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Texas Officials Name ‘Assessments and Accountability’ Education Commission Picks

Top Texas officials named 11 of 15 appointees to the newly created public education Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability, authorized through the passage of House Bill 2804 during the 84th legislative session. The short-term 15-member commission’s sole purpose is to write a report that develops and makes recommendations “for new systems of student assessment and public school accountability” which is due by September 1, 2016.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott appointed four commission members while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus appointed three each and State Board of Education (SBOE) Chair Donna Bahorich appointed one. The remaining appointees come from chairs of the state senate and house education committees, respectively; plus the chairs of the senate and house committees on higher education or their designees.

Abbott named businessman Mike Morath as the commission’s presiding officer. He is a Dallas ISD board of trustee and a board member of the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). The other three gubernatorial picks are Andrew Kim, Theresa Trevino and Quinton Vance. Patrick named Kim Alexander, Paul Castro and Michael K. McLendon. Straus appointed Pauline Dow, Maria Hernandez Ferrier and Catherine Susser. A press release lists their career highlights. Separately, Bahorich named SBOE member Erika Beltran (D-Dallas).

“The Legislature’s establishment of this commission demonstrates the value of high standards in our public schools,” said Bahorich. “Creating a system that more clearly identifies student learning gaps in time for early intervention, providing meaningful accountability to both parents and taxpayers, will help ensure that high school students in Texas graduate with a diploma that means something.”

Beltran, a Fort Worth native, is the director of Dallas nonprofit Teaching Trust’s leadership program and a former teacher. Her Facebook page says she is the daughter of Mexican immigrants who is passionate about ensuring that every student in Texas receives a high quality education and is committed to serving her home district.

Bahorich said Beltran will “best engage and represent the SBOE on this special task. She is passionate about ensuring all children have access to a quality education, and her teaching experience gives her valuable insight into the challenges facing students, families and educators. I am confident she will make an impactful contribution as a member of this commission.”

SBOE member and former chair Barbara Cargill agreed. She told Breitbart Texas, “I think Erika will do a good job gathering input from board members as we voice the concerns about assessments from parents, teachers, and other stakeholders in our districts.”

As another SBOE contribution to the Commission, Bahorich and fellow board members, host a variety of unique community face-to-face and online “Community Conversations” statewide that engage parents, business leaders, and educators to problem solve on the tough topic of assessments and accountability.

The Texas Institute for Education Reform (TIER) commended the announced appointments. Executive Director Courtney Boswell said: “TIER is especially pleased to see reform-minded public education and higher education leaders included on the commission.”

The creation of the commission is in response to HB 2804 revamping the state’s public education assessment and accountability criteria. Telling will be what ideas emerge about the proper role of assessments and student privacy and data collection in the accountability process given the mix of appointees with varying political and civic affiliations. Most play roles in public education with school board, superintendent, administration, teaching, charter school and grant writing experience. One, a licensed psychiatrist, is president of Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment (TAMSA), progressive mom activist group state Rep. and House education chair Jimmie Don Aycock praised for their behind-the-scenes “political trades” and deals that influenced HB 5 legislation and adoption. Aycock authored HB 5 and HB 2804.

The commission dissolves on Jan. 1, 2017.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.

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