Show Highlights

Superintendent of Schools for Community ISD, Dr. Roosevelt Nivens, highlighted his personal story of triumph.  During this episode, Dr. Nivens shared a truly inspiring story of overcoming as his father, friends, and teachers supported him along his journey from a poor, illiterate child, to an NFL football player, and ultimately to becoming a school superintendent. He also discussed how he developed self-confidence and how he is driven to foster the right confidence in those he serves and impacts every day.

Resources mentioned during this episode

About the Guest

Dr. Roosevelt Nivens was born and raised in Langston, Oklahoma. Education comes naturally to Dr. Nivens; his dad, Roosevelt Sr., was an educator for 46 years and his mom, Barbara, was a teacher for 36 years. In 1990, Roosevelt majored in Education while attending Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia, on a football scholarship. He later graduated from college in 1995 and realized his life-long dream of playing professional football. However, his football career was quickly halted due to an injury and he found himself executing his “back-up plan”, using his degree in education.

In 1996 he began his teaching and coaching career with Dallas Independent School District and later, in 2001, he found his way to the principalship with Lancaster Independent School District. He has served as Assistant Principal at Lancaster Jr. High and Lancaster High School. He later moved, in 2005, to become Principal at Lancaster Middle School. His last campus position was Principal of Lancaster High School for four years. In 2011, Dr. Nivens transitioned into a central office leadership position as Executive Director of Secondary Schools and he later became the Assistant Superintendent in Lancaster ISD.

Dr. Nivens earned his Doctorate of Education (Ed.D) from Texas A&M Commerce. He was appointed Superintendent of Community ISD on July 28, 2015.

Dr. Nivens is married to Karla and they have two children attending CISD: Naomi and Roosevelt III.

Contact with Dr. Roosevelt Nivens

Website: Community ISD Bio
Blog: Superintendent’s Blog
Facebook: DocNivens
Twitter: @Dr_RNivens
Instagram: @dr_rnivens
Public Cell: 972-843-1056

Connect with the Host

You can reach me on Twitter @drjeffmiller  and Instagram @drjeffreymiller or go to my show website and leave a question or comment about any of the content shared on this episode. You can also read my latest blog post at

In an age of accountability and high stakes testing, public education has accomplished a lot. We have managed to utilize assessment data trends to identify resources and programs to support students’ educational needs. We have also learned how to breakdown objectives or learning standards to their most intricate parts to align our resources. Most of all we have developed ways to hold educators accountable for student achievement…One question remains: at what cost are we making all of these efforts? In other words, what have we sacrificed for this “data-driven” approach to education?

From the literature on students’ motivation for learning, we have come to understand that students learn more when they experience activities that they enjoy and find meaningful and interesting. However, as educators face growing pressure to prepare students to perform well in math and reading in high-stakes testing, public schools slip into predictable traps. Namely, educators implement instructional strategies that boil down content to isolated bits of information at the same time that they dramatically reduce the amount of time and resources used to engage students in creative, interdisciplinary activities and real-world projects that inspire learning.

We also know that students are motivated to work harder when they are able to personalize the purpose of learning. Yet, our high-stakes testing culture communicates to students that we value scoring well on tests as the overarching goal for engaging in learning. Sometimes in curriculum and teacher professional development, teachers and principals blur the lines between student learning and student achievement when they promote blatant “teaching to the test” practices couched in ideas like “backwards planning” or “teaching with the end in mind.”

Finally, research shows that academic achievement is influenced, in part, by self-concept and self-efficacy. Unfortunately, the heavy emphasis on high-stakes testing encourages teachers and administrators to view students as test-score increasers or suppressors rather than contributors to the learning environment or in terms of their incredible human potential. In turn, students, especially those from impoverished or at-risk environments, perceive this and come to define themselves as winners or losers on the basis of their test performance, to their academic and emotional detriment.

