Public & Higher Education at The Texas Tribune Festival

We'll be liveblogging throughout the weekend from the Texas Tribune Festival's public and higher education track — which includes panels on the role research should play at state universities, how to pay for public education, why teacher accountability matters and what's next for the controversial State Board of Education.

Featured speakers include former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott, University of Texas President Bill Powers and Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Joel Carstarphen.

Follow us here for updates from the University of Texas campus. 

Liveblog

by Reeve Hamilton
Saturday 10:15AM - A Conversation About Higher Education Reform
Bill Powers, President, The University of Texas at Austin
by Reeve Hamilton
Powers says Big 12 Conference is "where we want to be" and he's happy they've stayed together. Also: It's perfectly appropriate for other schools to decide where they want to be.
by Reeve Hamilton
Powers says everyone in the Big 12 knew about Longhorn Network when they signed on last year.
by Reeve Hamilton
Ok, back to higher education reform.
by Reeve Hamilton
Powers says Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence, and Transparency provided best conversation on how to move forward in higher education.

He says higher ed is moving in the right direction, but questions remain.
by Reeve Hamilton
"We'll move ahead we're candid about things we actually disagree about," Powers said. The focus at UT is on improving graduation rates, ensuring quality of education, and transforming courses.

by Reeve Hamilton
How can UT raise 4-year graduation rate to 70 percent in 5 years? Power says, "We'll have to be more directed, a little more hands-on."
by Reeve Hamilton
Powers: "College ought to be a roughly 4-year experience." It's better for the students to get out in a reasonable time, he says.
by Reeve Hamilton
Powers on why costs have been going up: Because of more services, Powers says UT is a better place to go to college than it was 20 years ago. "It's a better product," he says. Also, the labor market is more competitive, and the university gets first-rate faculty.
by Reeve Hamilton
State appropriations account for 13 percent of UT's budget, significantly less than in decades past. Powers doesn't see that trend changing.

Powers: "In our plans, we're not anticipating our budget returning to 25 percent [supported by state funds]."

He says state funds are like sand in an oyster that they leverage through other means, including the Longhorn Network. He says this makes the university a great deal for the state.
by Reeve Hamilton
Powers disputes idea that university provides "cushiness" for faculty, who he calls "very hard-working."
by Reeve Hamilton
Powers says faculty — he calls them "experts" — have to be involved in any efforts to boost productivity. They have been excluded in efforts by outside groups to promote reforms.
by Reeve Hamilton
Powers: "There is still a fundamental disagreement...about the value of research."
by Reeve Hamilton
Evan Smith asks what the biggest problem that needs fixing that Powers feels powerless fix. Powers says the problems in K-12 education.
by Reeve Hamilton
Ok, gang, one panel down. Thanks for reading along. Next up is a panel on innovations in public education. Enjoy!
by David Muto
On deck: Different is Better - Innovations in Public Education, with Jeanne Goka, principal of the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders; Steven Farr, with Teach For America; and Mike Feinberg, co-founder and superintendent of KIPP
by David Muto
Goka describing the public/private nature of the Ann Richards School, which she calls a model for saving public education.
by David Muto
Feinberg on panel's theme: "I don't know if different is better — different is different."
by David Muto
Goka: We should work to provide opportunities to students who aren't American citizens. Farr name-checks YES Prep in Houston and other schools when citing wealth of public-school innovations in Texas, which he calls an "incubator" for education reform.
by David Muto
Feinberg says schools have had to face choice: "Are we going to be great, or are we going to be compliant?"
by David Muto
Topics turns to effective teaching. Farr says successful Teach For America teachers set long-term goals for their students. Feinberg: "No. 1 problem we face is belief and mindsets." Goka: With changing demographics, "no hope" for many undocumented students; need to find solutions for them.
by David Muto
Farr says Teach For America works to learn from teachers who teach well, but the formula is complex. Overall college GPA of teachers, for instance, is mildly predictive of their performance. More predictive is improved GPA over time. Goka says potential teacher hires at Ann Richards School have to face challenging interviews with school's students.
by David Muto
Audience question: Has TFA ever considered recruiting from places other than college campuses? Farr says college campuses are fertile ground, but that TFA takes anyone it can get who "fits its rubric."
by David Muto
Audience question: How are schools teaching students how to prepare for cost of college? Feinberg: Must be woven into curriculum. Goka says Ann Richards School sets up savings accounts for students, who then sell items and manage the accounts.
by Morgan Smith
Saturday 2pm - The 82nd Legislative Session and Education: Lessons Learned. Sen. Florence Shapiro, Rep. Rob Eissler, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, Rep. Dan Branch.
by Morgan Smith
Speaker of the House Joe Straus up delivering introduction now. "I no longer as a Texas Republican feel so guilty to have a New York Times under my arm" since the Tribune partnership, he says.
by Morgan Smith
"Why is [school finance] so hard?" moderator Ross Ramsey asks. One size doesn't fit all, says Sen. Shapiro, and we have a one size fits all school finance system: "It's a big state with a lot of schools that are very different, very diverse." And for the next session she says, "we're back to square one."
by Morgan Smith
"If we're willing to fight the politics we can probably get it right," Rep. Eissler adds.
by Morgan Smith
Now a shift to higher ed: Is it working out now in Texas? Does it need an overhaul?

