Mission: School Transformation began in 2006, when 35 public school superintendents from across the state were inspired to come together to create a new vision for public education in Texas. Meeting as the Public Education Visioning Institute for two years, they shared ideas on how to transform Texas public education to meet the needs of 21st century students.
The Public School Visioning Institute envisioned a public school system that fosters innovation, creativity, and a thirst for learning — and one that champions new, more meaningful assessment and accountability measures. The result of the Institute’s work, Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas, published in 2008, would come to guide the school transformation movement in the state.
With a visioning document for school transformation in hand, the group sought a means to begin work to fulfill that vision. They conceptualized a network of school districts that could do the work and described it in the Guidelines for Establishment of the High Performance Schools Consortium.
The 82nd Texas Legislature made the Consortium official with Senate Bill 1557. The law established the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium and charged it with improving student learning in Texas by developing innovative high-priority learning standards and assessment and accountability systems.
The Texas High Performance Schools Consortium — originally 23 Texas school districts — were selected in 2012 by the commissioner of education. The Consortium began its work in October 2012 with superintendents and district teams working through the fall semester to determine strategy for conducting the Consortium’s work as specified in SB 1557 and to produce the Consortium’s first report, delivered in December 2012.
TASA designed its inaugural Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Institute to create and sustain a cadre of courageous, visionary superintendents willing to expand their leadership beyond the local level and propel MISSION: School Transformation forward. It built capacity within a group of exceptional leaders — 39 superintendents and senior-level district administrators in the early stages of their careers — to understand, design, and initiate innovative systemic changes locally and statewide within the frameworks of both the Public Education Visioning Institute and the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium.
In 2012, TASA prepared a sample school board resolution to build support for transformation in Texas public schools. By mid-January 2013, 881 Texas school districts representing more than 4.4 million public school students — 86 percent of Texas districts and 91 percent of its students — had adopted the resolution. Dozens of Chambers of Commerce and PTA groups across Texas passed similar resolutions.
It did not take long after the Consortium began its work for it to become clear that efforts to develop new assessment and accountability systems would be constrained by having to operate under the existing ones. Under the authority granted it under SB 1557, the Consortium submitted recommendations to the commissioner of education and Legislature prior to the 2013 legislative session in the form of House Bill 2824. The bill would have allowed the Consortium districts flexibility, via a pilot program, from certain constraints of the school accountability system to allow them to advance their research, exploration, development, and implementation of new assessment and accountability systems that are not overly reliant on high-stakes testing. However, despite unanimous approval in the Texas House and Senate, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed HB 2824.
In August 2013, the Consortium published its Concept Paper on Transforming Texas Public Schools, which provides history and background on the transformation movement as well as an outline of the Consortium’s work in the areas of digital integration, high-priority learning standards, multiple assessments, and community-based accountability.
With the veto of HB 2824 and a true pilot no longer viable, the Consortium was forced to revisit its plan for carrying out the necessary research and data collection. In November 2013, the Consortium invited other school districts engaged in school transformation activities across the state to participate in the research efforts as Consortium Associates and partner with the Consortium in its statewide efforts. To date, nearly 80 districts have joined the work.
In March 2014, the Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Institute worked in teams to produce tools for use across Texas to advance MISSION: School Transformation. In addition to an info graphic, video, and slide presentation, they created The Moral Imperative: From Vision to Action, a report that captures the Institute participants’ desire to help launch the vision from the Public Education Visioning Institute into action.
The Consortium first met with the Consortium Associates in March 2014, then again that September. Much of the fall meeting focused on collaborating with the State Board of Education and Texas Education Agency staff to develop a process for the revision of the English Language arts and Reading Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) that included the identification of high-priority learning standards by curriculum experts from the field. In December 2014, the Consortium released its second report.
The 84th Texas Legislature’s HB 18 expanded the Consortium from 23 to 30 participating districts. Lawmakers also passed several bills in line with recommendations from the Consortium’s December 2014 report, one being the development of an assessment and accountability framework that is not over-reliant on high-stakes testing. Moving in that direction, HB 2804 shifted some of the weight given to standardized tests in the public school accountability system to other indicators of student achievement. It also created the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability to “develop and make recommendations for new systems of student assessment and public school accountability.” The bill required that an educator in a Consortium-participating school district be included and that the group consider the Consortium’s recommendations when it prepared its report. Read about other important legislation.
The Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Network was designed in 2015 to provide the members of the original Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Institute and other school leaders committed to MISSION: School Transformation with opportunities to build on their understanding of and initiate innovative systemic changes locally and statewide. The network is superintendent-designed and superintendent-led, with the help and support of the Texas Association of School Administrators, to assist participants as they expand their leadership beyond the local level and propel the mission forward in the coming years.
More and more school districts are joining MISSION: School Transformation. Educators understand that if we teach today’s students the way we taught yesterday’s, they will not be prepared for the future. Together, the Consortium and Consortium Associates districts are working to transform public education Find out how your district can get started.