Under the Texas Education Code Chapter 12A: Districts of Innovation, Denton ISD has identified the following requirements imposed by the Texas Education Code that inhibit the goals of the Denton ISD Innovation Plan:
FIRST DAY OF INSTRUCTIONTexas Education Code:Sec. 25.0811. FIRST DAY OF INSTRUCTION“A school district may not begin instruction for students for a school year before the fourth Monday in August.”EB: SCHOOL YEAREB (LEGAL) http://pol.tasb.org/Policy/Download/383?filename=EB(LEGAL).pdf
Rationale:Denton ISD believes the local community should decide what is best for its students in setting the first day of instruction. By claiming exemption from Sec. 25.0811, the district shall determine the first day of instruction for its students on an annual basis with input from stakeholders. Regardless of whether any adjustments or changes are made to the current start date law, Denton ISD believes this issue to be a local decision as opposed to a state mandate.
CERTIFICATIONTexas Education Code:Sec. 21.003. CERTIFICATION REQUIRED“A person may not be employed as a teacher, teacher intern or teacher trainee, librarian, educational aide, administrator, educational diagnostician, or school counselor by a school district unless the person holds an appropriate certificate or permit issued.”Sec. 21.044. EDUCATOR PREPARATIONSec. 21.053. PRESENTATION AND RECORDING OF CERTIFICATESSec. 21.055. SCHOOL DISTRICT TEACHING PERMITSec. 21.057. PARENTAL NOTIFICATIONBoard Policy:DBA: EMPLOYMENT REQUIREMENTS AND RESTRICTIONS CREDENTIALS AND RECORDSDK: ASSIGNMENT AND SCHEDULESRationale:Denton ISD believes school district leadership should decide what is best for its students in determining the candidate best suited to teach career and technical education (CTE) courses; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses; dual credit coursework; etc. By claiming exemption from Sec. 21.044 the district shall have the right to recruit individuals from certain trades, industries, and vocations with industry knowledge and real world experience and consider qualifications based on experience, industry certification, etc. District leadership including principals, CTE administrators, human resource department members, etc. shall determine whether it is in the best interest of its students to certify individuals based on these factors rather than appeal to the Commissioner of Education as stated in Sec. 21.055. Further, the district shall establish local criteria for training and locally certifying individuals rather than adhere strictly to mandates outlined in Sec. 21.053. In doing so, parental notification of “inappropriately certified or uncertified teachers” under Sec. 21.057 would no longer be necessary. Regardless of whether any adjustments or changes are made to the certification laws, Denton ISD believes this issue to be a local decision as opposed to a state mandate.
Texas Education Code:Sec. 11.251. PLANNING AND DECISION-MAKING PROCESShttp://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.11.htm#11.251Sec. 11.252. DISTRICT-LEVEL PLANNING AND DECISION-MAKINGSec. 11.253. CAMPUS PLANNING AND SITE-BASED DECISION-MAKING http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.11.htm#11.253Sec. 11.255. DROPOUT PREVENTION REVIEWhttp://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.11.htm#11.255"To implement the process at the district level, administration should consider the following critical success factors [which include but are not limited to]:Extensive and continuous training prior to and during implementation within the school district. Training should include, but not be limited to, developing skills on consensus building, brainstorming, problem solving, managing change and interpersonal communication skills such as conflict resolution, value clarification and negotiation. An extensive amount of time will be spent changing role definitions, training school district staff, educating the community, establishing objectives, developing and implementing programs and monitoring program success.”Board Policy:BQ: PLANNING AND DECISION-MAKING PROCESSBQ (LOCAL) http://pol.tasb.org/Policy/Download/383?filename=BQ(LOCAL).pdfBQA: PLANNING AND DECISION-MAKING PROCESS DISTRICT-LEVELBQA: PLANNING AND DECISION-MAKING PROCESS CAMPUS-LEVEL http://pol.tasb.org/Policy/Download/383?filename=BQB(LOCAL).pdfRationale:
“Site-based decision making is a process for decentralizing decisions to improve the educational outcomes at every school campus through a collaborative effort by which principals, teachers, campus staff, district staff, parents, and community representatives assess educational outcomes of all students, determine goals and strategies, and ensure that strategies are implemented and adjusted to improve student achievement.
The basic premise of site-based decision making is that the most effective decisions are made by those who will actually implement the decisions.”