Sen. Zaffirini says we do need to talk about productivity, efficiency, accountability — but the problem is how do we define those terms. We are here to work with everyone who's interested in higher education, she says even when we don't agree.

Rep. Branch: "I sense that higher ed is in this crucible of fiscal pressure...and this fairly dramatic digital revolution" and then there is the higher ed reform accountability movement — and that combination makes for a lot of stress on the system. There's reasons to have concerns, he says, but there's also reason for optimism.
by Morgan Smith
Ross Ramsey: What's the one thing about education in the state you would change if you could?

Sen. Shapiro: mandate parental involvement.
Rep. Eissler: update the cost of education index — the outdated index used in funding schools based on factors like teacher pay, regional costs, etc. "It would go a long way toward narrowing our funding...and come up with $2.5 billion in savings."
Sen. Zaffirini: "If money were no object, I would include early childhood education and higher education as a right for all the children of Texas."
Rep. Branch: "Enhance completions-- the quality and the quantity." More people graduating with better educations in core academic subjects.
by Morgan Smith
20 years from now what are we going to regret not doing?

Sen. Zaffirini immediately jumps in with her answer: "funding."
Sen. Shapiro: Funding seat time vs. funding brain time. We should instead fund the outcome, the result of learning.
Rep. Eissler: Integrating relevant technology into learning and classrooms — but SB6 passed this session has gone a long way in doing that.
Rep. Branch: Looking at the demographics and making sure that the growing, young Hispanic population is ready for a knowledge based economy.
by Morgan Smith
First audience question: How does the general population help you enforce and get good outcomes?

Sen. Shapiro: Engage parents and talk to them about school districts not doing well. And also engage the business community. They know and should tell policy makers what they need in terms of a workforce.
by Morgan Smith
Question: Everyone of the panelists has talked about how important public education is, but the Legislature reduced funding by billions of dollars. Please justify the decisions that were made.

Sen. Shapiro: We had an $18 -20 billion shortfall. Education is largest part of our budget. We had to cutting it to balance it. We could have taxed, but voters elected people because they said they wouldn't tax. So we had a conundrum. "There was not a single day in the House or the Senate where we weren't working on higher and public education" — we worked to get cuts down to something reasonable after the initial $10 billion cuts. And public ed is not all about money.

Rep. Eissler: And let's not forget — we've tripled what we've spent on education without demonstrable improvement over the past decades.
by Morgan Smith
Sen. Zaffirini: The title of this panel is lessons learned. If you agree with the funding decisions made during this Legislature, vote the same way you did last time. If you disagree, vote a different way.
by Morgan Smith
And that's all for right now. Stay tuned for our next panel in 15 minutes.
by Morgan Smith
Saturday 3:15 pm - How to Pay For Public Education. Sen. Dan Patrick, Rep. Scott Hochberg, Talmadge Heflin, and F. Scott McCown.
by Morgan Smith
Judge McCown says we're in a struggle right now to define what the state's policy is going to be on public education funding. On one side is growing minority population of kids with high needs, and the other is an aging Anglo population that's unwilling to share in the burden of educating these kids.

