Frisco ISD leaders were in Austin this week to meet with legislators and share input on issues related to public education and school finance.
Several School Board members and District staff members, including Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mike Waldrip, joined with leaders from the City of Frisco to participate in the legislative process. Also taking part were Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney, several Frisco City Council members, Frisco City Manager George Purefoy and others. The groups met with multiple representatives who serve constituents in the FISD and city boundaries during “Frisco Day” at the state capitol, which included a special recognition in the legislative chambers.
Dr. Waldrip was invited to testify before the House Public Education Committee on the Commission on Public School Finance recommendations. The commission, formed after the 2017 legislative session to propose ways to improve the Texas school finance system, released a report in December with more than 30 recommendations for the legislature to consider.
One recommendation was to eliminate the Cost of Education Index (CEI), which was intended to reflect teacher salary differences across the state but hasn’t been updated since 1991. Frisco ISD’s student population has grown more than 3,800 percent since that time, but the formula has continued to allocate funding to Frisco ISD based on the city being a rural town of just over 6,000 residents.
“Frisco is not the same place as it was in 1991,” Dr. Waldrip told the House Public Education Committee. “I would just ask that as you look at that, I don’t want there to be winners and losers in this, far from it. I want everybody (all school districts) to come out on top.”
Another commission recommendation was to implement outcomes-based funding based on student performance on the third grade State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) for reading. The idea is that each school district would receive additional funding based on the number of students meeting the state standard.
“We can’t tie outcomes to funding until we fix the assessments,” Dr. Waldrip testified. “I would offer up that we do something that looks at a student more holistically – that looks at a student from many different angles.”
Dr. Waldrip suggested the state consider utilizing a performance-based developmental reading assessment similar to one currently used in Frisco ISD. Teachers administer the assessment to identify reading deficiencies and gauge growth over time. This allows teachers to reflect on their instructional practices and address the immediate needs of students to facilitate the most optimal outcomes.
“It looks at identifying errors in how the student reads and the student is actually reading to the very person who knows them best in terms of their academic ability and that is their teacher,” he said. “They are able to actually pinpoint what it is specifically about that child’s reading that is deficit and then from that point on, identify strategies to address that with each individual child.”
For example, the assessment might help a teacher identify whether a student is struggling because they need glasses, have dyslexia or are dealing with social or emotional problems at school or home, he said.
“I would put a lot more stock in a teacher using an assessment like that to identify and improve reading in a student than I would on a 34-question, multiple choice test,” he said. “The stakes are very high, the commission said, third grade reading is high stakes. Let’s not make it even more high stakes by continuing to tie it to a standardized assessment.”
Frisco ISD will continue to monitor proposals being considered by lawmakers in Austin and will share information about their potential impact as appropriate. View the District’s legislative priorities here.
Watch video of Dr. Waldrip’s testimony before the House Public Education Committee at this link and reference time code 2:50.38.