I have known Chris for several years, and for the past year, I have had the privilege of serving with Chris on our Spring Branch School Board.
Chris is a fiscal conservative with a proven track record as a strong advocate for our students, our taxpayers, and our community. Chris brings a unique set of skills to the Board as a Rice MBA, a former teacher, a current public school administrator, and as the parent of three children who will attend Spring Branch schools.
Chris is thoughtful, deliberative, and reasoned in her passionate advocacy to ensure that every student is successful. For all these reasons, I believe that Chris is the only qualified candidate in her race for Position 2 on the Board.
I have also had the privilege of working with Katherine Dawson for a number of years. Katherine is currently the President of the Spring Branch Council of PTAs, and serves the District in many leadership positions including the District Improvement Team, the Spring Branch Finance Team, the Spring Branch Education Foundation Executive Board to mention a few. Prior to serving as a district leader, Katherine served as the PTA President at Rummel Creek and in leadership roles on the PTA at Memorial Middle.
Katherine brings unique qualifications to the Board as a former Spring Branch teacher and employee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Houston Branch, and as the parent of three children. Katherine has been a knowledgeable advocate for years for all the students in the District, while simultaneously working to protect the taxpayers.
For all these reasons, I believe that Katherine is the only qualified candidate in her race for Position 3 on the Board.
Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let me know if you are willing to place a sign in your yard for Katherine and if you are willing to add your name to Katherine's list of endorsers.
As our District faces the on-going significant budgetary challenges as well as the many other daily challenges of educating our 34,000 students, proven leaders like Chris and Katherine are critical to our continued success.
Early voting begins April 30 and election day is May 12 (click here for voting information).
The Board is working to finalize the District's next Five Year Plan for 2012 - 2017 - The Spring Branch Plan. As part of the process, the Board is seeking community input at 4 community forums, beginning tonight at 6:00p at Stratford. Additional information is contained in the email I received below.
Death is nothing at all. Whatever we were to each other we still are. Call me by my only familiar name. Talk to me in the same easy way you always have. Laugh as we always laughed. Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me. Life means all that it ever meant. It is as it always was. There is absolute unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of your mind because I am out of your sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well. Nothing is past. Nothing has been lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before only better. Infinitely happier. We will be one, together, forever.
Melissa Christopher Crawford April 3, 1967 - May 20, 2000
Last Fall, the Board authorized the creation of a task force to explore the issue of class rank in our high schools. Over half of the high schools in the United States no longer report class rank, and many people, including me, believe that class rank is damaging to many if not most of our students. I will present the data supporting this position below.
The Class Rank Task Force met six times this Spring, and at this time has turned the discussion back to the Board without a recommendation. At the end of this post, I have downloaded the Task Force's Report and all of the documents the Task Force reviewed.
Tomorrow night (April 25), the Board will have the first reading of a revised policy that would eliminate class rank beyond the top 10%. The draft policy that the Board will consider is available by clicking here.
Three cutting-edge districts in Texas - Highland Park, Coppell, and Eanes - have dropped class rank beyond the top 10% and report increased college acceptance rates for their students. (Click here to read Highland Park's full report on why they eliminated class rank). The main reason for doing so, and the reason most private schools and KIPP Academy's Houston High School have dropped class rank is that the strong academic competition and student success and college preparedness are not acurately reflected in the single data point of individual student class rank.
As with the other Texas Districts, private schools, and high schools nationally, I believe the academic strength of our Spring Branch high schools and the academic performance of our students present the clear case for doing away with class rank beyond the State-mandated top 10%.
Extremely Tight GPA Ranges: The data shows that students at all 5 Spring Branch high schools are very tightly bunched in grade point average (GPA). As shown immediately below, an "A" student at Memorial and Stratford, and a solid "B" student at Spring Woods, Northbrook, and Westchester Academy, will find himself in the bottom half of the class. Indeed, a "B" student at Memorial and Stratford will potentially find himself in the bottom quarter. (Our Board discussed this issue for the first time at our meeting on April 19, 2011. Click here for the PowerPoint I used that night that includes detailed GPA data for each Spring Branch high school).
The table below shows the GPA at the 11th, 25th, 51st, and 75th percentiles in each high school:
There are a number of additional reasons why schools across the country have eliminated class rank. I believe these reasons apply with equal force in Spring Branch:
1. Students avoid the courses they are interested in to take courses that advance their rank. In 2009, Spring Branch lead the argument at the State Legislature to provide additional freedom for our students to take electives during high school. This change has allowed students to take athletics and band, or multiple foreign languages, or theater and athletics, etc., all of which is in alignment with the Board's view of the importance of student choice. However, these classes are not "weighted" for GPA purposes. As a result, these classes, and all non-required (i.e., anything other than math, science, English, and social studies) are a “hit” to the student’s GPA and thus class rank. The current system is therefore disincentive to students who want to take electives, contrary to the articulated position of the Board.
2. Single data point. A student's class rank, as a single data point, fails to reflect anything else about a student, including the student's activities, interests, non-academic successes in fine arts, athletics, etc.
3. Class ranking may eliminate holistic application review of students by college admissions offices. Most colleges report that they utilize a holistic approach to reviewing student applications if a class rank is not presented. A holistic review always presents a more complete picture of a student's individual successes, academic and non-academic.
As stated recently by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), "A system of class rank should not carry with it an underlying assumption that academic success is a scarce commodity available only to a select few students."
In addition, the College Board website states that while "class rank was once a major component in admissions decisions, according to a recent report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) over half of all high schools no longer report student rankings." The College Board also states that "Most small, private and/or competitive high schools have done away with it because they feel it penalizes many excellent students who are squeezed out of the top 10 percent of the class and then overlooked by elite schools.
