Fall 2016

ATPE News is the official publication of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the largest educator association in Texas. The magazine addresses the most important issues affecting public education in the state. Learn more at

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Page 24 of 43

ATPE NEWS 25 ATPE: WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO MAKE THE LEAP FROM SUCCESSFUL TECH ENTREPRENEUR TO DALLAS SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER TO YOUR CURRENT POSITION? Morath: I found my calling. I've always been passionate about kids. My software company was focused on stream- lining a child nutrition program, so I spent a lot of time in the early education world, but I've been a Big Brother now for about 10 years. My first Little was a Dallas ISD student who bounced around to a bunch of schools in Dallas. It was both objectively fascinating and emotion- ally heart-wrenching to look at the juxtaposition of my life versus his. I was born to two parents who loved each other and loved me, and even though we weren't rich, I never suffered from want. We moved to Texas when I was about ten, and my mom actually called TEA to ensure that wherever we moved, there would be a great school for their little boy. So we moved to Garland and I got a great education in Garland public schools. And then I compare that to my first Little. He didn't really know his father. His mom wanted the best for him, but she wasn't able to provide the kind of structure he needed. And even though we're blessed to have so many angels dedicated to our kids working very hard in our schools, schools are big, and in Dallas, they are besieged with the forces of poverty. Both because my Little moved around a lot and because of the way the school system works, he just got lost in the sys- tem. Nobody really ever said, "You're not going to get past me." It really hit home when he was about 16 and wanted to apply for a job. I helped him fill out a job application at Braums. He didn't have the level of literacy skills that you need to fill out a job application. There are tens of thou- sands of kids like him in Dallas, hundreds of thousands in the state of Texas, and I just could not let that continue. This was the challenge that I was called to do. ATPE: WHEN YOU VISITED THE ATPE BOARD OF DIRECTORS RECENTLY, OUR BOARD MEMBERS EXPRESSED CONCERNS ABOUT STUDENT TESTING. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN AS FAR AS TESTING GOES IN TEXAS? Morath: Let me start with the grand caveat that I am an employee of the state. I do what the legislature tells me. That being said, when I'm asked my opinion, I give it. Assessments are useful. Teachers do assessments of students all the time, both formal and informal. To the extent that assessments provide meaningful feedback on student performance that teachers can then use to adjust their practice, that's critical. What we want is a system that encourages the kind of diagnostic feedback that shows where mastery has been achieved, where mastery is lacking, and where specialized differentiat- ed instruction is needed. In addi- tion to that, assessments should be aligned with our expectations for students across the board. With external assessments, you can have a common set of expectations for all Texas kids, and I think that's a real value. ATPE: DO YOU THINK THERE'S TOO MUCH TESTING, THOUGH? Morath: I don't think that's an- swerable in the abstract. If you have an assessment that is not be- ing used to drive instruction, that path to becoming Texas's newest education commissioner was anything but predictable. After receiving a business degree from George Washington University and running his own software company, Morath was elected to the Dallas ISD school board, where he served for more than four years before Governor Abbott appointed him education com- missioner. In January 2016, Morath took the reins of the Texas Education Agency, where he oversees the education of the more than five million public school students across the state. ATPE talked to him about his vision for Texas public schools. MIKE MORATH'S Commissioner Morath visits with the ATPE Board of Directors. Classroom photo courtesy of TEA; BOD photo by Elaine Acker

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