One of the powers of the Speaker of the House and the lieutenant governor, who presides over the Texas Senate, is to direct committees of their respective chambers to conduct interim studies of particular topics. They generally make at least a show of consulting their committee chairs and members in the process of coming up with the so-called interim “charges” for each committee. This process is under way now, and we have a few suggestions of our own to offer.
Our rule of thumb for these suggestions is to encourage the legislature to focus on topics that have been relatively neglected but that nonetheless loom large in importance to public education. Using this primary criterion, here’s our first batch of four study topics for lawmakers to consider:
–Study costs of principal and teacher attrition and policy responses that could reduce attrition and its attendant costs.
–Study the impact on student learning of out-of-school factors—such as disparities in economic well-being, access to health care, access to early childhood education, access to summer activities that reinforce or extend learning. Consider policy responses that address these factors.
–Study options for enhancing school and individual student accountability measures by taking into account longitudinal achievement gains—and by taking into account those aspects of performance gains not easily measured by standardized tests.
–Identify the essential elements of valid, trustworthy educational research regarding policy options. For instance, when do we know enough to say a policy choice is “evidence-based”? Another example: How can we make accurate and effective use of comparative achievement data, including achievement data from other nations with different educational systems?
Texas AFT welcomes members’ own suggestions of topics for the legislature to study in advance of the next legislative session. If you come up with a good one we haven’t seen before, we’ll pass it along to the key members of the legislature with jurisdiction over public education. You can send us your suggestion at: firstname.lastname@example.org.