Woods' Weekly

Woods' Weekly

Woods' Weekly is written by Superintendent Brian T. Woods and is sent to Northside ISD staff every Monday to keep them updated on local and state education issues.

October 5, 2015     

Good morning.  A couple of weekends ago, our Athletics and Fine Arts departments combined forces to honor active duty and veterans of military service at our football games.  These heroes were recognized on the field prior to the national anthem and were serenaded with patriotic music from our talented marching bands at half time.  It was a wonderful sight to see and hear.  Even after a significant lightening delay on that Friday night we recognized dozens of local and national heroes including some who fought in World War II and Korea.  We are very fortunate to have these special people living in our community.  Thanks to all of the folks in Athletics and Fine Arts for a great idea beautifully executed!

Last week the US Department of Education (DOE) announced that Texas’ conditional waiver from the sanctions associated with the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) statutes has been extended.  Passed in 2001, NCLB is terribly outdated and in need of a complete reevaluation.  Congress is working on that now, but making very slow progress.  As you know, NCLB mandates that 100% of all students meet standards on state testing.  If that ridiculous standard is not met then the campus does not satisfy Adequate Yearly Progress and a host of sanctions kick in.  One of the most onerous of those sanctions is that districts must set aside 20% of our Title One budget to pay for so called “supplemental educational services”.  What this really means (we know this from Texas districts who faced this before the waiver was originally granted) is that those monies that now go to provide smaller class sizes and enrichment for some of our neediest students would go to private providers for tutoring.  As an aside, this is just another example, at the federal level this time, of siphoning off public education dollars to benefit for-profit entities.

In Texas we have been operating under a waiver from NCLB since 2013.  However, the DOE has consistently put pressure on the Texas Education Agency to develop and mandate a teacher and principal evaluation instrument that gives 

“significant weight” to student test scores and to use those evaluations in personnel decisions.  The state is developing such an instrument now and, in fact, we are piloting it at several of our campuses. However, because the law in Texas does not mandate that districts use the state-adopted evaluations instruments, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was quoted last week as saying that Texas was at “high risk” of losing the waiver.  Secretary Duncan went on to say that Texas has until January of 2016 to show progress toward meeting federal mandates or be in jeopardy of losing the waiver for the 2016-17 school year.

To his credit, Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams has been consistent in saying that while he fully understands the DOE’s position, he is not interested in requiring that Texas ISDs utilize the state-developed system.  Williams stated last week, “Throughout the waiver application process, I have made it clear to federal officials that I do not have nor will I ever seek the authority to compel local school districts to use one uniform teacher and principal evaluation system statewide.  Our state believes strongly in local control of our schools.  As a result, we will continue discussing this specific point with the U.S. Department of Education, but they should not expect any shift in Texas’ position.”  I have often been critical of the Commissioner in this space and continue to question our state leaders’ commitment to local control with respect to Texas schools.  However, in this case I want to praise and thank Commissioner Williams.  This is a tough situation to be in and I believe he is taking the right path for Texas schools.

Finally, on Sept. 25, the Northside Education Foundation (NEF) awarded almost $5,000 to about 50 teachers that are new to NISD this school year. The NEF Prize Patrol visited winners to surprise them with their NEF $100 New Teacher Grants.  Applications are being accepted for NEF $5,000 Innovation grants until November 19. To apply for NEF grants, please visit www.nisd.net/grants-recognitions/grants.

Have a great week.