More Texas testing resistance!

From Karen Miller:

The Texas House of Representatives voted 3/26 to reduce high stakes tests required for Texas high school graduation from 15 to 5 tests:  English II reading and writing, algebra I, biology and US history.

House public education committee chair, Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, began the marathon nine hour debate by asking the members four questions:
*Are we over-testing our students?
*Is it ok for a child to find a path outside of a four year college degree?
*Does every student in every situation need algebra II?
*Should our accountability system be based on more than testing?

House Bill 5 provides alternative paths to graduation and allows students and parents to select the path to high school graduation.  Students will be able to select one of five paths or “endorsements” to graduation which include:
*arts and humanities,
*business and industry
*multidisciplinary studies
*public services
*science and math

HB 5 also broadens school accountability ratings to include academic performance, financial performance and community engagement  (a recognition of parent and community involvement).

Some significant amendments were adopted Tuesday including one which would impose new limits on the number of days devoted to district-mandated tests in preparation for the high-stakes state tests;  amendments to establish reporting requirements to ensure that minority students are not channeled into lower-level coursework; amendments barring testing-company lobbyists from serving on state advisory boards related to testing at the Texas Education Agency;  an amendment to involve labor-union experts in the development of career and technology courses.

A key amendment did not prevail but did force lawmakers to confront directly the misuse of state test scores as the primary basis for state performance ratings of districts and schools which would break the state’s habit of using scores on standardized tests to judge academic performance. However it is predicted  the misuse of testing for school ratings will gain traction, as more and more lawmakers heed the call of parents and educators for diagnostic use of state testing in place of the counterproductive test-and-punish system we have now.

The new organization, Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment played a key role in calling attention to the issue. The revolt began last year as then-TEA commissioner Robert Scott called standardized testing a perversion of what a quality education should be.  School boards representing 4.4 million students, or 91% of the state’s students adopted resolutions concerning high stakes testing and the issue was a major concern in local communities.

The new public education chairman, a veterinarian, rancher and former school board member, Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, welcomed debate, assured members he wanted a streamlined bill and would grant their related bills a hearing, and received overwhelming support for his bill with a 145-2 vote.  Aside from the subject matter of the bill, it was very heartening to see the democratic process at work with very civil discussions.

Counterpart legislation in the Senate was delayed as legislators took an Easter break and the coming weeks will be very busy, especially with other education issues.

Posted on by Julie Woestehoff Posted in Misc

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