The implementation process for site-based decision making occurs at two levels – district and campus. From a district standpoint, perhaps the guide says it best,
“The belief is that people involved at the campus level have a greater opportunity to identify problems, develop problem resolution and change strategy than people located off-campus. Site-based decision making concepts also recognize that people at the campus level are more likely to internalize change and to support its implementation if they are involved in the decision making than if they are not.”
And research would show this to be the case, but most notably and noticeably at the “campus level” and particularly with the principal and teacher leadership working collaboratively. Because of the breadth and depth of the inner workings of a large school district, it is much more difficult to ascertain its effectiveness in a large, fast-growth district. According to the FASRG,"To implement the process at the district level, administration should consider the following critical success factors [which include, but are not limited to]:
"Extensive and continuous training” and "an extensive amount of time" would indeed be necessary for all stakeholders, but is it practical? According to Sec. 11.252, (e), “The district-level committee established under Section 11.251 shall hold at least one public meeting per year.” Denton ISD board policy BQA (LOCAL) further states, “The chairperson of the council shall set its agenda and shall schedule at least two meetings per year; additional meetings may be held at the call of the chairperson.” Currently, Denton ISD holds six meetings yearly. However, considering the education code and board policy require members to address, at a minimum, the areas of planning, budgeting, curriculum, staffing patterns, staff development, school organization as well as a host of other responsibilities identified in additional sections of the education code; one (or even six) meetings is insufficient to discuss the required topics much less have sufficient (or "extensive") training to equip members to have meaningful dialogue and input. With district site-based management committee topping 60 members including a teacher rep from each of the 40 campuses, it is quite a daunting task. Consider the amount of “extensive training” it would require a classroom teacher representative to endure to have the knowledge to offer constructive feedback on the district budget currently in excess of $200 million. Frankly, not only is it unfathomable, it isn’t reasonable to expect such a far-reaching viewpoint. If trained to address all the areas listed in law, “extensive training” would become “excessive training.” If a district went so far as to provide this level of training, it could be rendered pointless. Board policy BQA (LOCAL), states, “The council shall serve exclusively in an advisory role except that the council shall approve staff development of a Districtwide nature.” Therefore, any recommendation made by a well-informed committee could be deemed unusable and the investment of time for naught.While all stakeholders are represented, it is often a difficult task for parent, community, and business reps to offer a voice in a broad sense. Although each offers perspective, feedback is typically more representative of individual perspective than as an advocate for those in similar roles (i.e. a business rep should ideally speak on behalf of local businesses based on feedback from other business members). Outside representatives have proven valuable in the manner in which the EIC has operated over the past several years, which has served as a discussion-based group on a variety of topics. Over time, both district- and campus-level parents of students enrolled in the district, community members, and business and industry representatives have expressed concerns feeling they had little to contribute to the overall conversation in the traditional format of these committees. Because so much is to be considered as a part of the district and campus improvement plan (including federal and state law), leaders (both principals and teacher leaders) must have deep conversation prior to the site-based management committee meetings. As a result, the committee is merely a rubber-stamp committee with considerable de jure power but little de facto power.In addition a comprehensive needs assessment, measurable performance objectives, strategies, resources (including staff), and evaluative measures, the number of strategies mandated in Sec. 11.252 are excessive and bring to mind the exhaustive list of the ever increasing burden on America’s public schools (http://www.jamievollmer.com/pdf/the-list.pdf) crafted by author Jamie Vollmer. Mandates include, but are not limited to,
- Extensive and continuous training prior to and during implementation within the school district. Training should include, but not be limited to, developing skills on consensus building, brainstorming, problem solving, managing change and interpersonal communication skills such as conflict resolution, value clarification, and negotiation.
- An extensive amount of time will be spent changing role definitions, training school district staff, educating the community, establishing objectives, developing and implementing programs and monitoring program success."
- instructional methods for addressing the needs of student groups not achieving their full potential;
- methods for addressing the needs of students for special programs, such as
- suicide prevention,
- conflict resolution,
- violence prevention, or
- dyslexia treatment programs;
- dropout reduction;
- integration of technology in instructional and administrative programs;
- discipline management;
- staff development for professional staff of the district;
- career education to assist students in developing the knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary for a broad range of career opportunities; and
- accelerated education;
- strategies for providing to middle school, junior high school, and high school students, those students' teachers and counselors, and those students' parents information about:
- higher education admissions and financial aid opportunities;
- the TEXAS grant program and the Teach for Texas grant program established under Chapter 56;
- the need for students to make informed curriculum choices to be prepared for success beyond high school;
- and sources of information on higher education admissions and financial aid;
- goals and objectives for the coordinated health program at the campus based on:
- student fitness assessment data, including any data from research-based assessments such as the school health index assessment and planning tool created by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
- student academic performance data;
- student attendance rates;
- the percentage of students who are educationally disadvantaged;
- the use and success of any method to ensure that students participate in moderate to vigorous physical activity as required by Section 28.002(1); and
- any other indicator recommended by the local school advisory council.
