At least one good thing came out of the dueling bills that were passed yesterday by the Texas House and Senate. The stain of then Gov. George W. Bush’s “reforms” have been washed away, via the AAS, House, Senate ease school accountability standards:
Crafted by the education leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives, the bills aim to reduce the role of standardized tests, give schools more flexibility to help struggling students and focus education on readying students for college or the workplace.
Gone are many of the school reforms ushered in by then-Gov. George W. Bush, such as a prohibition on promoting a student to the next grade if he or she failed to pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
That promotion decision will now be left to the school and parents.
[House Public Education Committee Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands] said the overhaul will end the one-size-fits-all approach of the current system and allow for schools to be judged on more than just performance on a single test.
Here’s some “big picture” analysis on these two bills as provided by the Texas AFT:
The Texas House and Senate today passed broadly similar rewrites of the state system of testing and test-based school accountability. The next several hotlines will discuss in detail what these bills, HB 3 and SB 3, would do. Today we will share with you the big picture and report on some of the significant floor amendments adopted in each chamber.
The big picture: Both bills reduce the emphasis on state tests as the basis for promotion decisions in primary and middle school, relying more on the professional judgment of a student’s teachers and on other locally determined criteria. However, the bills would over time add a new standard of “college readiness” in math and English, yet to be defined, as a basis for school accountability ratings. As a result, schools would face at least ten more accountability “tripwires” that could trigger a low-performing rating and start the clock running on potential sanctions including reconstitution and school closure. Eventually, ten more “college readiness” tripwires would be added as standards are developed for social studies and science.
Though originally advertised as an effort to shift the accountability system toward the use of “more carrot than stick,” these companion bills both leave substantially intact the current system of punitive sanctions for schools rated low-performing. The only major easing in this area was the addition of one year to the time available to turn around a low-performing campus before it can be closed, “repurposed,” or contracted out to an “alternative manager.” The bills ended up passing unanimously in both chambers, but not before debates on amendments that illustrated major differences among lawmakers over the future of the accountability system
Though majorities in both chambers are not yet ready to make a decisive break from excessively test-driven accountability, lawmakers more and more are coming to see the inadequacy of the state’s standardized tests as the primary basis for assessing students, teachers, and schools.
Essentially a step in the right direction but there’s still a long way to go.