With our current trends, it is clear that high stakes testing and accountability are not likely to go away anytime soon.  Nevertheless, leaders in school systems can take measures to minimize their harmful effects and to foster a school culture that emphasizes student learning and preparation for life’s challenges.  Here are a few ideas to begin this process:

1. If school leaders want to ensure that students get enough test practice, they should schedule periodic practice times that are spread throughout the year rather than just two or three weeks before high-stakes tests are administered. Schools should, at least, refrain from engaging in test-prep boot camps where they shut down regular classroom instruction for intense focus specifically on the test at hand. Such activities only reinforce the impression that the test is the primary goal of schooling.

2. Administrators and teachers should work together to foster a productive mindset about testing. As a start, rebrand “tests” as “performance opportunities” and use language in the classroom that focuses on mastering knowledge, improving individual ability.

3. School leaders should focus on the value of schooling as a method to prepare how to live. As teachers use instructional resources and pedagogy that bring fun and authentic engagement back to the classroom, students can be encouraged to participate in activities that relate to what they’re going to be doing outside of and beyond school.

4. Administrators and teachers should strive to create a culture that encourages cooperation and service instead of competition. We now know that students are more likely to be successful in school when they have a sense of belonging. Making these kinds of connections leads to a more significant effort, greater persistence, and positive attitudes. Feelings of rejection have the opposite effects.

If we put the same energy and intensity that we have invested in high-stakes testing into understanding how to enhance the quality of students’ learning experiences, we might actually experience more success in getting more students to reach their full potential…and, hopefully, make room for learning in education again.

Show Highlights

Educator Ty Jones shared his road to success in education and highlighted the individuals that influenced him along the way. During this episode Mr. Jones also discussed the following concepts that lead to cultivating and maintaining authenticity in education:

  • Connecting with your legacy
  • Personal integrity
  • Humility in leadership

About the Guest

Ty G. Jones is an Advisor, Advocate, and Educator. He began working in the financial services industry while in high school in banking operations and later obtained his securities and insurance licenses. He also shared his passion of mathematics with students in Dallas ISD, Duncanville ISD, Lancaster ISD, and Grand Prairie ISD. His passion for mathematics, the students and communities he served, ushered him into the world of elected officials, Lancaster ISD Board of Trustees.

As an Advocate, he was first elected to the Lancaster Independent School District in May 2011 and was unopposed during his May 2014 and May 2017 bids for re-election. After serving his first year on the Board, he was elected as Board President and re-elected to the officer position for a total six consecutive years. In 2014, he completed Leadership TASB, a unique board development program designed to take experienced board members to a new level of service and leadership. His work through Leadership TASB, the collaborative work with the Lancaster ISD Team of Eight, and passion to ensure the district’s mission is realized inspired him to become an advocate and ambassador for Lancaster ISD and public education nationally. Through his work as an advocate and ambassador, he has had the opportunity to speak at the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) and the National School Board Association’s (NSBA) annual and regional conferences beginning in 2014 and continues advocating for public education and empowering trustees in the areas of board leadership, data analysis, organizational management and board governance. Also during his time as President of Lancaster ISD Board of Trustees and the district experienced many successes due to the collaborative efforts of the Board of Trustees, Superintendent, Students, Staff, and Community. Below is a list of some the successes:

  • 2018 H-E-B Excellence in Education – Small District Winner
  • 2017 Lancaster ISD Students Built Airplane
  • 2017 CUBE Award of Urban School Board Excellence
  • 2017 New West Main Elementary Opened
  • 2017 New Pleasant Run Elementary Opened
  • 2017 Lancaster STEM Early College HS Opened
  • 2016 NABSE School Board of the Year
  • 2016 TASA Outstanding School Board
  • 2015 $125.9 Million Bond Passed
  • 2014 Lancaster ISD Student Engineers Built Car
  • 2013-2017 101 TEA Academic Distinctions
  • 2013-2017 ALL Campuses Met TEA Standard
  • 2012 $4.8 Million Grant from TI Foundation
  • 2012 1st K-12 STEM District in Texas
  • 2008-2017 Passed TEA Financial Accountability Rating System

As an Educator, he has served in positions ranging from a classroom teacher to K-12 Coordinator of Mathematics to a Coordinator in the area of assessment and research. He provides professional development focusing on data analysis, pedagogy and math content. He has also served as a textbook advisor and reviewer for the 2006 MacMillan-McGraw Hill Texas Mathematics textbook adoption. He also provides Team of Eight training and consulting to school boards throughout the nation.

