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Letters From Leticia Reforming the STAAR Honoring Wounded Warriors and School Finance

Letters From Leticia Reforming the STAAR Honoring Wounded Warriors and School Finance

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Placido Salazar psalazar9@satx.rr.

com Letters From Leticia: Reforming the STAAR, Honoring Wounded Warriors, and School Finance
Excerpt from below: “The STAAR system is not working. We must admit our mistakes and fix the problems. It is not about us, it's about what's best for school kids.” On several occasions, before the SBOE and before the State Committee on Education, I have relayed the message which I have heard from several teachers: “It’s not enough to simply delay the implementation of the STAAR system….. but to eradicate it completely – and readjust the curriculum to allow teachers to concentrate on teaching our students, basic education which would provide these students the ability to solve every-day, real-life situations in their future careers. They want to “stop teaching to the test,” The American GI Forum Motto: Education is Our Freedom – and Freedom Should Be Everybody’s Business Placido Salazar, USAF Retired (Vietnam Veteran…… You guys remember that war, don’t you? Some of us are still around.) Commander of Dr. CP Garcia Chapter Dr. Hector P. Garcia American GI Forum Org of TX
From: Senator Leticia Van de Putte [mailto:leticia@state-tx.ccsend.com] On Behalf Of Senator Leticia Van de Putte Sent: Tuesday, February 05, 2013 12:23 PM To: psalazar9@satx.rr.com Subject: Letters From Leticia: Reforming the STAAR, Honoring Wounded Warriors, and School Finance
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LETTERS FROM LETICIA
February 5, 2013
In Case You Missed It
Senator Van de Putte in the News
    

Time to Reform the STAAR Test Wounded Warriors Day School Finance Ruling Helping Our Military Kids Outstanding Texas State Leader Award!

Texas Public Radio: Van de Putte Says Lawmakers Must Act Now To Fix School Funding Plaza de Armas: 'Very Bad Decisions': Sen. Van de Putte on the Women's Health Program

Time to Reform the STAAR Test Bill Would Put the Emphasis Back on Learning
Sometimes, despite all the research legislators put into a bill and all the testimony given, we pass a law which, when it takes effect and becomes public policy, does not work. Such was the case when we passed legislation implementing the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing system in 2007 and school accountability system in 2009. At the time we passed these testing and accountability measures, it made sense for our students and our schools. We all believed that these tests would raise standards without raising the stakes on kids. But in its implementation, that has proven not to be the case.

Express-News: Valid concerns regarding how this testing tool is used, and Driver license whether or not it is a meaningful measure in the 21st century, waits set to have been raised by students, parents, teachers, principals,

shrink KUHF (Houston): What Veteran Issues Will Be Addressed In This Texas Legislative Session?

superintendents, and business leaders. With its 15 end-of-course exams (EOCs), a complex cumulative scoring system which has to be adhered to in order to graduate, and the requirement that STAAR count as 15 percent of a student's course grade, an overemphasis developed on preparation for testing, taking away from the creative learning process.

For these reasons, I have teamed up with Representative Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, to author Senate Bill 240 (Rep. Univision 41: Patrick's identical companion bill is House Bill 640). I am so Conoce a Leticia excited to once again team up with Rep. Patrick - I previously Van de Putte worked with her on an anti-bullying law passed last session. Univision 41: Leticia Van De Putte, un orgullo hispano (part 2 of interview above) Our bill pares down the end-of-course testing regime to the essentials that truly indicate college- or workforce-readiness. It reduces the number of EOCs from 15 to three: Algebra I, English III, and Writing III. It also eliminates the cumulative score, which requires that students must achieve a passing average on all high school exams within each content area to graduate, and the 15%-ofcourse grade requirement, and prohibits the use of student performance on the EOCs in determining class rank.

La Prensa: Bipartisan lawmakers join It also broadens the accountability system to recognize other forces to fix education in TX ways students can be college- and workforce-ready. It holds districts accountable for their ability to produce students that Express-News: not only pass standardized exams but upon graduation obtain Rodriguez was associates degrees, score college credit levels on AP exams, a Democratic score college credit levels on SAT, ACT, or IB exams, earn dual activist with a credits, or obtain certifications and licenses. heart Finally, the bill deemphasizes these EOCs by prohibiting them Express-News: for being used to determine admission to a public university, although it could be considered among other criteria. Prostitution sting nets These reforms maintain the importance of school teacher, accountability and a rigorous curriculum. sheriff's employee "We have been told that this one-size-fits-all system does not (human work for our over 1,200 public school districts and charters trafficking we agree," said my dear friend Rep. Patrick when we coverage) introduced the bills last week. "Senator Van de Putte and I have crafted a bill that is a starting point with the goal of Texas Public