I couldn't agree with the NASSP and the College Board more. And that is why I believe Spring Branch should follow the thoughtful lead of over half the high schools in the United States, and our sister districts in Texas, and adopt a policy limited to ranking only the top 10%.
Finally, for those who might worry that eliminating class rank will hurt students, I recommend reading this article that summarizes the admission factors are typically considered important by colleges according to The National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC). The article reports that the NACAC found as follows:
Class rank. Class rank shows where you place numerically in your class, based on your GPA. Colleges that use this factor want to see how much competition you had to face to achieve your rank. However, fewer and fewer colleges are giving class rank much importance. In fact, fewer than half of high schools now track class rank.
This finding is supported by the chart below that shows the decreasing value college admissions offices place on class rank.
The draft policy that the Board will consider is available by clicking here.
As the Board considers this policy, I have suggested the following questions should guide the decision:
Does class rank damage the District's overarching goal for its students:
Students who start ninth grade in the district will graduate and earn a Bachelor’s degree within five years or an Associate’s degree or technical certification within three years.
Does class rank accurately represent the level of achievement of SBISD students?
Does class rank hurt students in the college application process?
Do all students deserve to be positioned in the best way possible to maximize the opportunity for success?
Should all students be best-positioned in a way that most accurately represents their secondary school successes in the college application process?
Should all students have the best opportunity to go to college?
Should all students be able to explore their areas of interest by taking electives? (athletics, fine arts, foreign languages, etc.)
This week's TED Video of the Week is from Peter Benson, the founder and CEO of the Search Institute. It was delivered recently at the TEDxTC (Twin Cities) Conference. The talk is described as follows:
Peter L. Benson, president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Search Institute, is one of the world's leading authorities on positive human development. Dr. Benson is the author or editor of more than a dozen books on child and adolescent development and social change, including, most recently, Sparks: How Parents Can Help Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers Dr. Benson's international reputation in human development emerged in the 1990s through his innovative, research-based framework of Developmental Assets, the most widely recognized approach to positive youth development in the United States and, increasingly, around the world. Before joining Search Institute in 1978, Dr. Benson was chair of the psychology department and chair of the program in human development and social relations at Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana
This is our most urgent Call to Action to date. Please read and respond quickly...
Tomorrow morning (Wednesday 4/20), Senator Seliger (R - Amarillo) will present a plan to the Senate Finance Committee. It is an alternative funding scheme for education addressing the next two years.
This amendment is TERRIBLE for SBISD.
To sum it up, in the first year, some districts lose no money, while SBISD loses $14.7 million (over 6% of their education funding). The real kicker is in the second year: many districts will lose LESS THAN 1%, while SBISD loses over $32 million (13%).
This Seliger amendment is not fair. SBISD should not have to shoulder significantly more of the shortfall in revenue than other districts.
Some lobbying organizations have already called on their members to support the Seliger amendment. We cannot allow their voices to be the only ones heard in the Senate offices before the vote tomorrow morning.
CALL TO ACTION:
Email the Senators listed below tonight or tomorrow morning and ask them to:
VOTE AGAINST Senator Seliger's disproportional education funding amendment.
SUPPORT Senator Shapiro's version of education funding, which more evenly distributes the budget cuts.
Sen. Dan Patrick Dan.Patrick@senate.state.tx.us
Sen. John Whitmire John.Whitmire@senate.state.tx.us
Spring Branch Speaks has issued the following update on House Bill 1 (the House Appropriations Bill):
UPDATE - House Bill 1
Unfortunately, the Texas House of Representatives passed HB 1 on Sunday. This version of the 2011-2013 State budget includes steep cuts for education. As the process continues, members of the House and the Senate must now work together to negotiate a budget both can agree on. Then, the Governor must sign on as well.
Texas already spends less on our students than 43 other states 1. Cuts in education will not only decrease the effectiveness of our schools, but surely hinder our students when compared nationally. To make matters worse for SBISD, many of the current projections have Spring Branch ISD shouldering a greater than average share of the cuts, all while our district contributes more than average to the state's education fund through local tax that the state "recaptures" with Robin Hood and other complicated education funding rules.
The lawmakers know they are on thin ice with many of their constituents. Representative Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, said "Some of the cuts, especially in public education, are going to be devastating...we're all going to be just overcome with the phone calls that we're going to get from people in our districts to encourage us to take a closer look." 2
Cuts hit home.
The reality of what these state budget cuts will do to our neighborhood schools is becoming clear. In a press release today, SBISD began to outline how the slashed education budget will impact our kids. As stated in the release, "[t]hese cuts...will have a significant impact on the ability of SBISD to provide a quality education for our students."
SBISD will eliminate 350 positions (about 7 percent of employees). Attrition only accounts for a small percentage of these employees, unfortunately. And SBISD was clear - these cuts are not efficiencies but solely in reaction to the budget cuts.
As the debate continues, and as the lawmakers appoint a Committee to negotiate a budget that the House and Senate can approve, we must continue to pressure our lawmakers to protect the future of Texas. We will continue to update you and request specific action.
NOTE on HB 275 - using Rainy Day funds for this year's budget...
Thanks to your efforts before Spring Break, the House of Representatives has passed HB 275 utilizing some of the Rainy Day Fund to cover the short fall in this year's budget. Thank you for all of your work contacting the Appropriations Committee regarding this bill.
1 McNulty, Sheila. "Texans learn harsh realities of cutbacks." Financial Times. 10 Mar. 2011, U.S.A. ed.: 2. Print.
2 "Final compromise likely will fall in the middle." The Houston Chronicle. 4 Apr., 2011. p. A 1,5. Print.