Muri: Good news on test scores

·8 min read

Jun. 23—Ector County ISD Superintendent Scott Muri had good news on state test scores and a new board member to share during his media call Wednesday.

Muri also discussed the future of teacher certification and public schools.

On STAAR and end-of-course exams, Muri said the results showed that students are recovering from their pandemic learning loss at a rapid rate.

"We saw improvement at the elementary level, the middle school level, as well as the high school level in all academic areas. (We're) excited to see that growth and development for our kids. As we talked about at our board meeting, we're still recovering from a pandemic and the pandemic provided significant learning losses for our children," Muri said.

"What we saw this week is that our kids are recovering at a very rapid rate of speed from the learning loss and (we are) excited to see the growth and development that we're experiencing in ECISD. We have some people to commend. This body of work doesn't happen accidentally. It happens with great intentionality.

"Three years ago, ECISD developed a strategic plan and the work of that strategic plan, even throughout the pandemic, continued to be the focus of our entire organization. Our teachers and principals in particular have implemented the strategies and tactics as a part of that strategic plan and we're seeing the results of that very focused and intentional implementation ...," Muri said.

He noted that the pandemic still impacted teaching and learning this year. Students missed school and hundreds of teachers were out.

"... But even amidst all of that, our kids and their resiliency really rose to the occasion. ... Our teachers and administrators, again, really went the extra mile to make sure that our kids were receiving the type of instruction that they so desperately needed and deserved. We see the results of that in our own organization," Muri said.

"It also shows that the investments we're making, the financial investments and the investments of our time, energy and talents, are producing results, as well...," he said.

At the June 21 board meeting, trustees appointed Judge Dennis Jones to fill the District 7 spot vacated by Nelson Minyard in January.

"Eight individuals applied for that position. Our board of trustees reviewed those resumes, read those cover letters and then interviewed each of those eight candidates and then made the very difficult decision last night (June 21). We had eight really great candidates. The board engaged in some very healthy conversations with each of those candidates, but ultimately selected Judge Jones to fill that vacancy, so we welcome him aboard to the ECISD Board of Trustees. During the month of August, we will hold a special meeting that will be focused on approving him and swearing him in and providing his new position on our board of trustees," Muri said.

A question came up that the state wants to make it harder for teachers to be certified. Muri is on the State Board of Educator Certification that oversees teacher certification.

"Our purpose is to look at the licensure process for any teacher, or other licensed employee, that works in public schools in Texas. It is our desire as a board to make sure that we provide highly effective teachers for every student in the state of Texas and we don't necessarily want to make it more difficult for teachers to become certified. We want to make sure that our students are the recipients of the most effective teachers ... We're doing a variety of things in the state of Texas to ensure that. One is to look at the way that we certify teachers in Texas, but another way is to make sure that our educator preparation programs that exist all over our state ... are producing really great results, that they're providing a high-quality learning experience for our teachers to be; that they are growing and developing teachers who will ultimately be really great educators in the classroom," Muri said.

"We don't want to make it more difficult for people that desire to become teachers to become teachers. What we do want to do is raise the quality of teachers in the state of Texas so that our kids ultimately have better opportunities to be successful, not only throughout their school journey but also in life," he added.

Muri said more teachers are needed.

"... Specifically in ECISD we've been working on filling our teacher vacancies for some time now and will continue to do that. But we're not trying to push teachers away. We're actually trying to develop a higher quality teacher, and so the work of SBEC and the work of superintendents and educator preparation programs across the state of Texas is simply teacher quality.

"We in no way want to put barriers in place to prevent individuals from becoming educators. We just want to make sure that those individuals who want to become educators are well trained and well prepared to enter the classroom," he added.

ECISD already has in-district charter schools and there are opportunities for more. As of July 1, the University of Texas Permian Basin STEM Academy will become part of the district as an in-district charter.

"... So to me, they provide interesting choices and options for our families. Typically, an in-district charter school is one that the district themselves creates. We find, if you will, principals or school leaders that are interested in designing and developing unique schools ...," Muri said.

He doesn't see the state converting to an entirely charter system.

"I'm not sure that's where we're heading as a state and I'm not sure that that is the best solution for the state. Again, in-district charters really give us some options for flexibility as we think about programming for the students that we serve. But I'm not sure, directionally, that's where we're heading as a state or a nation. I do believe that charter schools are probably going to continue to be a piece of the overall public education environment and we need to embrace that opportunity. But I'm not sure that public education as we know it today is going to be replaced by the charter school environment. I think that there will continue to be a place for charter schools, but again, I don't think it's here to replace," Muri said.

At an event earlier this week, Muri mentioned there will be a change in state accountability.

"It's all in conversation right now. I was a part of a webinar, literally this week, with the Texas Education Agency to talk about some of the ideas that we have and right now that's really where we are is in the idea phase of developing some changes. What we do know for sure is that it's going to evolve, as it should," Muri added.

"State accountability and the state testing process should always evolve as we learn things. How can we make it better; that's really what TEA is doing right now. They are listening to feedback from educators across the state of Texas, then they will use that feedback to help improve the state accountability system," he said.

The first revision will be in 2023.

"We know it will be different in 2023; we just don't know what kind of different. We have some ideas because, again, we're talking about some pieces of evolution but we don't know exactly what all of that is going to look like. But what we do know is there will be change," Muri said.

Two changes he does not foresee are doing away with the A-F accountability system and reducing the number of standardized tests administered.

"... That may be on the distant horizon, but it's not on the short-term horizon. State testing will continue to be a piece of the much larger accountability puzzle and there will certainly be some adjustments. In fact, one of them we know is that state testing will be all electronic. There will be no written form of state assessment. Everything that kids do will be done on a computer, so that is one adjustment that is being made. At ECISD, we've already started making that adjustment; not every district has but next year everyone will be required to make that adjustment in their own testing regime so there will be some subtle changes to the STAAR and end-of-course exams next year," Muri said.

Muri attended last weekend's concert by The Velvets and found it fascinating to learn about the history of the group.

"That was and continues to be the city of Odessa that created those individuals. ... That band was born here and they were grown here. Their teacher really created that group from four students, so they came together to create The Velvets, so a fascinating history; just what happened to them in their career and the type of music they developed, I found it fascinating," Muri said.

He added that a book is being written about the group that will go on sale in November.

"I will be anxious to get a copy of that and read it myself. After we read the book, it will be more than likely something that we make available to students and staff members in our organization. We have a library in every school, and again, depending upon that book it is something that our students need to be aware of. It's a great testament to what kids with talent and a dream and a vision, what they're able to do. So I certainly plan on making that opportunity and that knowledge available to our kids," Muri said.