why its students, like many across Texas, fell behind in math and readingFrom 2019 to 2021, the percentage of third graders passing those state tests [STAAR tests] dropped by more than 20 percentage points.

When we think about the learning loss, we have to first know where people are in order to take them to the next level,” said Connie Wallace, the district’s chief of special initiatives and collaborative community.

…State leaders have emphasized that the Legislature won’t replace the cash flow after they run out.

Texas lawmakers urge districts to keep track of what investments were worth the money and made a difference.

“We will hopefully get some answers someday of what worked and what did not work,” said Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, who leads the Senate’s Finance Committee.

…Deadlines for spending are starting to approach.

Congress approved three federal aid packages for schools across the country during the pandemic. Texas used the first, totaling about $1 billion, mostly to swap out some state funding.

The next two packages largely flowed directly to local districts. Roughly 71% of those packages – with respective expiration dates in September of 2023 and 2024 – remain unspent, according to TEA.

Green told state senators that TEA will keep tabs on academic accountability ratings – which are largely based on STAAR results – to gauge how effectively schools are supporting student recovery.

And when it comes to learning strategies, schools should not wait to see annual exam results -- such as those from the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests [STAAR] -- to decide whether a strategy is working.

…How are districts spending the money?

The nearly $40 million Duncanville received equated to about a third of their budget for the last school year.

All of the district’s efforts were aimed at making sure Duncanville kids came out successful on the other side of the pandemic, Wallace said.

…Meanwhile, Mesquite devoted about $22 million to stipends for teachers devoted to recovering lost learning and $6 million to expand summer learning.

The TEA associate commissioner cautioned that districts should be wary of spending on too many recurring costs, such as salary increases or new positions. When the money runs out, they could be hard to maintain, he said.

Roughly one-quarter of the expenditures recorded thus far fall into the recurring category, according to TEA…