ARLINGTON—Texas Education Commissioner Michael L. Williams told business leaders Thursday that he has charged senior staffers with making recommendations on ways to “enhance and improve the accountability system.”
Williams was a keynote speaker at the Arlington Chamber of Commerce annual dinner and business meeting. Eugene Powell, University of Texas System board of regents chairman, also gave a keynote address.(Photo: Williams at 2010 rally in Burleson. Special to ST/Bob Haynes)
“You’ve heard parents teachers and others say that what we’re doing is way too many tests, we’re teaching to the test, there have been benchmarks and worksheets,” Williams explained in a brief interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We think there are some things we can do to still maintain the force of the accountability system -- because we can't retract from that. We still have to go about the business of teaching every youngster in every classroom in the school. But there may be other ways to look at our accountability system, things that are within the control of the commissioner.”
The state is phasing in the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, which includes tests for students in grades 3 through 8 and new end-of-course exams for high schoolers. It replaces the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exams.
Williams added there are “things we might be able to do to release some of the anxiety in the current system but still keep the integrity of that system intact.”
Any decision or announcement based on the staff report, due in mid-November, would come several months later, perhaps by spring, Williams said.
Williams and his wife Donna own a house in North Arlington. Both Williams’ parents worked as teachers in Midland, with a combined 83 years of classroom experience.
The commissioner oversees the Texas Education Agency and the state’s 1,200 school districts and charter schools. Williams is a past chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, and was assistant secretary of education for civil rights, U.S. Department of Education. He has been on the job at TEA for three weeks and three days, he told the crowd. He plans to meet with Arlington interim superintendent Marcelo Cavazos in coming days.
Also at the event, at the Arlington Convention Center, the chamber gave its Star Award --its highest honor -- to James D. Spaniolo, the University of Texas at Arlington’s seventh president, who has announced plans to retire.