He is a proud product of public schools. He is graduate of Skyline High School (Dallas, TX) and obtained degrees from Navarro College, University of Houston and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Connect with Ty Jones

Connect with the Host

You can reach me on Twitter @drjeffmiller or go to my show website and leave a question or comment about any of the content shared on this episode. You can also read my latest blog post at

In today’s economically and culturally diverse society it is vitally important that educators and community leaders find clarity on each other’s role in supporting our students’ academic achievement (Anderson-Butcher et. al., 2010).  This need is only intensified when we consider the context of the required school reform actions brought on by No Child Left behind (NCLB) and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability measures.  However, the formation of effective school and community partnerships is usually defaulted to the responsibility of the schools and often are not established due to communication and expectation barriers (Hands, 2010).  With increasing reports of economic disparities between parents and communities of high performing schools and those of schools in need of academic achievement improvements, various factors have served as barriers to strong school and community partnerships. Read Full Article

The rapid development of competing global markets has forced the American educational system to confront the need for the development of a more highly educated workforce.  As a result, K-12 school systems have been forced to prepare more students for the rigors of a variety of postsecondary experiences by refocusing their efforts on improving students’ awareness and readiness.  Texas’ 2013 legislative suite of educational changes, House Bill 5 (HB5), includes a vast array of reforms designed to provide flexibility for students to develop their talents and pursue early their postsecondary interests.  A major component of HB5 involves the expectation that school counselors take a more individualized approach to advising students for postsecondary pathways of their choice at earlier stages in their K-12 experience.  Specifically, 33 Tex. Educ. Code § 33.007 states that, starting in the 2014-2015 school year, elementary, middle/junior high, and high school counselors will be required to advise students and parents annually of the importance of postsecondary education; high school counselors must provide families with information related to the advantages of the new postsecondary focused graduation requirements.

The Problems
The implementation of HB5 presents school systems’ counseling departments with a host of problems, the most easily identifiable of which are:  the need for more and different (i.e., tailored to postsecondary preparation) professional development; the need for more effective implementation of the state school counseling model; and the need for more time and resources.  Solving these problems involve expenses that most school systems cannot afford; solutions are confounded further by several ancillary issues such as the limited number of certified school counselors, the shortage of funding streams for counseling programs, and the lack of system-wide understanding of the current guidance and counseling model and laws regulating the role of school counselors.

Counselor Professional Development
In a study on counselor models across the nation, researchers found that “the traditional mental health-focused training provided to school counselors over the past decades may have provided ample skill development for practitioners to help students with personal and social challenges, but it falls devastatingly short of helping students succeed academically in schools of the 21st century” (Martin, 2002, p. 149).  Thus, school counselors now must acquire specific knowledge on academic and career advisement related to the variety of available postsecondary programs of study that are aligned with students’ interests in addition to training related to the new high school endorsement and graduation requirements.

Effective Implementation of the State School Counseling Model
In 1989, the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Counseling Association adopted the Texas Comprehensive Developmental Guidance and Counseling Program (CDG), which was revised in 2004.  Having the Texas CDG allows a school district to include sequential activities organized and implemented by certified school counselors with the support of teachers, administrators, students, and parents to address specific student needs.  Local implementation of a state CDG is associated with students having better academic performance, better relationships with teachers, and more positive outlooks regarding future and career opportunities than other models (Lapan, Gysbers, & Petroski, 2001; Lapan, Gysbers, & Sun, 1997).  However, in a national study of state counselor program models, Martin, Carey, and DeCoster (2009) found that Texas had only four to six of the 9 features predictive of effective local implementation of state models.  Texas’ designation as a “Progressing” state suggests that there was room for improvement at the local implementation level, and even more so now given HB5 legislation.

