TORRINGTON – Decisions could be made within the next few months at the state level in education with possible impacts at the local level.
On Monday, Nov. 15, the Joint Education Committee met for the first of a two-day session to discuss multiple proposals. It was the last meeting for the committee before the budget session in February. Seven bills were considered to be sponsored by the committee, but one of which drew the most debate.
The committee heard several testimonies pertaining to the K-3 reading and intervention assessment program. There have been concerns brought to the committee across the state regarding improper screening specifically to determine dyslexia. The biggest issue on the state level is the large variety of assessments.
Senator Affie Ellis from Laramie County counted 38 screeners across the state including the Mississippi Dyslexia Screener used in one district.
The idea of the bill centers around narrowing down the number of screeners in the state to the three most effective ones for every district to use.
“The whole reason we’re having this discussion is… parents expressing concern that their kid’s [aren’t] learning to read and the district saying nope they’re fine we used this screener it will be okay,” Ellis said. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out. Which screeners are effective and which ones are not.”
Some school district officials told the committee limiting the entire state to certain screeners could be problematic as many districts are not having any issues. It was a sentiment Goshen County school District Superintendent Ryan Kramer echoed on Tuesday.
“I think screeners that have been established within districts for a long term across the state and have been successful, [the] state should give the liberty of the decisions to the local districts in regard to that information,” Kramer said.
The idea to limit the screeners was put into the proposal before the meeting as the committee felt it was necessary to provide the certain framework for the local levels to better assess the younger students. However, Kramer said this could instead put a heavier focus on assessments and take away from the actual teaching of students to read.
GCSD currently uses AimsWeb to identify oral reading fluency, and STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) as a secondary reading assessment.
“I think it’s best to let the local boards determine what the screeners should be that fit the needs of each individual district,” Kramer said. “If we have to add just another assessment that we’re going to be using because the state requires that and it doesn’t work too our locally developed goals, it’s kind of a waste of students time.”
Mitch Craft, Assistant Superintendent for Curricular and Assessment for Sheridan County School District No. 2, had similar beliefs and proposed an accountability model to the committee on Monday. The model allows districts to use its own screeners unless it is not successful.
“We’re deeply concerned that our success and the learning of our students more importantly could be seriously compromised if this bill pass the legislature,” Craft said.
The committee approved to sponsor the bill for the upcoming budget session 14-0.
On Friday, the State Department of Education also held its regular meeting to discuss several major topics. Kramer said not much happened in terms of surprises or changes for the district but did mention the discussion on attendance.
For almost two years, attendance and absences has seen a drastic change due to the pandemic. Kramer said the board discussed new ways of looking at attendance. Another subject which may be better suited to be dealt with at the local level.
“I’m always encouraged when we’re looking at new and innovative ways to look at attendance,” Kramer said. “Whether that be school contact time, whether that be achievement data, those type of things I think are unique for each individual school district.”
Kramer also mentioned he understands the state’s involvement and the need to find new innovative ways to look at attendance.
On the Education Committee side, there was a bill proposed to address the language of absences and truancy as well. It is a subject which may not have a major impact for GCSD, but it something Kramer believes is necessary to talk about.
“I think it is important for us across the state to really truly define some of these definitions because they do vary from different parts of the state,” Kramer said.
While things have slowed down for the school district in the last two weeks, there is still much to be discussed at the state level in the coming months.