Friday, February 17, 2012

Commissioner Robert Scott Modifies 15% of final grade rule

Texas Association of School Boards Legislative Report\

Commissioner of Education Robert Scott has announced that public school districts and charter schools have the ability to defer implementation of the statutory provision that requires performance on an end-of-course assessment to count as 15 percent of a student's final course grade.

The decision brings to a (temporary) close weeks of debate surrounding the "15 percent rule" associated with the new end-of-course exams ninth-grade students will be taking this year.

The controversy started following recent comments made by Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott at the TASA Midwinter Conference.

"I believe that testing is good for some things, but the system we have created has become a perversion of its original intent," Scott said. "The intent to improve teaching and learning has gone too far afield."

Both Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) and Rep. Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands), chairs of their chambers' education committees, submitted letters to Commissioner Scott supporting a phase-in of the "15 percent rule."

"While we agree that the provisions of Chapter 39 may not be waived under your general waiver authority, we believe that you have defer the requirement that an end-of-course assessment count as 15% of a final grade until the 2012-2013 school year to coincide with full implementation of the testing and accountability changes," Shapiro said in a letter signed by Sens. Royce West (D-Dallas), Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and Dan Patrick (R-Houston). Rep. Eissler's letter was reportedly signed by about three-fourths of Texas House members.

Shapiro added that it was unfair for students to feel the consequences of the new exams while school districts will be given a one year reprieve from having their scores factored into accountability ratings.

"Based on my conversations with the Governor's Office and clarification of legislative intent from the House and Senate, I am modifying the Texas Education Agency's House Bill 3 Transition Plan," Commissioner Scott explained in a statement. "The modification applies only to the 15 percent grading requirement in Chapter 39 of the Texas Education Code, and will affect only the 2011-2012 school year. For this school year, the ultimate decision whether to include end-of-course exam scores as part of course grades will be determined locally by school districts and charter schools."

"The law still requires students that are first entering the ninth grade in the 2011-2012 school year to achieve a cumulative score on the end-of-course assessments to complete their graduation requirements," Scott continued. "Districts and charters choosing to defer implementation of the 15 percent requirement for the 2011-2012 school year will only need to notify TEA of that decision. Districts and charter schools will receive instructions from the agency regarding this policy change next week."