Sen. Patrick challenges him: I have not heard any Anglo, aged population say I don't want to pay for my grandchildren's education, my neighbor's children.
by Morgan Smith
Sen. Patrick says we haven't seen the layoffs, we have seen the big changes threatened from the education cuts. "Our students are doing well, our teachers are being retained." Lawmakers did a good job in trying economic times.
by Morgan Smith
Moderator Nate Blakeslee asks Rep. Hochberg if it's true that the layoffs and big changes haven't happened because of cuts. He doesn't think you can say that. "I have met people who don't want to educate kids of Texas, but I don't think that's what drives the Legislature," he says. Everyone in the Legislature thinks kids should be educated, he says, but when it comes down it it, that means fully funding the districts they personally represent, not looking at it from the big picture.
by Morgan Smith
Judge McCown gets applause when he says that the reason we spend most of our budget on public education is because we spend so little on everything else. He adds — to Sen. Patrick's point — that the real problem with layoffs etc. is going to be in the 2nd year of biennium when most districts are making their deepest cuts. "We have to put more money on the table," he said, because we are not meeting the challenge of educating our kids.
by Morgan Smith
Talmadge Heflin says there's a need to keep taxes at a level where we are creating jobs and people have the ability to buy houses and have the property values to keep education system going. "Districts are supposed to manage their own house" — they should decide whether to raise or lower taxes or make layoffs. The next biennium, he says, are going to be just as rough or worse in balancing the budget, so schools should be looking at four year, not two year cycles.
by Morgan Smith
Judge McCown on deficit: There wasn't a common understanding in 2006 about whether property tax compression was a tax swap, or the economy would grow, or that we'd cut our way down to get rid of it.

Rep. Patrick: Business tax was underperforming then and now — and the reason lawmakers haven't been able to deal with it is because the economy has gone in the tank, and that means it's not the right time to start taxing businesses more.
by Morgan Smith
Target revenue, growing ELL population and more lower income students are all factors pushing costs into public education, Sen. Patrick says. That combines with dropping property values that take away local funds from districts.

"The problem will be even more difficult" for schools in 2013.
by Morgan Smith
Sen. Patrick says state should increase sales tax base and offset that with reducing property tax rates to pay for public education to make sure home ownership remains affordable.
by Morgan Smith
Judge McCown says so basically, what we're going to do is lower taxes for aging anglos (that'd be the property taxes) and raise taxes for young hispanics (that'd be the sales tax)?
by Morgan Smith
Sen. Patrick says plenty of Hispanics, Af. Americans pay property taxes, and plenty of Anglos pay sales taxes.
by Morgan Smith
McCown says we need to fix the margins tax and costly exemptions in the tax code. He agrees on raising the sales tax, but should have an exemption for the bottom 20 percent in income.
by Morgan Smith
More applause for Judge McCown as he responds to Sen. Patrick: If you want to save home ownership, we need to invest in these students so they can go out and get good jobs.
by Morgan Smith
Blakeslee asks: has the Legislature gotten even to the right of where our mainstream business interests are?

Rep. Hochberg says his biggest frustration was that there was no attempt to find the long term answer, and nobody has figured out how to avoid being in the same place when lawmakers get back there next time.

Sen. Patrick proposes a yearly budget and keeping lawmakers for a shorter time each year so that they can address problems as they come up.
by Morgan Smith
There's not going to be an income tax, property values aren't going up — so all we have is the sales tax to find money for public education, Sen. Patrick says.
by Morgan Smith
After much back and forth from our panelists, we have time for one question from the audience: How do we address the inequities in the business tax?