Finally, Denton ISD uses the FranklinCovey Leadership: Great Leaders, Great Teams, Great Results model for improvement planning. Based upon the four disciplines of execution, Denton ISD improvement plans focus on “Wildly Important Goals (WIGs).” A Wildly Important Goal is described by FranklinCovey as “a goal that makes all the difference. Failure to achieve this goal renders any other achievements inconsequential.” Research demonstrates “great leaders realize they can execute only two or three goals with excellence at one time. There will always be more good ideas than the capacity to execute." Jim Collins, author of Good to Great said, "The enemy of the great is the good. Organizations have to say no to good ideas. The law of diminishing return shows when an organization has two to three goals, it is likely to achieve the goals. With four to ten goals, the organization is likely to only achieve one to two; and it is unlikely to achieve any of the goals when there are more than ten goals." Therefore, these mandates are antithetical.
As a result, Denton ISD is claiming exemption from the specific provisions of Sec. 11.251 – 11.255 and shall determine the processes and memberships of its site-based management committees. While Denton ISD will continue to develop district and campus improvement plans based upon a comprehensive needs assessment, the district is claiming exemption from the specific mandates of these sections and shall determine the contents of its plans while honoring federal mandates that cannot be excluded. Regardless of whether any adjustments or changes are made to site-based decision-making rules and laws, Denton ISD believes this issue to be a local decision as opposed to a state mandate.
MINIMUM ATTENDANCE FOR CLASS CREDIT OR FINAL GRADETexas Education Code:Sec. 25.092. MINIMUM ATTENDANCE FOR CLASS CREDIT OR FINAL GRADE http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.25.htm#25.092“A student in any grade level from kindergarten through grade 12 may not be given credit or a final grade for a class unless the student is in attendance for at least 90 percent of the days the class is offered.”Board Policy:FEC: ATTENDANCE FOR CREDITRationale:Denton ISD believes 90% is an arbitrary percentage emphasizing “seat time” over content mastery. By claiming exemption from Sec. 25.092, the district can abstain from penalizing students who miss class time due to extra- and co-curricular activities, academic activities, and/or other extenuating circumstances enabling the district to accommodate students with legitimate scheduling conflicts while reducing dropouts and increasing the number of qualifying graduates. Note that relief from Sec. 25.092 does not in any way impact or alter existing compulsory attendance requirements or University Interscholastic League (UIL) rules. Furthermore, in no way does this exemption limit a teacher's right to determine the finality of a grade in accordance with Texas Education Code Sec. 28.214 nor does it restrict or alter a teacher's right to assign grades in accordance with Texas Education Code Sec. 28.216. Regardless of whether any adjustments or changes are made to the minimum attendance for class credit or final grade laws, Denton ISD believes this issue to be a local decision as opposed to a state mandate.
RECOMMENDED APPRAISAL PROCESS AND PERFORMANCE CRITERIA
Texas Education Code:Sec. 21.351. RECOMMENDED APPRAISAL PROCESS AND PERFORMANCE CRITERIA http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.21.htm#21.351Sec. 21.354. APPRAISAL OF CERTAIN ADMINISTRATORShttp://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.21.htm#21.354
“The commissioner by rule shall establish and shall administer a comprehensive appraisal and professional development system for principals.”Board Policy:DNA: PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL EVALUATION OF TEACHERSDNB: PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL EVALUATION OF OTHER PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEESDNB (LOCAL): PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL EVALUATION OF CAMPUS ADMINISTRATORSRationale:Denton ISD believes it is essential to maintain flexibility in using a variety of measurements, including goal setting, observations, student growth progress toward learning objectives, and other formative assessments in determining the performance of its educators. By claiming exemption from Sec. 21.351, 23.354, and 23.3541, the district can determine locally the most appropriate appraisal instrument to evaluate its educators. Regardless of whether any adjustments or changes are made to the state-mandated appraisal system and laws, Denton ISD believes this issue to be a local decision as opposed to a state mandate.