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TSPRA Newsletter Issue 58 for Web

ISSUE 58 - May 11, 2011

- Jump to: President's message

- Jump to: TSPRA survey on leadership roles within districts

- Jump to: Election Day is Saturday!

- Jump to: Opportunity from Texas Lone Star

- Jump to: Feed the Document Vault

- Jump to: Member Spotlight

- Jump to: Events

- Jump to: News

- Jump to: Tidbits

From TSPRA President Tim Carroll, APR

A unique public relations benefit of the current budget mess is sympathy from the media. There may be pockets of angry folks out there but generally speaking, the appearance is that the Legislature's proposals are bad for public education. That positive or neutral media coverage has definitely led to the belief that public schools are doing their best "under fire."

That same positive support may not last when a new testing program is phased in over the next three years. While we have been piling sandbags to stop the flood of budget problems, the new testing program has already overflowed its banks. Four different challenges that arise from the new system have serious PR implications.

First, consider that the unpopular TPM (Texas Projected Measurement) has been axed by Commissioner Robert Scott. The TPM, which raised ratings across the state with projections of TAKS success, attracted the negative attention of the media, the public and more recently the Legislature. By eliminating TPM, schools and districts are likely to see those artificial gains in ratings roll backwards. This is a particularly troublesome PR problem because the 2011 ratings will apply for two years as the new STAAR system rolls in.

A second PR challenge is the higher standard applied this year for ratings. An Exemplary district must have 25% Commended for All and 25% Commended for Economically Disadvantaged. Recognized will require a 15% standard for both areas. A high performing district could well exceed for All Commended yet fall short due to a percentage point in Economically Disadvantaged. It could be tough for many to keep their high ratings.

Next, the new EOC (End of Course) exams that will gradually replace high school TAKS are more difficult and field test results in some districts have been frightening. Until teachers and kids can wrap their arms around this new style of testing, scores will be lower, maybe significantly lower.

Finally, changes to the current TAKS will require higher standards for ELL (English Language Learners) and add the TAKS-M and TAKS-Alt scores from special education students into the rating.

The changes are more complicated than my explanations above but the message is the same: more children will fail to meet the minimum standard, teacher stress will rise and ratings will likely drop. Every school district has its unique problems related to testing and ratings but there is some advice you might consider.

1. Set up an appointment with you curriculum director and don't leave until you can explain the new testing system to others in layman's terms.

2. Prepare a handout or short brochure this summer to explain for parents how the familiar TAKS tests will be going away and what the new system will look like.

3. Anticipate lower ratings in August and plan with your superintendent and cabinet how that might play out.

4. Draft a communications strategy for the boss that addresses the new testing system and higher standards.

5. Focus on where your students are successful. If you are being evaluated in 36 areas and you fell short in two, say that. Don't allow your image to be lumped into a one-word rating even though parents and newspapers want just that.

6. Avoid taking the stand that testing is bad. Too much testing can be harmful but qualify your comments by saying that you support testing. Place the blame on the moving standards, not the test itself.

7. As the new STAAR and EOC tests roll out, resist the temptation to compare results to the old TAKS. They are not the same "product" and shouldn't be compared side-by-side.

There is no easy solution, but awareness of the problem is a big step in the right direction. In other words, save a few sandbags--you might need them.

Tim Carroll, APR
Allen ISD
TSPRA President

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TSPRA survey on leadership roles within districts
Our current homepage survey seeks information on the leadership roll your communication staff plays within your district. SURVEY CLOSES MAY 18 AT NOON!

After the survey closes and we tally the responses, we'll share the results with you here in the newsletter and on our blog. Our results are only as good as your participation, so please take a moment to fill out this five-question survey!

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Election Day is Saturday
We know lots of you are busy preparing for bond and school board elections this Saturday, May 14--by our count, 35 bond elections totalling more than $1.8 billion. Here's hoping for smooth sailing and good weather for each of you!

Keep an eye on our blog Monday, where we'll post the results of each of those bond elections. Our methodology--trolling through pages and pages of news coverage and district websites--isn't scientific, so here's your last chance to let us know about your bond to ensure you're included.