Former Rep. Heflin: You can fix the tax by abolishing it.
Sen. Patrick: I agree that whatever we do, we need to look at those issues — especially the business tax's effect on small businesses — the way it is now, a company has to pay the tax even if it doesn't make a profit.
by Morgan Smith
With that, it's all over. Thanks for reading, and see y'all tomorrow.
by David Muto
Coming up: Education keynote with Margaret Spellings, former U.S. secretary of education
by David Muto
After remarks from Evan Smith and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Spellings takes the stage.
by David Muto
Spellings: "Half the minority kids in this country do not graduate from high school." So "why do we tolerate this underachievement" of our schools?
by David Muto
"Education has become a battlefield" to some observers. Parents just want their kids to get a decent education, she says. Reformers must insist on higher standards.
by David Muto
Spellings says No Child Left Behind has been a "game changer" in American public education.
by David Muto
No Child Left Behind has "raised expectations," she says, but the law has never been popular with the "adult establishment." Critics say it forces teachers to "teach the test."
by David Muto
"Is the law working?" she says. "You bet it is." Especially for minority children, she adds.
by David Muto
Spellings: No Child has bipartisan roots in Texas. Led to significant gains in math and reading in Texas, and program was taken to Washington. Makes schools accountable for billions of dollars they receive. Was passed with "amazing bipartisan margins." Bush received praise from Coretta Scott King.
by David Muto
Some say NCLB has been intended to label schools and shut them down. "Let's face it," she says, "some schools should shut their doors."
by David Muto
Unfortunately, she says, a current Republican-backed bill would let schools off the hook from the bill completely. "Darn sure isn't good for kids." Some Republicans believe Education Dept. should be shut down. Spellings cites Michele Bachmann in recent debate. "You can understand why I'm a little worried about states' will around these goals," she says.
by David Muto
Spellings encouraged by Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Chris Christie of New Jersey, governors who she says are attempting successful reform.
by David Muto
"Our economy depends on an educated workforce." By 2020, 123 million jobs will be high skill, but only 50 million will be qualified to fill them. "It's frustrating that instead of tackling these issues, the discussion is how to slow down rather than speed up," she says.
by David Muto
"We must take advantage of America's innovation and competition." Cites Teach For America as model for students and teachers. "NCLB isn't just a name — it really describes the policy."
by David Muto
Question from the audience: Why is it so hard to get an estimate of dropouts? What can we do to address dropouts? Spellings says she developed a method to calculate dropout rates. Children, she says, begin to disengage in middle school. Must make sure kids have foundational skills to move through the system. "I think kids are bored to death often." More customization (e.g., technology) needed to keep children engaged.
by David Muto
Question about national curriculum. Spellings: No philosophical or ideological opposition, but says U.S. risks "losing momentum." "It cannot be a substitute for real accountability along the way." Many teachers unions support a national curriculum, she says.
by David Muto
Question: Schools balancing success ("being great") with compliance. Spellings: "There's no law against being great." Spellings says that what schools really want to do is get out of accountability. "Is that about being great, or is that about gaming the system?"
by David Muto
Question: Critics say teaching to the test tends to deemphasize critical thinking. Spellings: Customization is key. Need to dramatically improve assessment and feedback systems, and "it will sort of take care of itself."
by David Muto
That's it! Next panel coming up in 30 minutes.
by David Muto
On deck: What Now for the State Board of Education?, with Don McLeroy, former board chairman; Thomas Ratliff, current board member; Jonathan Saenz, with the Liberty Institute; and Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network
by David Muto
Moderator Morgan Smith gets us up to date: If you'll recall, Ratliff beat McLeroy in the Republican primary in 2010.
by David Muto
Question to Ratliff: How will Senate Bill 6, which gives districts freedom in textbook choice, affect your role on the board? Ratliff: Will let school districts save money. McLeroy: It will weaken the board's authority. Don't know if it will diminish role of social conservatives, or benefit children. Says he would have voted against it.
by David Muto
McLeroy: Don't want "financial experts" dealing with Permanent School Fund. Much better that State Board now has that responsibility.
by David Muto
Miller: McLeroy wants State Board to control Permanent School Fund, but doesn't approve of $2 billion going to public schools. "You're either for the majority making those decisions or not."
by David Muto
Ratliff: Was "proud" to have signed letter encouraging money to be taken from Permanent School Fund in order to offset education cuts.
by David Muto
Saenz: Liberals have said SB 6 takes power away from SBOE. But actually, he says, it was strengthened.
by David Muto
Miller: "Interesting to me" that conservatives interested in local control now have problem with local control. SB 6 goes "long way" toward enhancing role of teachers. Thinks it's a "fabulous" piece of legislation. Saenz: Freedom Network doesn't respect local control when it comes to sex education.
by David Muto
Ratliff: "We've gotten so wrapped up in Legislature" determining rules for schools. Put control in hands of local boards, he says. "We need to give them the … accountability and let them do their job."
by David Muto
McLeroy: "Secular-minded" individuals began to worry about rise of social conservatives on board in 1994. "They were the ones that initiated the culture war. 'Freedom' became their middle name." He adds: "They're just not right about things."
by David Muto
McLeroy: "They're the masters of the incendiary soundbite." We never wanted to inject creationism into curriculum; we put "real science" into curriculum. We never wanted to downplay Thomas Jefferson. "We even put separation of church and state into the standards."
by David Muto
McLeroy is asked whether wars over things like evolution detract from other roles of board: "You can't avoid it." Miller: SBOE started war when it rejected experts and scholars.
by David Muto
Saenz: Freedom Network didn't want teachers' and experts' views in curriculum — it wanted its own views. SBOE is reflective of what the electorate wants. TFN, he adds, endorses candidates and wants members on the board who agree with it.
by David Muto
Ratliff: "Culture wars have been around a long time." Problem right now, he says, is third-party groups that ask "incendiary, misleading" questions. "They want to draw the lines before you're even elected." Cites questionnaire he received that asked about abortion, homosexuality, gun rights, all of which he says have nothing to do with the SBOE.
by David Muto
"You'll never get rid of it," Ratliff says of culture wars. Saying "voters have spoken" on SBOE is "a little bit of a leap." "To say that the voters even know who we are is a bit of a stretch."
by David Muto
Miller: People, at least, are starting to pay attention to the board.
by David Muto
Question: Should the SBOE be elected? McLeroy: Elected body "crucial" (even though he lost). "It's the best way to do it. … Shouldn't even be on the table." Miller supports nonpartisan elections. SBOE races often fall under the radar. Board important enough to separate its elections and put them in May, for instance, not with gubernatorial or presidential elections in November.
by David Muto
Ratliff: "I don't think the State Board has a structural problem — I think it has a personality problem." Doesn't know what the solution is. State has already tried appointed board, partly appointed board. About teachers given rigid framework, says TEKS for Spanish I is only a page and a half. "There's no politics in Spanish."
by David Muto
Audience question to McLeroy: What's the extent of your scientific knowledge of evolution? McLeroy has said he has done a lot of reading. "Everything I see is incredibly weak."
by David Muto
Audience question about Texas' high teen birth rate. Miller: Texas allows local districts to teach more than abstinence only, but state law requires that abstinence be promoted as preferred behavior. Saenz: "Myth" that states can only teach abstinence. But the reality is that most school districts, which are locally elected, haven't chosen to go beyond abstinence. Teen pregnancy levels, which were going down, have leveled off because of "drug-based sex education."
by David Muto
Saenz asked about "drug-based sex education." Says FDA recommends contraception practices that require getting prescription.
by David Muto
Question from audience about determining what African-Americans or Latinos have to have accomplished to appear in curriculum. McLeroy defers to Sanez, who says that minorities have been discussed fairly in textbooks. Audience member: "I don't see me" in curriculum.
by Reeve Hamilton
Next up: "Why Accountability Matters" featuring Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott
by Reeve Hamilton
Scott says he's not sure he's willing to hand over control of state's curriculum to the U.S. Department of Education in order to get No Child Left Behind waivers from the feds.
by Reeve Hamilton
Scott on NCLB: "If Pres. Clinton had tried these things, there'd be a contingent of people from Texas marching on Capitol Hill."
by Reeve Hamilton
Scott: Because Senate Education Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, is retiring, a major shake-up of standardized testing could happen in the next few years.
by Reeve Hamilton
There is a role of the federal government in making sure civil rights of students aren't violated, and supporting special needs education, Scott says.
by Reeve Hamilton
Scott says "I can't think of any other time" state hasn't funded enrollment growth, though he says he hasn't been around that long.