Limited Time and Resources
To fulfill the basic mission of the Texas CDG, program balance of the four components (i.e., guidance curriculum, responsive services, individual planning, system support) along with specific school priorities, must be established as noted by the Texas CDG recommended balance time distribution in Figure 1 below.

Texas Comprehensive Developmental Guidance and Counseling Program
Balance Time Distribution

Texas CDG Components Elementary School Middle School HighSchool
Guidance Curriculum 35%-45% 35%-40% 15%-25%
Responsive Services 30%-40% 30%-40% 25%-35%
Individual Planning 5%-10% 15%-25% 25%-35%
System Support 10%-15% 10%-15% 15%-20%
Non-Guidance 0% 0% 0%

Figure 1, Texas Education Agency, 2004

            Effective implementation of the Texas CDG should include all four components, but the relative emphasis of each component will vary from district to district, perhaps even from campus to campus, depending on the developmental and special needs of the students served.  Even though the Texas CDG suggests 0% time allocation of non-guidance activities, many school counselors often are assigned duties that could fall in that category.  According to the models presented by Gysbers and Henderson (2000) and Myrick (1993), the non-guidance category, which would include administrative and clerical duties, can sometimes take up more time than other important tasks when a plan to eliminate them is not implemented.

In terms of resources, the effectiveness of CDGs is directly related to the counselor-to-student ratio within the program.  It is clear that the larger the counselor’s student caseload, the less individual attention students receive; the smaller the student load, the more individual attention is possible.  Ratio recommendations are wide-ranging.  The American School Counselor Association recommends a maximum ratio of 1:250, while the Texas School Counselor Association, Texas Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association have recommended ratios of 1:350 ( In practice, however, the national, average counselor-to-student ratio is 1 to 457 (Belasco, 2013), and in Texas, the average ratio is 1:440. (American School Counselor Association, 2011).

Potential Solutions
Despite the abundance of news media coverage and dedicated educator conference sessions, there is still an overwhelming sense of uncertainty plaguing many local schools systems regarding the details of HB5 counselor implications.   Moreover, the endeavors that people have taken to explore these implications have led to the realization there is a limited knowledge base of the Texas CDG among school and district leadership, thereby obstructing the ability to work within the system to meet the HB5 counselor requirements.  Thus far, many school systems have attempted to address the HB5 counselor needs simply by hiring more counselors or postsecondary advisors to help meet the individual advisement and planning needs of their students (Weiss & Haag, 2013).   This costly solution step has been the option taken by the majority of school systems across the state.  If implemented in isolation, this shortsighted approach leaves out the much-needed opportunity brought on by HB5, to rethink, refocus, and reframe the role of the counselor within our existing state model.  There are a number of solution steps that can be implemented at the local and state levels to manage this dilemma better.

Local Level
There needs to be a comprehensive review of the 2004 Texas CDG to understand the model more fully.  Based on personal experience, it is apparent that many campus and district leaders, especially those who are making the decisions to hire more counselors, are not very familiar that the state CDG model exists, much less the flexibility it affords school counseling programs.  Teams of counselors, teacher leaders, and administrators should be developed to promote awareness and understanding of the CDG in an effort to make wiser decisions about how to utilize available resources most effectively.

