School ratings are a shallow attempt to grade a complex system

JANUARY 25, 2017  FROM TRIB TALK – A PUBLICATION OF THE TEXAS TRIBUNE

by Charles Luke – Associate Director of Pastors for Texas Children

During the first week back from Christmas, Texas schoolchildren, parents, teachers, administrators and communities were greeted with the news that many of them aren’t up to snuff. On the same day that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick unfurled his already infamous “bathroom bill”, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released its 2015-16 A-F Ratings, effectively splashing cold water all over Texas communities diligently engaged in educating the state’s children. Although officials say these are preliminary report cards, thousands of schools feel shortchanged.

Dr. Charles Luke is the Associate Director of Pastors for Texas Children

Dr. Charles Luke is the Associate Director of Pastors for Texas Children

The A-F rating system — patterned after the A-F grading system on students’ report cards — was ushered in by the Texas Legislature in 2015 and was touted as a way for parents and communities to have a clear, concise way to tell just how well or poorly their schools are actually doing.

Regardless of this claim, research reported by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and conducted by the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University indicated that basing a letter grade almost exclusively on student test scores does not account for other factors that contribute to school performance, including factors outside of a teacher’s control. The researchers also found that A-F grades in Oklahoma did not lead to school improvement because they don’t explain what led to low performance and do nothing to build educational capacity.

Subsequent research by researchers at The Education Trust found that A-F systems actually mask low performance among certain sub-groups, hide high performance, and inhibit parental participation in low-performing schools.

One of the most compelling and as yet untold stories is what A-F will do to community development across Texas.

One of the most profound economic engines in Texas is the growth in property values and property taxes fueled by the steady influx of people from other states. A corporate-friendly state, Texas has reaped the benefits of new industry and rapid growth. All of this growth has led to the development of a strong residential real estate industry with steady and significant rises in the median home price over the last few years.

What happens to Texas communities when the quality of schools — a strong, locational motivator — is impugned by artificially low performance ratings? Highland Park ISD is an interesting example of this. The median home price in this area is just over $1.6 million. While the district received good grades on Student Achievement, Student Progress, and Closing Performance Gaps, they received a “C” on Postsecondary Readiness. Who wants to pay $1.6 million for a house only to put their child in a school that the rating system says provides weak preparation for college or the workforce? Realtors in Texas need to ask themselves why they are allowing an unproven system to be imposed that potentially will cost them millions of dollars in lost real estate commissions.

Whether the A-F release was pre-engineered to coincide with the lieutenant governor’s bathroom bill announcement or not, the timing couldn’t have been more symbolic. Patrick is an unyielding proponent of vouchers and the privatization of schools, something that A-F notoriously sets up by declaring large numbers of public schools as failures.

When the complex nature of educating large numbers of diverse children can be subverted with an oversimplified letter grade that says next to nothing, arguing for the need to replace that school becomes that much easier.

Finally, the A-F system is an insult to every child who works hard to learn and to every dedicated teacher who works hard to teach. For years, legislators have complained about organizations that rate their performance without understanding the complex nature of politics. Now, it looks like they are willing to do the same to our kids.

Texas: Pastors Stand Together Against Vouchers: They Join the Honor Roll!

From Diane Ravitch’s Blog – December 10, 2016

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson has organized strong resistance to the vouchers touted by the most powerful elected official in Texas, not the governor, but the Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a former talk show host. Rev. Johnson is leader to Pastors for Texas Children, which has 2,000 members across the state. They are united in their opposition to vouchers and their support for public schools. Year after year, they have defeated vouchers in the legislature, and they are gearing up to fight them again. You can read more about his and his organization here.

I am happy to place Rev. Johnson and Pastors for Texas Children on the blog’s honor roll for their stalwart defense of public schools, of the children of Texas, of religious liberty, and of the principle of separation of church and state.

Read the entire blog article here …..

Pastors for Texas Children Become a Rising Voice Against School Vouchers

By John Savage
For Reporting Texas

“We’ve got a God-given responsibility to maintain and keep this public trust, to protect public schools,” Rev. Charles Foster Johnson bellowed at several dozen pastors, snapping them to attention as they ate breakfast.

img_1826Johnson, 59, is the Fort Worth-based executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, a network of about 2,000 church leaders around the state who work to support pubic schools.

Johnson and his group have emerged as chief adversaries of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Patrick champions a breed of education reform forged around vouchers — which steer money from public schools to parents to pay private school tuition.

“The lieutenant governor said, a couple of weeks ago, he’ll keep bringing it up until it passes,” Foster told the pastors, who were gathered for a meeting of Texas Baptists Committed in Waco. “It’s up to us to stop him.”

In his baritone southern drawl, Johnson told the pastors that vouchers siphon funds from schools in low-income neighborhoods and violate the separation of church and state enshrined in the First Amendment. School vouchers contradict God’s law of religious liberty, he said, by providing government support for religion.

Read entire article here …..

Texas pastor: ‘A classroom is a holy place of learning — not a marketplace of financial gain’

October 27 at 2:19 PM – Washington Post

49Charles Foster Johnson is the executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, an independent ministry and outreach group that comprises nearly 2,000 pastors and church leaders from across Texas and works to support public education. Johnson recently testified in Austin about school vouchers — which use public funds to pay for private school tuition — and corporate school reform before the Texas House Education Committee, chaired by state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R), and his words are worth reading.