Says there is mistaken lore in the country that Texas has worst dropout rates in the country. It doesn't, he says.
by Reeve Hamilton
Scott says budget cuts have resulted in "nowhere near the scary 100,000 teacher layoffs" projected by some.
by Reeve Hamilton
Scott says he gets beat up by some legislators for closing down low-performing charter schools. "All I'm asking is that you follow the law and teach the children," he says — and if he has to close you down, "so be it."
by Reeve Hamilton
Scott says the new STAAR test prepares students for higher education by having midterm and final exams.
by Reeve Hamilton
A big question of the next few years, Scott says, is how much local control legislators will allow school boards.
by Reeve Hamilton
Scott on budget cuts again: The next couple years will be "difficult," but "it's not going to be Armageddon."
by Reeve Hamilton
With regard to firing teachers, Scott says test data shouldn't be the sole determinant. If campus discipline is poor, teachers can't teach.
by Reeve Hamilton
That's all, next up is the "Can public universities make the grade?" panel at 2. Hope to see y'all there.
by Morgan Smith
Sunday 2PM - R. Bowen Loftin, Richard M. Rhodes, Diana Natalicio, Renu Khator.
by Morgan Smith
Texans should be proud because the state is educating a lot of low income and minority students, says UT-El Paso President Diana Natalicio. El Paso is contributing disproportionately to the education of the population that is going the be the future of Texas. "We've focused far too much on the negatives and not enough on the positives," she says.
by Morgan Smith
Moderator Reeve Hamilton asks about metrics should be used to determine if we are successful in educating students.

