The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) has shared its proposal with Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath for state and local policies related to COVID-19 and reopening schools. Expanding on its previously released recommendations with new suggestions based on current public health conditions, ATPE stresses the importance of ensuring the safety of Texas students and school employees. Science and current health conditions, not politics, should drive reopening.
ATPE strongly urges the State of Texas to consider the following chief recommendations:
- Ensure that health and safety considerations drive the decisions around when and how to reopen schools. To that end, ATPE’s House of Delegates—a representative body that meets annually to craft the association’s legislative platform—voted last week to request that Gov. Abbott and state officials delay in-person classroom instruction until Texas has demonstrated a flattened curve in the number of COVID-19 cases.
- Require school districts to include educators, non-administrative school staff, and parents in the plans for the safe return of students and district employees. As outlined in its July 2 recommendations and guidelines document, ATPE has advocated for the state to require districts to solicit feedback from their employees in developing their back-to-school plans. The association similarly urges the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to expand its discussions about plans for the next school year, which have been underway for several months, to allow for the meaningful participation of associations that represent other educators who are not school superintendents.
- Adopt a state reopening framework based upon objective, quantifiable measures that can be used to allow local school districts to open in a gradual manner upon satisfying health-based criteria. Flexibility is key. ATPE recognizes that not every Texas community has been affected the same way and that a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to succeed. However, ATPE believes that the state has a responsibility to ensure that local plans for reopening meet minimal criteria to prevent and mitigate further spread of COVID-19 within our schools.
- Waive requirements for school districts to administer the 2020-21 STAAR and TELPAS. ATPE acknowledges that classroom teachers will need to administer some tests to assess their students’ needs following COVID-19 disruptions to the school setting and determine the best ways to remediate anticipated learning gaps. However, the STAAR and TELPAS are costly to administer, they may not produce reliable results under these unusual circumstances, and their high-stakes nature will place unnecessary pressure on students, parents, and educators at a time when they are already facing tremendous challenges. ATPE urges the state to request necessary federal waivers related to standardized testing and accountability.
“We believe the framework proposed by ATPE will give parents and educators confidence that reopening decisions are based on objective data showing the impact of the virus locally,” said Shannon Holmes, ATPE Executive Director. “It will also minimize the risk of hasty reopening decisions based on politics, rather than prioritizing the health and safety of students and school employees.”
Read ATPE's letter here.
Read ATPE’s full recommendations to the state here.
About the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE)
Founded in 1980, ATPE is the leading educators’ association in Texas with approximately 100,000 members statewide. With its strong collaborative philosophy, ATPE speaks for classroom teachers, administrators, and future, retired, and para-educators and works to create better opportunities for Texas’ five million public school students. | atpe.org