Radio: 46 Arrested On Southside In Human Trafficking, Prostitution Sting San Antonio Business Journal: Most Bexar County senators draw lots for fouryear terms
DISTRICT OFFICE 700 N. St. Mary's Street, Suite 1725 San Antonio, Texas 78205 (210) 733-6604 (210) 733-6605 Fax CAPITOL OFFICE Senate District 26 P.O. Box 12068 Capitol Station Austin, Texas 78711 (512) 463-0126 (512) 463-2114 Fax 1 (888) 279-0648

providing students and families with the freedom to learn and create their own future while maintaining what is needed to prepare our students today for a tomorrow we can't begin to imagine." The STAAR system is not working. We must admit our mistakes and fix the problems. It is not about us, it's about what's best for schoolkids.

Military Matters Wounded Warriors Day
We still have a long legislative session ahead of us, but it's unlikely anything else remaining on the Senate's calendar will be as touching and poignant as what we did on January 30: Wounded Warriors Day. After the sacrifices these brave service members have made for us - receiving injuries both obvious and hidden - we can never fully repay them. But hopefully, recognizing them in the Senate Chamber - one of the democratic institutions they defend - at least shows them how much we appreciate them. We presented six Wounded Warriors with proclamations thanking them for their service and bravery, and hopefully they could see what they mean to us - I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. It really puts you in awe to come face-toface with a hero.

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My colleague Sen. Brian Birdwell (right) took a deserving place right next to the rest of the Wounded Warriors we honored.

And we honored a Wounded Warrior of our own: Sen. Brian Birdwell of Granbury (District 22), was in the Pentagon on that awful day of September 11, 2001. When the plane struck the building, he was just yards away and suffered burns over 60% of his body, almost half of which were third-degree. His struggle to recover from those injuries and eventually run for and win elected office is miraculous. I'm proud to call him my colleague, and grateful to work with him on the Veteran Affairs

and Military Installations Committee. I was proud to recognize these heroes on the Senate floor:

Kenneth Howard, from Tarrant County, was recognized by my colleague, Senator Wendy Davis. Mr. Howard served as a combat engineer in the United States Army 2005-2010. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His primary duty was training Iraqi soldiers and clearing routes of explosive devices. During his service Mr. Howard was exposed to several high pressure engagements. As a result of these experiences Kenneth contracted PTSD and Depression. He is a successful graduate of Judge Brent Carr's veteran diversion program and continues to make excellent progress with his recovery. He received an honorable discharge upon completion of his service. His awards include Army Commendation Medal, OIF Service Medal with two campaign stars, and unit citations.

LCpl Ivan Sears (Marine Corps): Originally from San Antonio, LCpl Sears was deployed to the Marjah, Helmand Province in Afghanistan with the 2/6 RCT 1, 1st Marine Division out of Camp Lejune, NC. He had both

legs amputated below the knee due to an IED during dismounted security operations in 2010.

SSgt Mark Juarez (Marine Corps): Originally from Floresville, SSgt Juarez was deployed to Sangin City, Afghanistan. He was shot in the head while on a foot patrol in 2010. He is recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury, hemipleasya to the right side, nerve damage, and a 3rd degree burn to his right forearm. He is married to Amy and has three daughters, Elisabeth, Ella, and Emily.

SPC Cody Miller (Army): Originally from Golden, Mississippi, SPC Miller enlisted in the Army in June of 2010 and was stationed with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy. He served in the heavy weapons platoon for five months and then moved to the scout platoon. SPC Miller deployed to Afghanistan in May 2012. While on a route overwatch for a nearby COP, he and his fellow soldiers received fire from a mountain behind them. SPC Miller was shot in his left arm. He received a tendon transfer and is receiving treatment for nerve damage.

CW4 Jerry Hamilton (Army): Originally from Lane, South Dakota, CW4 Hamilton enlisted in the Army in 1995 as a Chinook crew member. He went to Korea for one year and Germany for three years where he had three deployments to Macedonia, Kosovo as a Flight Engineer. In 1999, he was accepted into flight school and attended the following year. He graduated at the top of his class and chose to fly Chinooks. Stationed at Fort Bragg after flight school, he deployed to Afghanistan twice and Iraq once. He served as a flight instructor for 5 years at his two following assignments before moving to Fort Campbell. Within two months of arriving at Fort Campbell, CW4 Hamilton deployed to Afghanistan for a third time and was hit by shrapnel from a rocket within two weeks of arriving.