Natalicio says emphasis is too much on graduation rates because their calculation only counts those students who enroll as first time, full time freshman — leaving out transfers, which account for 70 percent of students. "That's simply trying to find fault," she says. Instead, degree completion should be the measure.
by Morgan Smith
Community colleges take the brunt of graduation rates' dominance as a metric. Rhodes says we should use the "full spectrum of the students" to measure success — "momentum points" — checking what skills did they have when they entered, and which skills they did they have when they left, and how they reach goals at steps along the way.
by Morgan Smith
What are the consequences of 2009 Tier I initiative to improve universities for existing Tier I schools? Is it a good idea to be investing money for other school to become Tier I when there is limited funding?

"Don't penalize what you've got to get something new," Loftin says. He says we should have more Tier I schools in Texas, but not by taking money away from Tier I schools, through generating new money.

Khator clarifies she would never support a proposal that would draw money from existing schools. But that Texas is a big state, and needs more schools to keep talent around.
by Morgan Smith
Reeve asks, what does Tier I status actually do, besides improve reputation?

Natalicio says UTEP is about providing access but also producing competitive graduates. "In order to have that competitiveness, you have to have resources that are characteristics of a Tier I university," she said. Tier I can create that capacity across the state, and Texas will be better off for it.

She asks, what's wrong with encouraging everyone to try for Tier I?
by Morgan Smith
Is it possible to get to a $10,000 bachelor's degree without the community colleges?

Rhodes: the earlier we can start students thinking about college, the better, and the more it goes towards reducing the cost of educating them — particularly low income and ELL kids.

Natalicio: There are lots of ways we inhibit our own goals. Some students finish their associate's degree before they even graduate high school. So what happens is they don't qualify for federal financial aid because they haven't graduated high school. UTEP responded by raising private funds for tuition and fees -- but with one tweak to that, it would save that money. There needs to be a better fix to the disconnect between K-12 education.
by Morgan Smith
Khator throws a figure out there: a cost of a wedding in America is higher than the cost of a four year education at a university.
by Morgan Smith
And now for the seven solutions — why did that effort to improve efficiency became such a hot button issue?

Loftin: People wanted to cut higher ed, not public ed. The average person on the street doesn't have a college degree, so if you ask them if their tax dollars should go to pay for someone else to better themselves, they say no, that person is going to get a good job so they should pay for it themselves. There needs to be a better understanding of the value of higher education.

Rhodes: The answer rests in the question of whether higher ed public good or personal benefit. In tough economic times, the pendulum swings towards the latter — that means people should pay for it themselves.

by Morgan Smith
Do we adequately value higher education?

