Michael Williams

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

In 2013, when Texas passed its first overhaul of charter school policy since 1995 — the year the publicly funded but privately operated schools were first established in the state — lawmakers included a provision intended to speed the shuttering of poor-performing schools.

But nearly 10 months after the Texas Education Agency marked six operators for closure under the new measure, three of those schools remain open. As those charters prepare to open their doors this month for a new school year, they say they are fighting a process that does not account for the full picture of a charter’s financial or academic health.  


The State Board of Education preliminarily voted Thursday to remove speech as one of the required courses for high school graduation in Texas.

The board opted to give local school districts final say on whether or not high school students should be required to take speech. Board Member Tom Maynard says speech is a valuable class, but local school districts should decide whether or not it’s required.

“When in doubt, leave it to the locals to decide that. I suspect either most districts will hold on to that or embed that content in other coursework," Maynard said during Thursday's meeting.

Texas Education Agency

Students across Texas helped raise $11,367 to the American Red Cross  West, Texas Relief Fund.

How'd they do it? By solving math problems. 

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Texas students taking the STAAR test this week will have to pass in order to advance to the next grade.

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams says there is enough money in the preliminary state budget to provide tutoring to fifth and eighth graders who fail the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. 

Right now, state lawmakers have allocated $41 million over the next two years for the Student Success Initiative. SSI provides money to school districts to tutor students who cannot pass the STAAR reading or math tests. 

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Last week, students at Eastside Memorial High School delivered a letter inviting the state’s top education administrator for a visit to hear how the threat of the school’s closure for poor academic performance affected them. It was a long shot, but yesterday Michael Williams spent almost two hours at Eastside Memorial. Students welcomed his visit, but the threat of closure remains.

As Williams’ visit approached, school administrators darted through the impeccable hallways shooting instructions to each other over walkie-talkies. Some students wore ties and sported fresh haircuts.

Shannan Muskopf/Texas Tribune

A better report card today for Texas students: they’re scoring higher than the national average in science and math.

And among the nation’s five biggest states, Texas spends less per student than any of the other four: New York, Illinois, Florida and California.

The grades are not all good for Texas kids: they’re doing worse than the national average in literacy, even when factoring out students for whom English is a second language.

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

A group of Austin students from Eastside Memorial High School plan to deliver a letter to Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams this morning.

They want to meet with Williams to share their concern over proposals to have the school taken over by a charter school operator.

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

As Texas lawmakers have discussed adding more armed guards to campuses or training staff members to carry weapons, Education Commissioner Michael Williams told the Texas Tribune that it’s a good discussion for lawmakers to have, but he would like to see some local discretion.

Williams photo Texas Education Agency; Perry photo Gage Skidmore

For the second year in a row, end of course exams won’t necessarily count toward 15 percent of a students’ final grade.

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams announced today that school districts will be allowed to apply for a waiver to the rule for the 2012-13 school year.

“You know we have to recognize that we are only in the second of the accountability system and the first year of testing,” Williams said. “There probably is some wisdom in saying, ‘Pump your brakes.’”

Shannan Muskopf/Texas Tribune

Gov. Rick Perry is expressing his support for letting school districts themselves choose whether to implement a rule that requires new state assessments to count for 15 percent of high school students' final grades.

In a written statement Thursday — the first time the governor has publicly weighed in on the issue —  Perry praised legislation filed by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, that would leave the decision up to local school districts. He also asked Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams to defer the state's rollout of the rule until the next school year.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

Education Commissioner Michael L. Williams and the Texas Education Agency announced this week  that the number of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams rose by four percent in the 2011-2012 school year.

The Advanced Placement Program allows high school students to take college-level courses and ultimately exams that they can earn college credit for. The tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 5 . A score of 3 or higher is considered satisfactory. Last year, 194,391 Texas students took 350,700 AP exams.

The College Board, which created and oversees the AP program, estimates that if all of the students who scored a 5 on the exams last year enrolled in one of the state’s two flagship universities and received course credit, they would collectively save between $36.2 million and $42.9 million in tuition costs.

This news comes at a time when climbing college tuition rates are a major talking point in Texas, and on the cusp of a legislative session that will likely address these issues. 

Photo by Texas Tribune

Michael Williams is officially out of the Senate race and in the race for a new congressional seat based in Arlington.

He said earlier this month he was considering a switch, and now that the Legislature has approved congressional redistricting maps that include the new district, he's filing papers with the Federal Election Commission moving from the Senate contest to the race for Congress.

Image Courtesy of Bexar Republican http://www.flickr.com/photos/bexarrepublican/

Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams told The Associated Press he’s planning to resign from his current position April 2 to enter the 2012 race for the U.S. Senate.

Williams started his career in the Commission in 1998 when he was appointed by then-Governor George W. Bush. His biography also introduces him as “the first African American in Texas history to hold an executive statewide elected post.”