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Opportunity from Texas Lone Star
Roger White from TASB asked that we encourage you all to submit articles for their special edition set to publish in July. This year's theme is reaching out beyond the school walls, looking at districts or schools with innovative community/service learning programs. This could include sending books to Africa, aiding disaster victims in Haiti, Japan or Alabama, service relationships with a local nursing home, pen pal activities, etc.

The time frame is May 2010-May 2011. Stories that have already run locally will be accepted--story length is flexible. They're placing a particular emphasis on stories with photos. The deadline is Friday, May 20. Please take this opportunity to spread the word about the great things going on in your district!

Contact Roger with with questions or submissions at roger.white@tasb.org or 512-467-0222 x2277.

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Feed the Document Vault
Is this your first time writing remarks for the graduation ceremony? How about your 60th time? Need a little inspiration?

Just think--if each of us took the graduation speech written for our superintendent and uploaded it to the Document Vault, what a wealth of information, ideas and quotes from Einstein/Lincoln/MLK/JFK/Mother Theresa we'd have! Please take a moment, log in to www.tspra.org, click the Document Vault box on the lefthand side and click Submit Document. Follow the prompts to upload your materials to the SPEECHES folder.

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Member Spotlight

Most Valuable Member Award
Corpus Christi ISD Communication Department
Lyndall Gathright, Atanislao Acosta, Kim Sneed, Lorette Williams


For the first time in TSPRA history, a district department, rather than an individual, was honored with the TSPRA Most Valuable Member Award. This dynamo of a team, consisting of Lorette Williams (Director of Communications), Kim Sneed (Communication Specialist), Tanis Acosta (Graphic Artist) and Lyndall Gathright (Multimedia Specialist), earned the award after seamlessly completing several TSPRA projects, exceeding expectations on each.

The team first made waves after delivering an impressive presentation to our executive committee of their professional-grade logo and theme (Education. It's BIGGER here.) for the Celebrate Texas Public School Week kit. The team worked quickly to then produce the many branded pieces of the kit, paying careful attention to each detail on each component.

Little did they know, their work was only beginning. Then President Steve Valdez, impressed by the team's work on the CTPS kit, asked the group to consider producing the annual conference program, with the added challenge of embracing new technologies that would attract all generations of TSPRAns. Not to mention, challenging them to create the conference's logo.

The CCISD team rolled up its sleeves. Lorette coordinated with the state office to create a vision; Kim orchestrated and fine-tuned the content; Tanis worked his magic with the design and layout; and Lyndall integrated technology in a novice manner to allow for program access across any number of platforms.

They captured the spirit of the conference beautifully, creating a line of work that progressed the organization in leaps and bounds, and set the bar high for those who follow after them.

"Everyone was, and is, so impressed by the professionalism in their work--in a million years I wouldn't have the skill or creativity to create what they did without breaking a sweat."

"The group labored through each obstacle, through printing issues, through last-minute changes, through technology headaches, with unruffled charm, class and professionalism. The [conference] program will forever be one of the outstanding artifacts of the 2011 Conference."

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May 15-21
National Educational Bosses Week
May 30

Last day of 82nd regular session of Texas Legislature
TSPRA Office Closed

April 15, 11:30-1 pm
TSPRA Houston/Beaumont Regional Meeting
@Texas City ISD

 June 15
Deadline to submit Key Communicator Nominations

 June 23, 9:00-4:00 pm
ESC Region 12 Social Media Workshop
@ESC Region 12 Waco

 July 10-13
NSPRA National Seminar
@San Antonio Marriott

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State award honors businesses that support employee volunteerism in public schools
Texplainer: How does a special session work?
HB 400 should be on House floor Thursday
Austin ISD to get nearly $14M from federal allotment
Education programs assail 'U.S. News' survey

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How savvy are you when it comes to broadcast media terms? You may pitch them all the time, but are you speaking the same language?

PR Daily posted "8 TV news terms PR pros should know," with some interesting discussion and insight in the comment section. While we're not suggesting you string together a bunch of jargon, telling a producer how to run the segment, we are suggesting you educate yourself on what the media needs from you.

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