Natalicio: There's a true divergence between the haves and the have-nots. Talent and money and wealth don't necessarily correlate, but low income kids are much less likely to go to higher ed. If we keep doing that we're going to price low income kids outside of college. I'm seeing a group of students full of talent and not wealthy, but what's going to happen is they are going to be the first to lose — and that's going to be our loss. We're all going to be better off if more people go to college. We've always been committed to the idea that everyone has an opportunity — and what's going to happen is that we are going to deny opportunities to students on the basis of wealth.
by Morgan Smith
An audience question for Natalicio: What about the 37 percent graduation rate for the 3o percent of the students that are graduating, and does that speak to Texas' ability to graduate at risk students?

Natalicio: Many students begin at UTEP with the intention of transferring to another institution in Texas or New Mexico. We see a population of students that have a different goal, to use enrollment as a stepping stone, and then a far greater highly mobile population. Our graduation rate is going up. We're all much more efficient today. If I were to invest our resources to that goal I could increase my graduation rate fastest by not admitting any at-risk students. It's a misguided investment for us to get there.
by Morgan Smith
That's all for this panel. Stick around for the next one in 15 minutes on "Making Big City Schools Work."
by Reeve Hamilton
Ok, time for: "Making Big-City Schools Work" featuring Meria Joel Carstarphen, Superintendent of Austin Independent School District, Curtis Culwell, Superintendent of Garland Independent School District, and John M. Folks, Superintendent of Northside Independent School District.
by Reeve Hamilton
Carstarphen says her biggest challenge has been matching the need for human capital in a system that hasn't evolved.
by Reeve Hamilton
Folks says that the general public isn't going to feel the magnitude of recent budget cuts for several years due to a lack of academic support. The initially weren't perceived as bad as expected because districts have worked hard to preserve classrooms.
by Reeve Hamilton
Folks expresses concern over students taking the new, more rigorous STAAR test when schools have less financial support to help prepare them.

"All this we're talking about, it's really not about college and career-readiness, it's about creating more students that are likely to drop out," he says.
by Reeve Hamilton
Folks says that economy didn't create schools' current problems on its own. The Legislature also refused to addressed the structural deficit through business margins tax.

Folks asks why what's called the "new normal" isn't better salaries and support for teachers.
by Reeve Hamilton
Culwell: If you're going to be effective, you have to have students in school longer, because what is expected of them is greater than it's been in the last 50 years.
by Reeve Hamilton
Folks: Congress is the one that's dropped the ball on No Child Left Behind issues.

Culwell and Folks both say that districts aren't going to meet the required metrics required. Culwell says the entire state of Texas is failing to meet them.

Folks says that at some point, someone will realize that schools across the nation are failing and something needs to be done.
by Reeve Hamilton
Folks: "Why, except only for political reasons, would we not get a [NCLB] waiver?"

by Reeve Hamilton
Carstarphen says a major problem is the lack of alignment between state accountability standards and federal accountability standards.
by Reeve Hamilton
Culwell: "We're all for accountability. We're all for holding adults accountable." Disaggregation of data in the state and has helped exposed weaknesses. He says ratings have done damage, though. You can get sidetracked by bragging about getting a "recognized" rating, but he asks, "What have you done lately?"
by Reeve Hamilton
Folks: "I feel sorry for the excellent people coming out of universities...they can't find jobs right now."

He says recruitment of teachers has not been a problem, but retention is a struggle. As long as you provide necessary support, retention will take care of itself.

"We want people in our classrooms who want to be there," he says.
by Reeve Hamilton
Carstarphen: There will be people today who might previously have considered going into teaching that won't even think about it. "For Texas, it's going to be uniquely hard to find people to come and be in our systems," she says. It will be hard to convince them that it's a smart job choice.
by Reeve Hamilton
Carstarphen would love to see education take pages out of the book of other innovators, not necessarily in education.
by Reeve Hamilton
Carstarphen says a big part of the culture has been a feeling that they need to apologize for saying they need resources to educate students.
by Reeve Hamilton
Culwell: "The whole notiong of college-ready is a completely new concept for the country. We don't know how much it will cost, because we've never tried to do it."
by Reeve Hamilton
That wraps up the public and higher education track. Thanks for reading along!

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