The House Public Education Committee met last Wednesday to hear testimony on various issues related to implementation of House Bill 5, which ushered in changes to high school graduation plans, state assessments and school accountability measures. In addition to greatly reducing high-stakes testing, House Bill 5 created additional ways to obtain a high school diploma. Some of the issues addressed include:
Several witnesses and legislators raised the common theme of whether schools will have enough counselors to adequately inform and guide students through the new graduation endorsements and the new requirements and provisions created by HB 5. The legislators were asked for additional resources to hire more counselors leading up to next school year, when all entering freshmen will have to select a graduation endorsement.
Availability of Endorsements
Houston area legislators voiced concerns that while all districts will be required to provide at least one endorsement not all campuses within districts will be able to provide the same endorsements, potentially leading some students to not have access to endorsements that may lead to college. Staff and other legislators pointed out that the number of students taking endorsements will be tracked and reported following implementation of the new graduation plans, allowing legislators to determine if tracking or similar actions are occurring. According to Texas Education (TEA) staff, practically all districts providing the 4×4 should be able to provide at least three endorsements.
College Readiness and Algebra II
Much of the debate over this new law has revolved around whether students should be required to take Algebra II. All of the plans with an endorsement include four years of math, but the SBOE has authorized two courses that will be considered on par with Algebra 2 so that the four year requirement is met. A great deal of discussion in the hearing centered on college readiness and the role of Algebra II in ensuring readiness. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner Raymund Paredes emphasized that students should take four years of rigorous math courses if they want to be prepared for college. He noted that Algebra II, in and of itself, should not be the sole focus of college readiness, acknowledging that the advanced math courses being developed by the SBOE may be as or more rigorous.
As far as testing is concerned, TEA said that about 76% of the high school class of 2015 is on track to graduate. 24% have failed at least one of the five tests that are required to graduate. Chairman Aycock, asked to know whether an estimated 20 percent of seniors were in danger of flunking out despite the reductions in testing. The TEA would not speculate on that.
Available on TEA’s website
• PDFs featuring Foundation High School Program FAQs and Endorsement FAQs
• Performance Acknowledgment FAQs and other House Bill 5 FAQs are expected to be posted soon.
• A PowerPoint presentation that provides the details of the Foundation High School Program graduation requirements and endorsements
• A side-by-side comparison of the Foundation High School Program with the current minimum, recommended, and distinguished graduation plans
• Download all these resources from the TEA website.
Students who are in grade 9, 10 or 11 in the 2013-14 school year must be given the choice to graduate under the current minimum, recommended, or distinguished plan, or the Foundation High School Program, which will replace the current plans beginning with the 2014-15 school year.
Recent News Stories
Tying Teacher Evaluation to STAAR Scores Stirs Controversy
Texas is preparing to ratchet up the stakes of its standardized exams by tying together teacher performance evaluations and student test scores to meet the demands of federal education officials. The policy aims to measure a teacher’s effectiveness by how much improvement his or her students make on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. Though still being finalized, the policy is already viewed warily by teacher groups questioning whether the STAAR can accurately capture a teacher’s effect on a student. The groups warn that the state cannot impose test-based evaluations on teachers and expect them to trust it.
Teachers complain there is too little time to cover too much curriculum for TEKS tests
Teachers are telling state lawmakers there’s too much to cover in standardized tests with too little time to do it. The complaint is over the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS. Grace Mueller is an eighth grade English Teacher in San Marcos and the President of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association.
$1 trillion student loan debt widens US wealth gap
Every month that Gregory Zbylut pays $1,300 toward his law school loans is another month of not qualifying for a decent mortgage. Every payment toward their student loans is $900 Dr. Nida Degesys and her husband aren’t putting in their retirement savings account. They believe they’ll eventually climb from debt and begin using their earnings to build assets rather than fill holes.
Texas Public School Enrollment Tops 5 Million
Surpassing the 5 million mark, student enrollment in Texas public schools has hit a new record, according to the Texas Education Agency. And Hispanic enrollment continues to mark the majority. “Enrollment increased for all student groups between 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 except for whites, who experienced a numeric and percentage decrease statewide,” according to a TEA news release on a report released Tuesday. Enrollment in public schools has grown by 820,019 students — or more than 19 percent — over the past decade, it added.
How the Testing Bubble Popped: Part 1
When Texas public school students start their STAAR tests, they’ll face a far different testing and accountability system than was set at the beginning of the prior school year. For 13 legislative sessions across 34 years, every time Texas passed laws about school testing, the numbers and stakes had grown. That ended in 2013, when a series of laws passed that not only demanded changes in testing, but also challenged the legitimacy of the test-based accountability system. All without a single dissenting vote.
How the Testing Bubble Popped: Part 2
In January 2012, a coalition was building in Texas that would eventually end 34 unbroken years of increased reliance on high-stakes testing to measure the effectiveness of Texas schools. An otherwise mundane legislative committee meeting had brought together the grass-roots group that would be known as Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment. But the embryonic TAMSA wasn’t the only new element in the testing debate. Only three days after that hearing, the head of the Texas Education Agency spoke out against testing in a way that echoed far beyond the state’s borders.
How the Testing Bubble Popped: Part 3
Imagine the various Texas groups fighting about testing and accountability as armies on a battlefield. Suddenly a shooting star flashes overhead. Not all the combatants notice. But for some who do, that bright light helps direct their aim. Walter Stroup, an education professor at the University of Texas at Austin, was an unlikely candidate for a shooting star. He’s the sort of fellow who thinks most elementary school kids should be thriving on pre-calculus. No kidding.
Leave a Reply