Mike Morath, who took office this week as the new state education commissioner, so far is mostly saying the right things. He says he is “committed to ensuring that our education system provides all the children of Texas the opportunity to be successful in life.” And, he promises to support educators.
But, then, would we really expect the new education commissioner to dash into office bad-mouthing teachers and assuring us he will do his best to help only some of the children – the lucky ones — find their way to success?
His words are fine, but, as I have noted before, some of the unproven schemes he promoted as a school board member in Dallas ISD don’t live up to the promise. For instance, he was instrumental in the adoption of a teacher evaluation system partly tied to test scores. This system will ensure that many teachers in DISD will not get the credit, recognition and compensation they deserve for making the kinds of contributions to children’s lives that can’t be measured by test scores or other similar, data-driven factors.
Children, their accomplishments and their prospects cannot be reduced to their ability to take a test, a fact that parents and educators have long known and which finally dawned on a bipartisan majority of Congress when it recdently voted to repeal the test-heavy No Child Left Behind Act.
The accomplishments and value of educators cannot be reduced to test scores either, which is why the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), strongly encourages states and school districts to measure student success and teacher accomplishments with a broad array of more-meaningful factors, such as graduation and college admittance rates, course grades and student success in pre-AP courses.
As state education commissioner, Morath must work with educators and parents to advocate for what is best for all of Texas’ 5.2 million school children. For starters, here are three things he can do to show he truly is committed to supporting educators and giving every student an opportunity at success:
# Follow the spirit of ESSA and remove STAAR scores from the new teacher evaluation system the Texas Education Agency is working to develop.
# Come out strongly against private school vouchers, expansion of corporate charters and other privatization schemes that would cherry pick a small minority of students for success while undermining the neighborhood public schools where the vast majority of Texas children will continue to be educated. These schemes also include the “home rule” school district concept that Morath also supported in Dallas. It would have allowed DISD to be operated without important state educational standards or employment protections for school employees and was killed by a local citizens commission who, unlike Morath, recognized it for the bad idea that it was – and still is.
# Be an outspoken advocate for an adequate and fair school funding system, something the governor and the legislative majority refuse to recognize as a necessity to universal student success.
The words are fine. Now, Morath needs to back them up.