Tracie M. Harris (Air Force): Tracie joined the Air Force in January of 1998. She started her first four years of service as a security forces police officer. When it came time to reenlist, Tracie cross trained as a military working dog handler, then reenlisted for another six years. During Tracie's almost 11 years of service she was stationed at Travis Air Force Base, California, and Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany. During this time Tracie was deployed six times. Twice to Kuwait, once to Saudi Arabia, Bulgaria, Bahrain and Iraq. Tracie has been awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal four times, the Outstanding Unit Medal five times, the Enduring Freedom Medal and Iraqi Campaign Medal.

SGT Paul Roberts (Army Reserves): Originally from Austin, SGT Roberts joined the Army in 1989, served four years on active duty and was honorably discharged. He missed the military lifestyle and joined the Army Reserves 17 years later and volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan in 2011 with Bravo Company 7-158 Aviation Chinook Unit out of Kansas. Crewing as the left door gunner, his helicopter was shot down by an IED on Thanksgiving Day in 2011. SGT Roberts is now in the Warrior Transition Battalion receiving treatment for a Traumatic Brain Injury and spinal injuries.

Thanks to Senate Doorkeeper Steve Gamboa for this picture.

Helping Military Children
Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) and I filed legislation last week to require the Texas Education Agency to collect data related to military-connected students. Senate Bill 308 would specifically track military students to be counted and recorded in the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMs). "Creating a military student identifier will provide lawmakers and educators with the essential data needed to make realitybased, informed decisions," Fraser says. "Knowing how to help

the children of active duty military personnel is just one way that we can show our state's commitment to the military." Senate Bill 308 would allow educational institutions to monitor critical elements of education success for militaryconnected children including academic progress and proficiency, special and advanced program participation, and mobility and dropout rates. Being able to identify patterns over time and across the state is vital as we work to better educate the children of those who serve. What is learned from quality data about militaryconnected students will help all children who experience frequent school moves or other disruptions to academic continuity. The intent of the legislation is to collect data to provide key performance indicators for local districts to discover best practices for students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. We will be working on passage of this legislation with Representative Jimmy Don Aycock (R-Killeen). Rep. Aycock filed the companion House Bill 525 earlier in January.

School Finance System Ruled Unconstitutional Despite Possible Appeal, State Should Act Now
Judge John K. Dietz today ruled in the school finance lawsuit, Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition, et. al. v. Michael Williams, Susan Combs and Texas SBOE, finding in favor of the plaintiffs - meaning, he ruled that Texas' school funding system is unconstitutional. Everyone following this trial has always realized that no matter the result, it is likely to be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. But contrary to what some of my colleagues have expressed, I do not believe that is a reason to hold off on our school finance discussions in the ongoing 83rd Legislative Session. At the very least, we can start talking now about funding enrollment growth and restoring the devastating $5.4 billion in cuts that were made to public education in the previous legislative session. Unfortunately, the Texas Legislature has a well-established

history of waiting for court directives before acting on school finance. But delays just mean additional years of our school children trying to learn in overcrowded classrooms or trying to rebound from failed state mandated tests without any state supported tutoring. I say let's act now. It doesn't take a rewrite of the school finance formula or a ruling from the Texas Supreme Court to undo - at the least - the damage of the past two years.

Outstanding Texas State Leader Award I'm Grateful to Be Recognized by UTPB's Shepperd Institute
On Friday, I was extremely honored to receive the Outstanding Texas State Leader Award from UTPermian Basin's John Ben Shepperd Institute. I was presented with the award at the Omni Hotel in Austin, along with Leodoro Martinez, Jr. (winner of Outstanding Texas Local Leader for his many years of great work in South Texas). I was humbled by the kind words said, and to join the company of the award's past recipients. Many, such as my dear friend Senator Judith Zaffirini (thanks to her for nominating me!), are legislators but this award is all the more special because it honors leaders from all walks of life, such as the late philanthropic leaders George and Ronya Kozmetsky; Dr. Mario Ramirez, who fought to give South Texans greater access to health care; and the late Bernard Rapoport, who made his marks in business, philanthropy, and activism. Past recipients who did serve here in Austin include giants who mentored me, such as Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock; or who have been invaluable in helping me improve Texas, such as Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has worked with me to fight the scourge of human trafficking in this state.

I'm also excited to receive this award because my niece Elizabeth Murray Curtis is a graduate of UTPB!

My fellow Senator Kel Seliger and UTPB President David Watts presented me with the award. Kel is a wonderful man who said the kindest words in his introduction. I'm deeply grateful to both.
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Senator Leticia Van de Putte | P.O. Box 12068 | Austin | TX | 78711

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