A voucher bill passed in the Texas Senate, as it does every year, but members of the Texas House have voted against it in past years, and Johnson’s organization is fighting against it again. Here is the powerful testimony as written and submitted to Aycock’s committee. When talking to the panel, Johnson diverged somewhat from the text, and you can watch him on this video, starting at the 3:50 mark.

Read the entire story here ….

Charles Foster Johnson: Why Texas Pastors Oppose Vouchers

Diane Ravitch Blog – 10/26/2016

In the annual fight in Texas over school vouchers, one of the strongest, most consistent defenders of public schools is an influential group known as Pastors for Texas Children. They believe in the importance of public education as a democratic right and they strongly support the separation of church and state.

At recent legislative hearings in Austin, their executive director Charles Foster Johnson testified against a voucher bill that was passed in the State Senate. This battle occurs every year. Thus far, a coalition of rural Republicans and urban Democrats has managed to defeat vouchers in the House. Pastor Johnson and his colleagues have been a powerful group in staving off privatization.

Read the entire story here …

Public education a moral duty, Baptist minister tells House committee

AUSTIN—Texas has a moral obligation to educate all its children and a constitutional duty to direct tax funds to public education, not divert public money to private alternatives, a Baptist minister told the House Committee on Public Education.

Texas has a moral duty to provide good public education for all the state’s children, Charles Foster Johnson, a Baptist minister and executive director of Pastors for Texas Children told a House committee. (Photo/woodleywonderworks/cc/by/2.0)

Texas has a moral duty to provide good public education for all the state’s children, Charles Foster Johnson, a Baptist minister and executive director of Pastors for Texas Children told a House committee. (Photo/woodleywonderworks/cc/by/2.0)

Charles Foster JohnsonCharles Foster Johnson, pastor of Bread Fellowship in Fort Worth and executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, presented invited testimony to the committee during an Oct. 17 public hearing.

“We have a public trust before God to educate all our children, and that means all—not just children who can afford it, not just children whose parents are engaged, but all children,” Johnson said.

Public education is a moral, democratic, societal and spiritual duty, he asserted.

“Public education is not a commodity, and we are not clients. We are not customers. We are citizens,” he insisted. “We are engaged in a common good—God’s common good.”

Public school teachers are fulfilling a divine calling, instilling the principles of good citizenship and moral character in students, Johnson said.

“A spiritual enterprise is not given to free-market dynamics or cost-benefit analysis or competition,” he insisted, adding in the printed remarks he submitted to the committee: “A classroom is a holy place of learning, not a marketplace of financial gain. To make commodities of our kids and markets of our classrooms is to misunderstand—and profane—the spirituality of education.”

Read the entire article here ….

Leeson: Patrick’s school vouchers go against conservative principles

by Jay Leeson for the Lubbock Avalanche Journal

TEXAS LT. GOV. Dan Patrick’s school voucher initiatives aren’t conservative, they’re entitlements. And they’re absurd.

The absurdity goes full bore when proponents make voucher entitlements sound like the most fire-breathing conservative concept since Moses came down from Sinai.

In recent years, consultants have rebranded poorly polling “vouchers” to a more conservative sounding “school choice,” accompanied with market economy jargon.

Read the full article here ….

Charles Luke, guest columnist: Segregation driving ‘school choice’ charade

Updated

We all know that many politicians are prone to exaggeration. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s recent statement that private school vouchers, or “school choice” as he puts it, is a civil rights issue is just such an exaggeration. In fact, Patrick’s costly voucher schemes could drain billions from local schools and deny many students their right to receive a quality education.

The history of vouchers actually suggests that they were a way to avoid granting civil rights to others. Vouchers were developed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954 that schools integrate and end the charade of “separate but equal” treatment of students. For at least a decade, some states simply ignored the ruling, but with passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states began to implement “freedom of choice” programs that would allow white parents to take their child to a select school and thereby leave segregation patterns untouched. Mississippi even had “segregation academies” that only white children could attend.

Read full article here…

 

School vouchers a civil rights issue? “No” says Pastors for Texas Children

AUSTIN—Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has framed the school voucher debate in terms of enabling parents choose their child’s school, calling it a crucial civil rights issue. And a Baptist minister who leads a pro-public education advocacy group calls that “blasphemous.”

Equating efforts to secure public funds for parochial education with the civil rights struggle represents “a desperate and cynical attempt to make vouchers more palatable,” said Charles Foster Johnson, executive director of Pastors for Texas Children.

“It dishonors the memory and witness of those who sacrificed so much in the quest toward human equality and justice,” Johnson said.

“It seeks to do something bad in the name of something good. The only ‘right’ Lt. Gov. Patrick’s misguided policies will secure is that of wealthy private interests to make our schools for-profit enterprises—that is, to make commodities of our children and markets of our classrooms.”

Read full article here…

When did students become pawns?

By Craig Rothmeier – Make Education a Priority – August 18, 2016

©rexteterphotographyA couple of weeks ago, the Senate Education Committee met to discuss a number of items relating to public education, somewhat driven by a charge from the Lt. Governor to assess funding considerations given the recent Texas Supreme Court ruling on school finance. Recall the words “minimum constitutional requirements” as words that should have triggered more fruitful discussions than what have transpired so far.  Admittedly, there is time until the Legislature convenes but the groundwork for these discussions during the session is being laid now.  The tone of the discussions, especially in the Senate, suggests to me that political agendas will continue to be the focal point, not the needs of the more than 5.2 million Texas public education students.

Read the entire blog by clicking here ….