Other Voices

Elections aside, State Board of Education keeps focus on future

State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff listens to testimony during a board meeting. Ratliffe did not run for re-election and will leave the board in January.
State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff listens to testimony during a board meeting. Ratliffe did not run for re-election and will leave the board in January. AP

With runoffs settled, candidates for the State Board of Education have been chosen and now we look forward to the November election.

Voters and candidates alike should work hard to see through the smoke produced by inevitable electoral fires between now and November.

This 15-member state board that I am privileged to lead has been and will remain focused on discharging the responsibility of overseeing the education of the state’s children.

Texas enjoys economic success. To continue that success, the state will need to provide employers with a workforce that can compete in the constantly changing economy.

We are off to a good start, but there is plenty left to do.

Since my appointment as chair of the State Board of Education in June 2015, I have traveled the state talking to parents, business leaders, administrators, teachers — anyone who would talk to me — about assessments, accountability and the effective delivery of education to the young people who are often the last voices heard in policy discussions.

We are still compiling the public feedback received at the SBOE Community Conversations, which finished up at the end of March.

However, on the goals of assessments and accountability, the words that stand out in the feedback received from parents, business leaders and educators are individual, growth, learning, readiness, measure, goals and needs.

If we can’t figure out a way to understand and meet individual student needs, we won’t be able to prepare them adequately for the future.

It is the goal of the 15-member Next Generation Commission on Assessments and Accountability to make recommendations to the Legislature by Sept. 1.

The recommendations will be both research- and community-based.

The SBOE is contributing to this process by gathering community feedback for the commission.

In addition, the SBOE hopes to make an even greater impact for our students by updating the Long-Range Plan for Public Education, a duty assigned to the SBOE by law.

The last long-range plan expired in 2006.

At the SBOE meeting in April, we approved phase one of a two-phase effort to put an updated plan in place.

The long-range plan will center on arriving at and articulating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges in Texas public education over the next five to seven years.

Our plan will include a considerable effort at partnering with the commissioner of education and gathering policy maker, post-secondary, K-12 educator, business community, parent and general public input.

Finally, the SBOE is partnering with the commissioner of education in holding the second in our series of learning roundtables.

The September roundtable will focus on the theme, “Educating the Children of Poverty.”

We will invite national and state experts to discuss the various facets of poverty and how we can find greater success at helping our students overcome the many challenges to receiving the education they each deserve.

If we succeed in our mission to help all children, we raise generations of Texans who can sustain and grow the economic success we currently enjoy.

We alone determine our success or failure. We literally cannot afford to fail.

Strong debate will occur. That is to be expected, with the SBOE affecting so many areas certain to bring out strong passion on all sides.

However, our board has worked through many issues over the last several years with professionalism and commitment.

Our first and foremost focus has been on benefiting the education of the 5.2 million children in Texas public schools. That commitment will most assuredly continue.

We are off to a solid start. Our good intentions will be matched with the commitment and drive necessary to sustain that momentum.

We owe that to students, their families and to Texas.

We have the tools to forge a bright future. Let’s put them to work.

Donna Bahorich represents Houston-area District 6 on the State Board of Education and was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to chair the board.

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