Parker: Preparing to Return to the Classroom

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State Rep. Tan Parker

Every summer I am continually amazed by two things: how fast the summer break slips by and how hot it can be in Texas.  Like many of you, my family is slowly coming to terms with the reality it is time to start preparing for the start of the 2018-2019 school year.  There are several items related to education that as your state legislator, I want to bring forth as we look ahead.

To begin, school supplies and related accessories always seem to catch my wife, Beth, and I by surprise.  Fortunately, Texas offers a sales tax holiday weekend to help with the costs of purchasing supplies, clothing, footwear and qualifying items.  Previously, I passed legislation to move this sales tax holiday to a weekend that works best for families.  You can take advantage of these savings offered from Friday, August 10th – Sunday, August 12th.  For a complete list of items, please visit the Texas Comptroller website at www.comptroller.texas.gov.

In 2012, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) debuted the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test as the replacement for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test.  Students in grades 3-12 are tested in the spring semester of each school year to assess knowledge in reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies.  The test is intended to serve as an indicator of whether or not the student is ready to progress to the next grade level.

As a father to a graduate of the public school system and one daughter still in high school, I understand the concerns regarding standardized testing and would like to assist in easing fears through an insightful resource that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has recently unveiled.

TexasAssessment.com was designed to help students, parents, and educators better understand the STAAR test.  This new resource provides the opportunity to learn about the test, your child’s score, including how they answered questions and where they stand in terms of grade level readiness, and also how to help them prepare for the STAAR test. I encourage you to check out this website and all that it has to offer to better prepare your children.

In just a few short weeks, school districts across the state will receive their first A-F accountability system rating.  This new policy recently passed in the legislature was established to improve the current accountability system through collaborative efforts between the TEA, the legislature, and individual school districts. Although the TEA Commissioner is responsible for issuing a rating of A-F to each independent school district, the final assessment will not rest solely on standardized testing performance. Rather, the following three domains will be utilized to calculate the final score: student achievement, school performance, and closing the gaps, which factors in the differences within school bodies by looking at racial and ethnic groups, socioeconomic backgrounds, and other variables. A-F will allow school districts to better understand how each campus is performing when it comes to teaching students the necessary knowledge for each grade level.

I am certainly very thankful for those who have dedicated their lives to teaching our children and fully support their efforts in empowering our youth for generations to come. The goal is to build up and strengthen our education system not tear it down.  I am confident that Texas will continue to make great strides in continuously improving the way education is delivered for the betterment of all our students.

As we begin to make preparations to send our children back to school, the most critical priority is ensuring their safety as well as those who are there to educate them.  During this legislative interim period, much focus and dialogue has continued about ways we can all work together to provide an environment free of violence.  Governor Abbott released a proposal after hosting roundtable discussions with school officials, law enforcement, mental health experts, legislative members, victims, students and many others.  This information is available online through the Office of the Governor’s website and includes many possible policy changes such as expanding mental health care for students, increasing police presence, strengthening school security and safety programs, and improving campus designs.  Speaker Joe Straus also added nine additional interim charges to equip House members to take decisive action during the upcoming session in 2019.   I am certainly prepared for doing everything as a father and lawmaker to make sure Texas has the safest schools in the nation.

It is my hope that our children will enjoy a wonderful school year.  As the next session gets closer, lawmakers will continue to prepare to advocate for enhanced school safety, public school finance reform and continuing to assist retired teachers.  I hope you will stay in touch on education matters and any other state issues.  If you would like to share a thought, please feel free to contact my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or email [email protected].

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