Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Texas Senate Education Committee passes HB 5, as substituted - accountability, assessment and graduation

Texas Association of School Boards Legislative Update

"HB 5, as substituted, was voted favorably from committee and referred to the full Senate. Sens. Van de Putte and West registered present-not voting stating that the committee is making progress on the bill, but they are not completely on board yet.

Chairman Dan Patrick (R-Houston) laid out the bill by stressing that the accountability changes included in HB 5 and similar senate legislation do not reduce rigor and accountability, as claimed by detractors of the legislation.


Bill Hammond of the Texas Association of Business testified against the bill, arguing that students are currently not ready for college and require assessments from a third party that track Texas curriculum are the best way to ensure quality education. He said that students graduating under the foundation plan would most likely be ill-prepared for college. Chairman Patrick noted that universities often admit out-of-state students with lower graduation requirements, and he did not want Texas students to be at a disadvantage.

Jim Windham of the Texas Institute for Education Reform testified against the bill because it reduces the rigor of required assessments. He would favor administration of all 15 assessments, but attach high stakes to Algebra I and II, geometry, biology, chemistry, physics, American history, and English III. Chairman Patrick noted that requiring those assessments for graduation would reduce flexibility in graduation plans by requiring students to take those courses.
Larry Kellner testified that the state is confusing rigor and standards with testing. Rigor is a strong curriculum, it’s strong teachers, it’s delivering educated students that are ready to succeed after high school. Testing is the quality control system, and it can also give you a lot of good diagnostic data.” He supported measuring college readiness the way that colleges do: by using assessments recognized by colleges. Kellner added that the state must act to increase student performance on Algebra I before requiring Algebra II.
Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) asked if there were any kind of incentive programs to attract teachers to core or higher-level courses. Sen. Van de Putte answered that the state cut many of those programs.
Chairman Patrick noted that of all the businesses from which he has heard or heard represented, only eight have spoken out against the changes in HB 5. To sum up what he has experienced, 300,000 businesses are supportive of changes in HB 5 whereas eight are opposed.
Spring Branch ISD Superintendent Duncan Klussmann testified in support of the bill, saying that the proposed graduation plans are equal to university requirements for out-of-state students and a good foundation for most students who may then focus on endorsements that allow them to take rigorous classes that interest them. He noted that arguments against HB 5, including that students will not take rigorous courses if not mandated and that it will lead to tracking, do not hold water. He said that the current system tracks kids into graduates and dropouts and anyone who works with kids now knows that they will take courses that interest them. He concluded that relevance makes rigor possible, so students need flexibility to take the courses that are relevant to them.
Chairman Patrick questioned a representative from Pearson about the motives of the company, which he suggested were to sell the most tests at the lowest cost. The representative noted that his main goal was a quality assessment above profit.
Hudson ISD Superintendent Mary Ann Whiteker testified in support of the bill on behalf of TASB and TASA because it reduces testing, establishes a strong foundation degree that consists of a rigorous curriculum, and helps districts engage students by establishing multiple pathways to graduation through endorsements. She suggested removing the English I end-of-course exam requirement and keeping the English II exam. 
Elgin ISD Superintendent Jodi DurĂ³n testified in support of the bill on behalf of the Texas Association of Midsize Schools. She explained that HB 5 provides more flexibility within the system without compromising rigor and provided an example of an orchestra teacher who would not have been considered “college-ready” according to current standards but is changing the lives of students on a daily basis through music.
Barbara Beto of Texas PTA testified in support of the bill, primarily because of its reduction of standardized testing and allows other assessments to satisfy end-of-course requirements.

Round Rock ISD Superintendent Jesus Chavez, representing the Texas School Alliance, testified in support of the bill. He supported the five EOC tests required to graduate and asked to have English III and Algebra II exams available to provide on an optional basis. Dr. Chavez also supported the 24 credits required to graduate as outlined in HB 5, not the 26 called for in SB 3/SB 1724. Sen. Van de Putte asked a question about students selecting endorsements when they may not know what they want to do in life, to which Dr. Chavez answered that providing as much information as possible to parents and students was the solution. He called upon the education community to make a commitment to providing a rigorous graduation plan for all students and monitor the endorsements students are taking to avoid tracking.

Aledo ISD Board President Bobby Rigues testified in support of the bill on behalf of TASB, applauding the reduction in testing and the flexibility that brings."