The one thing constant in schools is change. The state legislature sets the mandates for schools and the Texas Education Agency is the enforcement arm of the legislature. Public schools must follow TEA guidelines. In 2011, the Texas Legislature cut funding for public education by $5.3 million. Per capita public school appropriations in Texas compared with other states have declined rapidly in recent years, sending Texas toward the bottom nationally in education funding. During the 2011/2012 school year, according to the Texas Education Agency, more than 10,000 teachers were laid off. At the same time the Legislature has implemented major cuts to education funding, it hasn’t cut funding for high-stakes testing. Texas has already paid Pearson, an educational conglomerate based in London, $151 million for the STAAR Exams. If the state doesn’t terminate the contract, by 2016 Texas will have paid Pearson a total of $468 million for the STAAR Exams. Today’s school business operations are very complex – ranging from enrollment projections to state funding formulas. Add a legislative session with political and financial stress to the mix and who knows what will happen or how it might affect our school district. The 83rd Legislature will convene during this school year. The state legislature will deal with the school funding shortfall, a leadership vacuum, litigation impact from funding lawsuits, and pressure for no new taxes. Hopefully the new 83rd legislative session will restore the $5.3 million in budget cuts to public education enacted by the 82nd legislative session.Last school year, districts all over Texas learned about the new state assessments. Under the state accountability system no ratings will be assigned for the 2011-2012 school year, as school personnel adapted to the changes from TAKS to STAAR. The 2012-2013 school year is the real deal for state accountability, and teachers must prepare curriculum to enhance student achievement and students must stay on task to learn. STAAR performance standards will be set so that they require a higher level of student performance than is required on the previous TAKS assessments. Significant changes to the state assessment program include increasing the rigor of both the assessments and the performance standards for all grades, subjects, and courses. At grades 3-8, students will be tested in math and reading. Students will also be tested in writing at grades 4 and 7, science at grades 5 and 8, and social studies at grade 8. Students will be required to pass the STAAR math and reading tests in grades 5 and 8 in order to advance to the next grade.Students will be evaluated differently in the new STAAR test. There will be two cut scores, which will identify three performance categories. For the STAAR assessments, the labels for the performance categories are Level III Advanced Academic Performance, Level II Satisfactory Academic Performance, and Level I Unsatisfactory Academic Performance.The high school assessments have changed from being grade-based to course-based assessments. It also establishes college-readiness performance standards for Algebra II and English III. Students who began 9th grade in 2011-2012 will have to obtain a minimum cumulative score on the end-of-year tests in English, math, science, and social studies to be eligible to graduate. Schools must prepare students to be successful in a very competitive workplace after high school graduation. Whether students choose to pursue their education at colleges or universities, or whether they choose to enter the workplace immediately after high school, regular education students in public schools are required by TEA Graduation Requirements to pass all state assessments and be college ready.Richland Springs administration, faculty and staff, and most of all parents, must understand that students must reach a level of mastery in all subjects each and every year. Parents must make EDUCATION a priority at home for it to be a priority at school. We must all be on the same page if students are to achieve the success necessary to compete in a global society. Working together, we can achieve our goal of Richland Springs ISD becoming a Texas Education Agency (TEA) Recognized Campus.If you see a teacher in public, tell them how much you appreciate their efforts. Life brings challenges. Life is good! We have a great community, students, teachers and staff. Community involvement is the key to our success!Zephyr/Rochelle/Richland Springs Scrimmage6:00 p.m. Friday, August 17th at Coyote Field“Meet the Coyotes” Saturday, August 18th at 7:30 - Ice cream social.