Education bill reduces standardized tests

High school students would be required to take 5 tests instead of 15

A massive public education bill being considered by the state Legislature could cut the number of standardized tests while also providing more options for high school students preparing to graduate.

"We are very happy that the Legislature has listened to the voice of parents and educators in regard to the amount and the scope of the testing," said Anita Hebert, Magnolia ISD's assistant superintendent of curriculum. "We're not looking in any way to lower our standards, but we are very interested and happy to see some of the flexibility that we could have in helping students to achieve their goals."

The bill lowers the number of standardized tests high school students are required to take to graduate to five from 15. The tests are administered to freshmen, sophomores and juniors. The annual tests include two English exams and one in math, science and social studies.

"While this bill does not affect the rigor of the testing program, which was designed to assess college readiness, it does provide greater flexibility for more students," said John Neubauer, superintendent of Tomball ISD. "Until we see the process for implementation, we cannot determine whether or not there is a benefit to students."

The bill, HB5, won final passage 145-2 March 27 in the Texas House, and is awaiting a debate and vote on the Senate floor.

The omnibus bill carried by House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, sought to address mounting concerns over the heavy burdens faced by teachers and students over standardized tests for high schoolers.

"I have crafted this bill with the help of many, many people over a good deal of time," Aycock said. "The emphasis of HB5 is about high school and getting kids ready for graduation, ready for jobs."

The bill's two opposing votes came from Reps. Mark Strama of Austin and Naomi Gonzalez of El Paso, both Democrats.

Strama said he voted against it because, while he believes testing should be reformed, the bill as it is does not push students to their highest potential and risks graduating students before they are ready.

"I'm not saying that defaulting every kid into a college prep program means all kids want or need college prep coursework," Strama said. "But when we presume all kids are capable of college-level work, and start preparing them for it, there is no doubt in my mind we change the futures of some kids whose promise may not otherwise have been recognized."

Bill authors also attempted to make graduation requirements more flexible, allowing students to seek specialized tracks of education and encourage higher graduation rates. The bill would eliminate Algebra II as a graduation requirement and could change other math and science requirements for high schoolers.

State leaders at the beginning of the legislative session promised to reform the state's method of end-of-course testing though the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness system, which critics said forced teachers to focus too heavily on tests.

Read the actual bill, view the actions taken on it and follow its progress through the legislature online at www.legis.state.tx.us.



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