School districts should explore virtual networks of certified counselors to meet the individual planning needs of students. Within 33 Tex. Educ. Code § 33.002 there exists an option for a school district to share counselors.  This collaboration could be incorporated in a virtual setting to allow districts to provide services to students beyond the face-to-face counseling model that currently exists.  The model of online counseling and academic advising has been in place in strong virtual school networks such as Florida Virtual School Network and Stand University Online High School (

The school system should increase the amount of time allocated to the career development subcomponent recommended within the Texas CDG.  Although it is true that this shift would reduce the amount of time school counselors spend on other components of the model, other campus or district leaders (e.g., assistant principals, social workers) could assume some of those responsibilities so that students would still reap important benefits.

In addition, school systems should identify additional funding streams that could support the additional professional development and staffing needs due to implementing these proposed solution steps.  Since external funding often is critical to model implementation (Martin et. al, 2009, p.383), local, state, and federal grants should be explored.

State Level
It would be beneficial for Texas to designate a school counseling leader at the Texas Education Agency level who is charged with the CDG implementation.  Research demonstrates that strong leadership at the state level promotes critical collaborations, forms common understandings about school counseling (by creating state-level accountability systems tied to state-level accreditation standards and state level standards for school counselor preparation), promotes the local implementation of effective student programs, and contributes to education reform (Gyber, 2006).  To see real change in the effectiveness of the school counselors and the CDG implementation, there needs to be a leader appointed who devotes at least 50% of his/her time to school counseling and whose position is housed within the career and technical education unit of the state department of education (Martin et. al., 2009).

Finally, states like Texas, with strong local control policies, should provide incentives to encourage local systems to implement the state guidance and counseling models (Martin et. al., 2009).  Grants and other resources to support training and other needs could be offered to systems that develop and show evidence of effective programming.

The aforementioned solutions proposed to address the problems presented by HB5 have their limitations.  For example, extensive time and effort would need to be dedicated to reviewing the CDG, seeking and applying for applicable grants, and developing virtual networks of counselors; school systems could be resistant to redistributing their administrators’ time away from their typical duties.  Regarding solutions at the state level, changing the CDG verbiage may actually involve political maneuvering and philosophical shifts that could take time to evolve.  Additionally, monies for hiring a state-level counseling leader and funding incentives may not be readily available.


American School Counselor Association (2011). School-to-School-Counselor Ratio
2010-2011. Retrieved from

Association of American Educators (2013). Virtual Education and School Counseling.
Retrieved from

Gysbers, N.C., & Henderson, P. (2000).  Developing and Managing your school guidance program (3rd ed.).  Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association

H.B. No. 5, Acts of Texas Legislature 83rd Regular Session 2013 amends: Tex. Educ. Code § 33.005, 33.006, 33.007.

Lapan, R.T., Gysbers, N.C., & Petroski, G.F. (2001).  Helping seventh graders be safe and successful in school: A statewide study of the impact of comprehensive guidance and counseling programs.  Journal of Counseling and Development, 79. 320-330.

Lapan, R.T., Gysbers, N.C., & Sun, Y. (1997).  The impact of more fully implemented guidance programs on the school experiences of high school students: A statewide evaluation study.  Journal of Counseling and Development, 75, 292-302.

Martin, I. M., Carey, J. P., & DeCoster, K. (2009). A National Study of the Current Status of State School Counseling Models. Professional School Counseling, 12(5), 378-386.

Martin, P. J. (2002). Transforming school counseling: A national perspective. Theory into Practice, 41(3), 148.

Myrick, R.D. (1993). Developmental guidance and counseling: A practical approach. Minneapolis, MN: Educational Media.

S.B. No. 715, Acts of Texas Legislature 83rd Regular Session 2013 amends: Tex. Educ. Code § 33.002.

Texas Education Agency.  (2014). School Guidance and Counseling Recommended Ratios.  Retrieved from

Texas Education Agency.  (2004).   A Model comprehensive, developmental guidance and counseling program for Texas public schools: A Guide for Program Development Pre-K-12th Grade. Retrieved from

Weiss, J., & Haag, M. (2013, August 19). High school counselors face learning curve as state law assigns new roles. The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved from