Friday, March 8, 2013

Legislative Update

Two months into the 83rd Legislative Session, lawmakers have introduced bills that would give students many more choices and options in their selection of courses to meet graduation requirements adopted last time legislators met in Austin.

In separate action on student testing, lawmakers appear interested at this time in reducing the number of high-stakes tests that high school students must pass to graduate from 15 End-of-Course (EOC) exams down to five exams, or fewer.

Among Legislative bills filed and being watched closely are House Bill 5 authored by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, chairman of the House Public Education Committee. Under his bill, the number of high school EOC exams would be cut from 15 to five exams.

In addition, Senate Bill 3 by state Sen. Dan Patrick, chairman of the Senate Public Education Committee, has been filed. It would require students to have 26 credits for graduation, but give them the option to earn endorsements in areas like STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), business and industry, public service and arts and humanities. Strong parent, student and community interest appears to be making a difference in Austin this year, observers report.

A few examples from Spring Branch:
  • On Tuesday, Feb. 19, Spring Branch ISD students and others testified in the Texas Senate and House about the impact of new STAAR testing protocols and End of Course (EOC) graduation requirements on students and teachers. Four Stratford High sophomores, Jaila Moore, Niasia Ruffin, Natasha Reid and Macala Carroll rode to Austin with parent Emily Van Buren to speak up about the amount of new student testing. “I honestly feel that STAAR testing is necessary, but the number of the tests is excessive,” Jaila Moore told State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, in her remarks. Spring Woods High Associate Principal Jennifer Collier also testified Feb. 19 about STAAR and its effects on some. In brief, she described how struggling students might be harmed or discouraged rather than helped by the new battery of tests.
  • One week earlier, on Feb. 12, Superintendent Duncan F. Klussmann, Ed.D., provided invited testimony about Senate Bill 3 to the Senate Committee on Education. He joined several other public school leaders and several groups from business and industry, including the Texas Chemical Coalition and the Texas Association of Builders Foundation. Dr. Klussmann has said that Sen. Bill 3 or similar measure would “give kids a chance to take rigorous courses in their areas of interest and prepare every kid in the system for some level of higher education.”
  • In separate action March 1, the Texas Education Agency announced that it has officially asked to be excused from several requirements of No Child Left Behind, the federal law that requires all schools to meet increasingly higher academic requirements, or be rated as failing. Currently, districts in Texas must operate within two separate, often conflicting, accountability and school improvement systems. “The federal requirements and guidelines… have become an obsolete system that does not adequately reflect the performance of the state’s schools,” Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams said in filing the waiver. Thirty-four other states and Washington, D.C., have already done so.
To learn more:
Texas Legislature Online
Texas Tribune
Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment (TAMSA)


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