Alief ISD Key Communicator Message - December 17, 2012

Dear Alief ISD Key Communicator,

The November elections are over and the next Texas Legislative Session begins in early January 2013. As with every Legislative Session in Texas, the 2013 term will be important to the students, teachers, support staff and parents of Texas schools. In addition to public education, other matters of importance to the Texas Legislature will be water and the availability of water in the future, transportation, and Medicaid. Recently, the Alief ISD Board of Trustees approved a set of legislative priorities important to Alief ISD and public education in Texas. The important issues included in the AISD Board Legislative Agenda are: 1) school funding, 2) student testing and accountability, 3) local governance and control (vouchers, school tax credits) and 4) federal issues.

School Funding-Due to the school finance lawsuit not being resolved until at least December 2013, it is anticipated that there will be very little legislation dealing with school funding. I will remind you that the state of Texas cut public school funding by $5.4 billion during the 2011 session. Because Texas is forecasting a budget surplus for the upcoming biennium (2013-15), Alief ISD is strongly encouraging our elected officials to restore funds that were cut for early childhood education, technology and additional tutorials for our students that need additional academic assistance. The Board is also encouraging legislators to fund school districts adequately enough to prepare students to be graduated career and college ready as defined by the state of Texas.

Student Testing and Accountability-As a result of what has become excessive and, in some cases, meaningless state-mandated testing for all students, Alief ISD strongly supports reducing the number of state-mandated tests, recognizing student growth and progress in all content areas, and having an understandable accountability system that teachers and parents can understand. We are also encouraging the legislature to recognize successful career and workforce development programs, as well as fine arts and wellness programs, as a significant component of a student's graduation plan. We must allow for meaningful graduation plans for students who plan to attend a four-year university, as well as those who may pursue other post secondary options. I will be sharing more information on this topic in future letters.

Local Governance and Control-Alief ISD strongly supports the return of local control to the Board for the establishment of the school start date. Several years ago, the legislature passed a bill that mandated a specific start of school date for all public school districts. We believe this decision should be made by each local school board. Alief ISD does not support any form of voucher system or tax credits.

I've spoken with senators and representatives throughout the state of Texas and have shared my thoughts about many of these issues. To further continue the two-way communication with elected officials, our Board of Trustees hosted a breakfast meeting with our locally elected officials representing Alief on November 27th. The meeting was productive, and we were pleased that two State Board of Education members, Donna Bahorich and Lawrence Allen, were able to attend. Also attending were State Representative Alma Allen and representatives from the offices of Congressman Al Green, State Representative Gene Wu, and State Representative Hubert Vo. Several Alief Board members and I have also been meeting with individual legislators to ensure the lines of communication remain open throughout the session.

Regarding state-mandated testing, we are sharing with the legislators a framework that can be used for legislation to reduce testing and align student testing in schools to the college and career readiness standard. One of the main points of this framework is that state required assessment of all students each year is not necessary to provide a quality and career ready education.

There are currently 15 required End of Course tests that each high school student must pass before graduation. Our proposal calls for five required EOC tests and the option to use other recognized assessments such as PSAT scores, SAT scores, ACT scores and advanced placement exam scores to count. We believe that state mandated testing has created a test taking culture of teaching and learning and that test preparation has taken over a teacher's ability to teach students to be creative, innovative and problem solvers. We recognize the value of student assessment in the teaching and learning process. However, in my opinion, the amount and over-reliance of state- mandated testing in Texas is hurting teachers and students. I believe the education and local school district communities must come together and take advantage of an opportunity to make meaningful adjustments to testing and accountability.

I realize this is a lot of information, so please know the Board and I are always available to answer any questions you may have. I encourage you to contact your local elected officials and share your concerns on all of these topics as well as any other issue of importance to you. Let me assure you that

Certainly an issue of concern to all parents across this country today is the safety of their children. Let me assure you that we have many safety protocols in place and routinely practice them. The safety and protection of our students is of the utmost importance to all Alief ISD school principals, teachers, staff and administrators and is a responsibility the district takes seriously.

Thank you for your continued support and interest in the Alief Independent School District by serving as a Key Communicator.

HD Chambers
Alief ISD Superintendent