From the desk of Dr. Kirk Lewis

Updates from the Superintendent


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Just the Facts

Those of you who are near my age will remember the television show Dragnet. Sgt. Joe Friday, in a clipped, monotone voice would try to cut through the fog of information by saying, “Just the facts, sir.”

I feel much the same way each legislative session when I hear politicians speak about removing the cap on charter schools to allow unlimited expansion. The refrain has always been that charter school competition will make public schools better. Without a doubt, there are some very good charter schools. They are meeting a need for some students that have fallen through the system in public schools. Traditional schools have had to step up our game to serve all students better than we did in the past. I believe most districts have done that.

Let’s look at few facts as provided by the Texas Sunset Advisory Board:

  • The percentage of charter schools rated Academically Unacceptable is almost double the percentage found in traditional public schools (11.2 percent for charters and 5.9 percent for public schools).
  • The percentage of charter school operators who fail the state’s financial accountability standards in 2012 was six times more than public school districts (13.1 percent to 2 percent)
  • Charter schools represent 71 percent of the campuses facing state sanctions, yet their numbers comprise only 17 percent of the total public school campuses in Texas.
  • More than 50 charter schools have been rated academically unacceptable for 3 plus years and one campus has been academically unacceptable for 7 years, percentages far higher than those seen in traditional public schools.

The debate continues in Austin about expanding the charter options, despite no research that shows they are doing a better job, as a rule, than most traditional schools and despite a very uneven playing field of rules and regulations. I am not advocating an end to the experiment with charter schools. However, I encourage you to let your legislators know that continued operation of a poor performing charter schools is a drain on a financially strapped system.


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Bring Reason to State Testing

The pressure of high stakes testing on students, parents, teachers and principals hit its boiling point over the past year.  Once the legislators heard from enough parents, many representatives and senators began proposing changes to the accountability system that would reduce the number of tests a student must take and change how those tests will count toward graduation.  Any change would be welcomed relief.

Currently, students are tested every year from third grade to eighth grade. The students take end-of-course exams while in high school in all of the core academic subjects. Success on these exams is required for graduation. It is a cumbersome and complicated system that few understand.

Most of the proposals out of Austin reduce testing to grades 3, 5 and 8, in reading and math. Writing, science and social studies would be offered possible in 4th and 7th grades only. There has been some discussion of reducing the required number of end-of-course exams and simplifying how those tests will impact graduation.

Schools should be accountable to the community for the success of every student we serve. However, standardized tests should not be the only measure of student success. Eliminating the emphasis on a single test will certainly take some of the pressure off our students and our teachers.

We will keep you posted as the proposals develop. Let us know if you have specific concerns or questions about the plans for testing.