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House Public Education Committee Holds First Hearing of 83rd Texas Legislature

The House Public Education Committee met Tuesday afternoon to hear invited testimony from Commissioner Michael Williams on education priorities and to receive updates on the school finance lawsuit, student assessment and accountability from Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff.

Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock began the meeting by saying that he was thankful to serve as chair of the committee and that the 5.1 million school children should be the focus of all committee members. After brief introductions of all committee members, including four newly elected lawmakers, Chairman Aycock recognized TEA Commissioner Michael Williams.

Wearing his signature bow tie, Commissioner Williams told the committee that the biggest challenge for TEA and the state of Texas is maintaining high expectations for all students. He cited the recent academic achievements at different grade levels, but also recognized that changing demographics posed a challenge for future success. Regarding testing, he reiterated that "we treasure what we measure" and informed committee members that his number one role is closing the achievement gap among racial groups. He told the committee that he is looking forward to working with lawmakers regarding the different proposals on testing, accountability, career and workforce options, and technology in the classroom.

Significantly, he told the committee members that the biggest organizational challenge is restoring morale due to budget cuts at the agency.

David Anderson, General Counsel, and Von Byer, Deputy General Counsel at TEA provided an overview and update of the school finance lawsuit.

Criss Cloudt, Associate Commissioner for Assessment and Accountability, Gloria Zyskowski, Director of Student Assessment Division, and Shannon Housson, Director of Performance Reporting Division, provided a student assessment and school accountability update.