Monday, May 6, 2013

Texas State Senate passes HB 5 - high stakes tests fall from 15 to 5

From Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) Governmental Relations - Legislative Report 

"The Senate took up and considered several amendments to House Bill 5 on Monday. HB 5, filed by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) and sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), would make significant changes to graduation requirements and state assessments, including creation of a single "foundation" diploma with endorsements in STEM, business & industry, arts & humanities, and distinguished performance. The bill would also reduce the number of end-of-course exams from 15 to 5: English I & II (reading and writing would be combined into one test for both subjects), algebra I, biology and U.S. history.

Chairman Patrick began laying out the bill in the Senate by stressing that HB 5 increased both the rigor and flexibility of high school graduation plans. He noted that students would be required to choose an endorsement upon entering high school, and that all plans require four credits of both English and math and two to four credits of science and social studies.

Patrick noted that HB 5 also:

  • restricts the number of days that a student may be pulled out for remediation;
  • requires all districts to offer algebra II;
  • allows districts to provide apprenticeships in conjunction with institutions of higher learning or industry;
  • allows the SBOE to approve at least six advanced CTE courses to count toward advanced math requirements;
  • adds technology applications to count toward applied STEM courses;
  • allows STEM students to take dual credit courses designed for degree or certification attainment;
  • allows other assessments to satisfy EOC requirements;
  • limits the number of benchmark tests districts may administer to two per student per state assessment;
  • prohibits assessment vendors from serving on TEA advisory committees on state accountability; and
  • allows all graduates to apply for TEXAS Grants and state universities.
Patrick explained that HB 5 is “4x4 flex,” which allows students to take more advanced courses in certain fields. 

Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) took a moment to say that he did not vote on this bill as it left committee, but that he was going to vote for it on the Senate floor because it limits the number of tests that students are required to take in addition to benchmark tests, which his constituents have expressed to him as a severe problem.

Patrick agreed, noting that testing days would be reduced from 90 to a maximum of 21 under HB 5.

Senators then spent the next few hours introducing and voting on various amendments to the bill. The following amendments made it successfully onto HB 5:
  • Amendment 1 (Patrick): Adds personal financial literacy to the foundation curriculum and allows it to count toward social studies credit.
  • Amendment 2 (Patrick): Deletes language requiring remedial work be done in high school as opposed to college because of the unfunded mandate it would create for districts.
  • Amendment 3 (Patrick): Restores subsidy for any certification exam instead of just manufacturing certification, as done by a House amendment.
  • Amendment 4 (Patrick): Enables districts to provide students a substitute course for the second year language course requirement if it appears a student will not be able to pass it.
  • Amendment 5 (Patrick): Allows districts to count an outside fine arts activity toward school fine arts requirements.
  • Amendment 6 (Patrick): Takes career exploration courses out of the bill due to cost.
  • Amendment 7 (Patrick): Removes requirement that schools administer, at state cost, college preparatory tests in grade 8. Only tests administered to students in grades 10 and 11 will be subsidized by the state. Also clarifies that tests are voluntary and students may not be forced to take college prep tests.
  • Amendment 8 (Patrick): Removes language regarding completion and graduation evaluations.
  • Amendment 9 (Patrick): Allows districts to partner with any community college in the state for dual credit courses.
  • Amendment 10 (Patrick, et al): Changes A-F accountability ratings to district-level ratings and postpones the new system until 2016-17 school year.
  • Amendment 12 (Van de Putte): Allows districts to develop and the commissioner to approve local courses to address regional workforce needs and student interests. The courses would be transferrable to other districts in the state through the assignment of a PEIMS code.
  • Amendment 13 (Van de Putte): Requires graduation plans chosen by students and parents to be revisited to ensure that a student is on track or is able to change endorsements if necessary. Requires that parents are notified electronically of any changes.
  • Amendment 14 (Uresti): Allows computer science to be taken instead of or in conjunction with computer programming.
  • Amendment 15 (Estes): Allows students, with parental authorization, to opt-out of active RFID tracking technology used for student identification at a school.
  • Amendment 16 (West): Clarifies and puts into place factors that the commissioner of education must take into account when determining if the state has provided enough resources to provide remediation for purposes of social promotion and accountability rating postponement.
  • Amendment 17 (Van de Putte): Clarifies that a school district must allow a student to change an endorsement if the student chooses.
  • Amendment 18 (Seliger): Requires that students on the foundation graduation plan seeking automatic admission under the top ten percent rule take four years of math, including Algebra II, and four years of science. The commissioner must provide standard language regarding the benefits and consequences of the foundation plan to be provided and signed-off on by students, parents and school counselors when a student applies to take high school courses. An amendment to the amendment (Davis, W.) allows a locally-developed, commissioner-approved Algebra II-equivalent course to count toward this requirement.
  • Amendment 21 (Van de Putte): Establishes a seal of bi-literacy that a school may choose to include on a high school diploma.
  • Amendment 22 (Seliger): Directs TEA to provide school districts with an estimate of the instructional materials allotment appropriations for a given year and exempt districts from “prompt pay” provisions if actual appropriations are less than estimated by TEA.
  • Amendment 23 (Van de Putte): Prohibits the penalizing of dropout recovery schools and makes provisions for these schools within the accountability system.
  • Amendment 24 (Davis, W.): Ensures assessment instruments are valid and reliable by requiring a warranty from test providers.
  • Amendment 25 (Williams): Adds optional, state-subsidized post-secondary readiness assessments for districts if they choose to administer them. Clarifies that results of these assessments may not be used for accountability or college admission purposes. An amendment to the amendment (Van de Putte) prohibits the results of these tests from being used for class rank, eligibility for top ten percent or course grades. Debate on this amendment centered on this amendment actually establishing two additional tests that districts would administer because they would be subsidized by the state and not subject to any accountability. Sen. Dan Patrick amended the amendment so that districts who decide to give optional diagnostic tests may not administer benchmark tests for those optional tests.
  • Amendment 27 (Seliger): Strikes language that allows computer language to count as a foreign language for graduation requirements.
The Senate passed the bill unanimously after Sen. Patrick agreed to work within the conference committee to prohibit any changes to the Senate’s compromises on A through F accountability ratings and the top ten percent rule."